Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. – Dorothy Thompson
Fear does not keep you “playing small.” Refusing to deal with fear (and wanting to kill it off in some way) keeps you “playing small.”
Refusing to see the fear is part of a growth experience (trying to live without fear) keeps you “playing small.” Hating your fear, compartmentalising it as if it’s not part of you can also keep you “playing small.”
I read these wise words from Kate Swoboda on a day where fear showed up for me in the simplest of ways. But when it did, the lessons I learned were profound and will last me a lifetime.
What My Little Voice Said
That particular morning, my surf board, Stella, was practically begging to go for a paddle at our local surf beach.
I was busting to get my wetsuit salty but I’m pretty new to surfing and the thought of getting dumped by wave after wave while my former State level swimmer hubby wasn’t around to drag me up for air made my heart thump in that recognisable way.
My mind re-ran an old movie of me being crushed hard by this monster wave that rolled me around like I was inside a washing machine. I’m not sure how long I was under water but it was long enough for my bikini to come all the way off and for me to drag it back on again before resurfacing beside a little dude who loudly observed ‘man, you totally wiped out.’.(Yes, thank you 11-year-old grom. I noticed).
I was a scared that it would happen again, so I crinkled my nose at Stella and walked the dog instead.
When I came back, Stella was still eye-balling me and a huge wave of fear began to build. I was totally engulfed by the thought that I was not living to my full potential. My chest tightened, my breathing was shallow.
‘You’re letting your fear hold you back, Emmy,’, a little voice said. But I couldn’t tell who was speaking; my mind or my heart. I mean, a healthy fear of drowning is nothing to be scoffed at, right?
But still, I was terrified that I was failing to ‘carpe diem’ in a big way. The thought of what could go wrong (that’s all it was, a thought) was gradually being hugely outweighed by my fear of missing out.
Do It Anyway
Fear drives you to do things you might never deem possible. It’s necessary and it’s a gift.
Eventually, the fear of living life as an imposter and having no one know who you really are will outweigh the fear that the real you will be rejected. Being terrified to try and fail (hitting the waves, writing a blog, starting a new relationship, entering a new career) will be outweighed by the fear of never trying at all.
Be grateful for it. Feel it and do it anyway.
Fear is not for ignoring or squashing. It’s there to show you your boundaries – of safety and those of your comfort zone. Assuming there is no actual danger present, breathe, push through it and experience that fear. Passing through the other side is where your biggest and best growth will happen.
When I got to the beach, I saw not only a tidy little set rolling in (not the unrelenting monsters by mind had forecast) but a Surf Life Saving truck as well. Support really is everywhere in life, all you have to do is trust that you’ll have a safe place to land.
Instead, spend your energy dealing with realities, not with imagined scenarios. As Michael J. Fox says, ‘don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will and, if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.’ In my case, I ended up living a scary, lonely scenario that I didn’t have to put myself through. Why would you?
Meet Yourself Where You Are
I sat on the sand and got a feel for the water- trying to suss out the rip tides and the
rhythm of the waves. I didn’t have to plonk myself in the middle of the big-girl waves. I started where I was comfortable and went from there.
Go slow if you feel to, but keep on taking the little steps that will get you to your goal.
While I sat on the beach, I had visions of my husband, running from the car with his board, across the hot sand and paddling straight for the break. I mentally berated myself for not being like him.
He’s always the first one to jump, to dive in, to say yes. But he’s a more experienced surfer than me. I can’t compare my Chapter One to his chapter 6 – and that applies in all areas of life too. Meet yourself where you are. Stop comparing and do what feels right for you.
Dive headfirst into fear. Be thankful that it shows you your limits so you can choose to push right through them, and grow.
When you do, you’ll soon be carving up the big-girl waves – in all areas of your life.