When I was 15 years old I attended an outward bound camp. I remember completing many trust exercises with my group as a way to conquer fears and rely on others. It was an absolutely amazing week, but one exercise in particular was a defining moment in my life. There was a pole, roughly 30 feet tall, with small pieces of wood secured to the pole, to be used as a way to climb the pole. The instruction was to climb the pole to the very top, pull yourself up on top of a small round disc, and then stand up. Keep in mind the pole was swaying the entire time, and there was nothing to help you pull yourself up. Of course we were secured to a harness, but this gave little to no comfort at the time.
Climbing the pole was not too bad, but as I tried to pull myself up, the pole was moving and I was shaking uncontrollably. It would have been easy to give up at that point, but I was being cheered on by my new best friends down below, and I wasn't one to throw in the towel just quite yet. I was so petrified and my legs felt like complete jello, but somehow I managed to pull myself up.
That wasn't the worst of it! Once standing tall (and remember, the pole was swaying back and forth), we were supposed to jump to a trapeze five or so feet away and grab it. I literally felt like I was about to die, and part of me would have given my life to be rescued right then and there. But, guess what? I calmed myself down, took a deep breath and jumped.
Ready to face the biggest fears in your life?
- Name your fears. We all have fears that we have avoided for some time. Maybe you have avoided certain situations your whole life. Maybe this is a newfound fear. Whatever the case, these fears have guided your decisions, your life choices, and the path you've taken. These fears are not going to go away on their own, ignoring them is the easy way out! So, write them down where you can read them and vocalize them. This will make them real. "I fear being alone", or "I fear commitment", or "I fear speaking up for myself".
- Prioritize the fears. Now that you have your list, highlight the ones that seem to be all consuming. These are the fears that take up a majority of your time and energy. You may have been in avoidance mode when facing these fears. The highlighted fears are the ones that you want to break through. You are tired of living your life in the shadows of these fears. You are ready to take the necessary steps to move past them.
- Time to take action. Now is the scary part. You need to take action. I want you to list ways that would stretch your comfort zone. What risks can you take in regards to your fear? If you stretched yourself a little each and every day, how would your life be different? Make a list of small, medium and large risks that you can work up to. Commit to taking action every day until the fear is conquered. I guarantee the act of facing the fears head-on will decrease your anxiety over time.
I grabbed that trapeze and was lowered to the ground. It was the scariest time in my life, but I managed to find the strength somewhere deep down and continue right past the fear. This one exercise taught me invaluable lessons on trust, finding inner strength, and most importantly to never give up. Follow these steps to realize the power of pushing through your own fears, the power you give yourself when you do so. Fear will only hold you back if you allow it to do so; remember that breaking through your fears will build your strength and increase your belief in yourself and your abilities.