I am a big believer in doing what you are scared of. As I watch my 12-month-old crawl around the house with absolutely no sense of fear, it strikes me as obvious that this is how human beings grow and develop awareness of their surroundings – because she isn’t scared of attempting the monumental flight of stairs that rise up before her, or knows not to make the descent off the end of the bed head first, Lily gets on with things and learns valuable lessons, such as balance, concentration, focus and so on. If she was paralysed by fear she would never attempt anything new and would stagnate at the toddler stage of development forever.
As we mature, life delivers a series of (often harsh) lessons that alter the course of our behaviour. We experience something horrible, a memory is created and the next time something similar arises we are naturally cautious. This, together with an increasing sense of mortality, can bring us to a point where we fail to try anything new or remotely scary.
Over the last few years, the events that have frightened me the most are as follows; childbirth, skydiving, flying (particularly taking off and landing) and stopping drinking.
I think you can see where I am going with this – every one of these situations ultimately brought me nothing but immense joy and satisfaction, together with a huge step forward in my personal development. I have only ever known true fear when facing what turned out to be the highlights of my life.
As both my pregnancies approached their natural conclusions I was overwhelmed with a morbid sense of terror regarding the perceived pain and potential medical complications. As the tiny Cessna aircraft climbed to the 10,000 feet drop point, I thought I would literally die with fright – I was utterly petrified and the only reason I actually managed to make the jump was because I was strapped to a man who was clearly going to ignore any protestations on my part about falling two miles to the ground in a matter of minutes.
The biggie for me was facing my fear of sobriety. For reasons which now appear ridiculous, I was scared to death about living my life free from the grip of addiction; terrified of living with clarity and self-awareness, unsure of whom I would be without the stupidity and boring behaviour brought about by my reckless binge drinking. I had a deep sense of foreboding that my life was on the brink of collapse, and that I was facing the rest of my days bored and ascetic, a shadow of my former self.
Fear is there to be faced and overcome. Nowadays whenever something frightens me and my stomach becomes filled with that familiar knot, I remind myself that only good things have ever been born from my fears. I dig deep for courage and just do it.
And with each episode of terror I conquer, my life only gets better.