Let's Talk About Fear

Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge - Vancouver, Canada (2011).  This cliffwalk hangs hundreds of feet over the side of a cliff. I'm not afraid of heights but... (read on to see if I made it.)

Before I left for this venture and when I was home this autumn, I received a lot of comments about bravery and generally not being afraid.  People project the most interesting things when confronted with something that is uncomfortable for them. They immediately put themselves in your situation and assume you feel the same way as they do. I don’t fault this, I think it is how we can most easily relate to other humans but it always shines a light on some interesting perspectives.

One of the comments I get most often is how brave I must be to be taking a round the world trip (RTW) on my own. It goes something like “You must be so brave. I’m too scared for something like that. Don’t you get lonely?  I must have more fear. Aren’t you afraid?” I’d like to tackle this head on since it is something I deal with for almost every trip not just the RTW. It doesn’t matter what the destination is, someone will always bring up one of these or many other related items. (Sidenote: I only get asked these questions while in the United States which I find fascinating.) 

First, I’m afraid all of the time (I think most people are in some form or another). I am physically afraid, mentally afraid, and psychologically afraid, no matter where I am.  I’m somewhere between a scared-y cat  who won’t climb a tree and one who climbed up but can’t get down because they are unwilling to jump. All along the road I meet people who are not only unafraid to climb up the tree but they fling themselves off with abandon. I sometimes find myself envying them.  I am not one of those people no matter what it looks like from the outside. I deal with fear every day as I am sure most of you do too, to whatever degree. It’s not like you leave the country, or wake up one day and all your fear disappears. It intensifies. Each new place, each new language, each new life event and each new set of people you meet. The difference for me is that I have decided that I am more afraid of not doing anything in my life than I am of all of my fears. (Trust me, there are a lot of them.) It's a personal decision. Maybe that makes me unusual, maybe it makes me normal, maybe it just makes me human, you decide. For me, it doesn’t make me brave or courageous or any other adjective in that category; those are reserved for people who risk their lives for others. It just makes me happy to be alive. I know that if I am afraid, I am not complacent; I have not resigned myself to go through the motions, I have not checked out, but most of all it means I am learning.

Second, I believe that fear is one of the greatest teachers available to us as people. Sure it’s scary, I mean really, really, scary, to confront fears and see what the root is for you personally, but it leads to the evolution of you as a person. The roots of your fears reveal hidden desires and truths that you would never find if you didn’t explore fear a little deeper. When I find a new fear, my number one question is, “Why?” Think of your four year old self saying “Why?, Why?, Why?” like a broken record. That is no different than now, it’s still how you find the answers. Your parents or loved ones used to tell you but now it is only your inner, higher self that can answer those questions. The question is, are you willing to examine it? Are you willing to go through the shadows of yourself to find where your fear lives and ask it why? (Note: I'm no fool, I know this takes a lot of time and work for all of us no matter the size and scope of the fear. I'm just asking you to consider it.) 

I think some people do this without even thinking about it and others get so bogged down in it, it holds up their lives. Everyone has a different battle in life. I like to think of my friends who have children when I think about fear in a broad sense. Every one of them faced the unknown fear of parenthood and the hundreds of millions of questions that show up before becoming a parent. They still deal with it every day, yet they overcome. They learn every day. They inspire me. Each new day, each new challenge, they persevere because humans are amazing creatures and we adapt. Fear helps us adapt. It pushes us to learn.

I am not brave. I am not courageous. I am not unafraid. I am curious. I am alive. Fear tells me so.


As an aside, here are some of my biggies… (This is obviously a very abridged list)

- Snakes
-Violent Crime, kidnapping, etc.
-Dark/ cloudy water
-My loved ones not knowing how much I love them.
- Occasionally, certain enclosed spaces
- Dark alleys
- Never having a family of my own.
- Abandoning people
- Night time in a lot of places

And most of the time I am afraid to blog and share! 

Feel free to share your own! It always helps to say them out loud…or in a private message J

Thanks for reading! 

On the other side. I made it!