There are a LOT of things that scare me:
- Bugs (spiders, eek!!)
- Dirt, germs, mold, bacteria
- Spoiled or unrefrigerated food
- Being vulnerable
- Confined spaces (underground caves and submarines are definitely a no-go)
- Fast things
- Loud things
- Saying the wrong thing (
- Trying new things
… I could go on, but I think you get the point: I could reasonably be described as a scaredy-cat. But if I wait to do things until I feel comfortable or ready, I might never do anything fun!! So I have adopted the following motto: “DO IT SCARED”
Whenever my immediate reaction to something that might be really fun (going to a friend’s ranch in the middle of nowhere Nevada that has amazing hot springs, but no running water or electricity, trying out a new yoga studio or yoga pose, going on a five-day sailing trip, attending a yoga retreat, driving a boat, attending a trampoline aerobics class, seeing an old friend, etc.) is fear, that has become an indicator to me that I should seriously consider just doing it scared.
Since adopting this motto, when I react to a potentially fun opportunity with fear, I work through the following steps:
First: Pause. Take a second, a minute, a week, a month, however long is needed to assess the following: What is really going on here? What is underneath that layer of fear?
Then: Make a decision. Acknowledge what came up during the pause. Maybe there are really important reasons not to proceed. Maybe you just don’t want to do it. Maybe you’re at your fear capacity for right now. Or maybe you realized that you’d like to give it a shot, despite being afraid. Either way, be gentle with yourself – and remember that just because you can do something, does not necessarily mean you should.
Finally: Act on it. With your decision complete, it’s time to move forward. If you decided not to do it, let yourself off the hook; I can all but guarantee you that you’ll have another opportunity in the near future to tackle that fear, if you want to. If you decided to do it scared, then as Nike says: just do it. Acknowledge your fears (maybe even voice them to a trusted friend or therapist, or in your journal), without letting those fears stop you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some activities that other people might consider “fun,” that I know just won’t work for me (
skydiving, bungee jumping, spelunking, hunting…). But that’s more than okay because it’s not a matter of doing everything that scares us, but rather an exercise that might help us better understand why we’re making the decisions we’re making. And when we decide to do things in spite of our fears, we just might find ourselves surprised by how fun some of those seemingly terrifying things can be!