Is fear crippling your potential?

For me a holiday is bitter sweet – on one hand I get to have fun and enjoy new experiences, but on the other I have to endure the process of flying. Whilst I dislike the lines, the waiting, the constricted room, the food and the delays I can adequately handle such inconveniences. What I hate is the un-natural act of sitting in a steel tube, high above stable ground and having no control.

So as you can imagine, an international trip is a daunting prospect for me. Even more daunting is the prospect of traveling completely solo. Yet, that is exactly what I did.

I’m not going to lie and say the decision to travel alone to Paris was easy, nor am I going to say that before I left home there were no doubts, fears or concerns. In fact, a few days before I left for Paris I really considered canceling the trip and re-booking when my husband could take time off work. Of going somewhere more comfortable; somewhere I could speak the language; somewhere I wouldn’t have to experience the stomach churning feeling of being homesick and alone.

You may be reading this thinking, traveling to Paris is easy! What a luxury! And I agree, it is amazing, but for me, it also induces fear.

So this whole experience got me thinking about the concept of fear and how it has the power to cripple our potential in life. Why is it that we tend to want to stay within our comfort zones? How different would our lives be if we could overcome the feelings of uncertainty, tension and anxiety? Why is it that some people appear fearless? And can we learn to become more brave?

It wasn’t until I saw a National Geographic program, called Alone on the Wall, that I started to re-think the concept of fear. Alone on a Wall is about an unassuming guy called Alex Honnold who free climbs one of the largest walls in North America. In the video he scales 2,000 feet with only shoes and chalk bag—no rope, no safety, and no room for error. I was completely in ore of Alex’s high threshold for fear. I had always assumed some people are just born with this ability to be brave and courageous in the face of fear. Instead, what I saw in the program was a very different story.

At one point during the climb, Alex is balancing on a thin edge of the cliff face and becomes acutely aware of his surroundings and what he is doing. With nowhere to go and no safety harness, he has a mini panic attack. Somehow, he manages to breath through the fear and re-gain his focus. Ultimately he conquers the mountain.

Alex’s story has opened my mind about the idea of fear. It showed me that even the most brave, high adrenaline-seeking individuals feel fear and anxiety. The difference between them, and people like me, is that they learn to harness that feeling.

Doing something different, be it travel, learning a new instrument, climbing a mountain or starting a new job can induce fear.

Has fear ever held you back from doing something you have always wanted to do? How did you overcome those feelings?