Each and every one of us probably has something we are afraid of- it’s perfectly natural, nothing to be ashamed of, and simply part of being human. Whether you are afraid of spiders, the dark, snakes, clowns or even conkers- there’s a big scary world out there with a million different things to be afraid of. Scary thought? FEAR NOT, you can exert a level of control over your worst fears and even master them. And that’s an empowering and encouraging little thought isn’t it?
As fears go, I have many. You might say that I am a bit of a wimp, a baby, a ‘scaredy cat’ or a big girl’s blouse. At an everyday level, I am scared of spiders, crane flies (I don’t care what anybody says, those things are FLYING SPIDERS), melon seeds and the dark after watching a horror film. On a deeper and more phobic level, I am petrified of heights to the point that even looking a an image of a great height, makes me feel giddy.
After graduating from uni in 2011, I spent a year backpacking around Australia, New Zealand and Bali. Like the typical ‘young hippie backpacker’ I wanted to use this year as an opportunity to travel, meet new people, explore life, and learn a thing or two about myself that I could not have learned from my sheltered school and uni life. Above all, I wanted to wrestle with new challenges and test the boundaries of my comfort zone. I came to the conclusion that an excellent way to do this would be by facing one of my BIGGEST fears. So I swept aside my enormous reservations, and booked a sky dive over the gorgeous scenery of Glenorchy, New Zealand. As soon as I had pushed that ‘confirm reservation button’ I had never felt more nervous in my life. What had I gotten myself into? Before I knew it, I was suited and booted and ready to be shuttled into a little aeroplane on a chilly, sunny afternoon.
From the moment I had started walking towards the aeroplane, everything seemed to blur into slow motion. The cheerful voice of my excited instructor dulled into a distant echo, as if he was talking to me from underwater, and the blinding sunlight seemed to dominate my vision. My legs had become jelly, my hands a clammy mess, and my heart was thudding uncontrollably in my chest. The one thought which managed to fight its way through all of this white noise was the quiet but stern phrase ‘You can do this’.
It’s hard to explain the sense of resistance, fear, excitement, regret, delight, terror, and anticipation that you feel when you first shuffle into the plane. This bizarre cocktail of emotions only intensified as the plane took flight, and climbed higher into the shining blue sky. The world rapidly slipped away from beneath us, and I had to keep reminding myself WHY I was doing something which every fibre of my being seemed to be screaming at me to stop. I was taking my biggest fear, grabbing it by the face, and staring intently into it’s eyes. Yet despite how scary my fears eyes looked, I noticed that they were also absolutely beautiful.
As I inched towards the edge of the plane with my instructor, my heart was in my mouth. I was so afraid I thought my lungs were going to explode. We were 15,000ft above ground, and about to commit to plummeting at terminal velocity towards the earth. And then, as I actually sat on the edge of the plane ready to jump, something utterly unexpected happened. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a second, and felt an incredible sense of calm. The noise of my pounding heart and the rushing of the wind from the sheer height didn’t seem so loud any more. Instead of focusing on HOW FLIPPING HIGH UP we were, I shifted my focus to HOW BEAUTIFUL the world really looked.
As I tumbled out of the plane faster than I could comprehend, I had never enjoyed myself more. It was mind blowingly fun, and something which I am so so grateful that I forced myself to do. It completely surprised me how a little self belief, determination, and a small encouraging voice in the back of my head had allowed me to test the boundaries of what I had previously thought impossible The experience of facing my fears by sky diving not only gave me the gift of an incredibly fun memory, but the ability to apply what I had learned from the experience into other aspects of my life:
1) I can push myself to the limit, and do things I didn’t think was possible.
2) I can face and overcome my fears.
3) And when in doubt about my ability to remain calm in a situation I often ask myself- ‘Is this as scary as skydiving?’ If the answer is no, then I CAN do it 🙂
Now to conquer my fear of spiders. Well, maybe.