No matter how fearless we might pretend to be, let’s admit it: we’re all afraid of something. It could be failure, rejection, embarrassment, vulnerability, or any other number of things. The complicated part is how we deal with this fear, and we all have different ways of coping with it.
Do we avoid it?
Do we pretend it doesn’t exist?
Do we meet the object of our fear and start running in the other direction?
Or do we face it head-on?
A lot of us, including myself, run from the things that scare us. But how does that serve us? How does that help us grow?
After powering through my fair share of challenging situations and scary decisions, I’ve noticed a pattern. While it might be much easier to sit back and not push myself, it’s also much more boring and unsatisfying than putting yourself out there, taking risks, and discovering the world and yourself.
Personally, I’ve found that the things that scared me the most have actually been the best things I ever could have done for myself, and I’m sure that if you start to do the same, you’ll notice it, too.
The first scenario that comes to mind, when I think of things that scared me, is moving to college.
I was the only one from my high school to go to my university, and the prospect of moving far from home without knowing anyone terrified me. What if I never made friends? What if I didn’t like the school or the program? The possibilities were endless but in the most negative way possible.
A few weeks later, I was having the time of my life. I fell into an amazing group of friends almost immediately and I thrived in my program. My confidence grew, I started to come into my own, and the experiences I had there set me up to lead the life I live today – and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Fast forward a year and a half and I was challenged again. I was offered the opportunity to study abroad in Prague. As a fresh-eyed 19-year-old who had never been out of the country, this idea excited me and scared me at the same time. I almost backed out on the day I was supposed to leave. The fact that I was flying with my roommate was the only thing that kept me moving forward. The semester I spent in Prague ended up being such an eye-opening experience that I have now lived here as a working adult for three years. Again, something that terrified me ended up being a positive, impactful experience that helped to shape who I am today.
After these two experiences, it has become easier for me to cope with fear because now I know everything will be okay. Maybe it won’t always be awesome, but it will most definitely be okay.
I am now fully convinced that as a rule, the things that scare you the most will be the best experiences of your life, if you only have the courage to go through with them. This is why I started saying yes more and more often to things that my first instinct was to shy away from.
When I was nominated for a leadership position in school, my first instinct was to withdraw, but I pushed myself to run. I ended up being elected to the position. I learned a lot and really enjoyed it. When I was scared to make the leap and move to Prague, I knew it was going to be one of the best experiences in my life even though I was terrified of it.
Most recently, I was invited on a trip to the Philippines. I’ve been gallivanting across North America and Europe on my own since I was 19, but Asia seemed like a whole new ball game. Between the disease-carrying bugs and the safety concerns, there were so many times when I thought, “it’ll probably be fun but it would be easier if I just stayed in Prague.” But I caught myself. I knew I was thinking of the easiest option (staying at home) only because I was scared. Luckily, I know myself well enough to catch these thought patterns and keep them from sabotaging me. And what do you know? This trip to the Philippines is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and was exactly what I needed.
Was I terrified at first? Of course. Was the initial agony of pushing through the fear worth it? Absolutely.
Throughout my experience, a few things have stayed constant.
First, the anticipation of the event that scares you is always worse than the actual event. Being in the Philippines only seemed scary until I was actually in the Philippines. Your mind makes things bigger than they are.
Second, saying yes is the hardest part. Once the decision to face your fear is made and there’s no turning back, everything gets easier because, in some way, control has been taken from your hands. There’s nowhere to go but forward, and all you have to do is accept that.
And lastly, it’s likely that saying yes to whatever scares you will turn into one of the best experiences of your life. Not only will you be proud of yourself for facing your fear, but you’ll learn and grow in the process. Who knows, it could even change the course of your life for the better!
These three constants are the main reasons why I now make a conscious effort to say yes to the things that scare me as often as possible.
Staying in my comfort zone is easy, but it gets monotonous after a while and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and become unhappy. Getting out there and taking risks, that normally I would shy away from, keeps my life interesting and usually leads me to bigger and better places, things, and people. As they said in The Princess Diaries, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
The things that once terrified me are now some of the biggest sources of happiness in my life.
No risk, no reward, right? Try to keep that in mind the next time you’re confronted with a situation that you want to shy away from. You won’t regret it.