There’s No Such Thing As Superhuman

I’m sure I’ve written about this topic before. In fact, I know I have, several times. But I’m going to write about it again, and it goes along these lines: You Are Stronger Than You Think.

I was a tough kid. Nothing fazed me. I was the leader in my gang and the one who defied convention and rules without a second thought. But as I grew older and progressed from my teens to my twenties, I developed serious self-doubt and consequently spent many years trapped in a cycle of alcohol-induced Dutch courage followed swiftly by deep regret and the desire to crawl under a rock. Low self-esteem artificially, and temporarily, corrected by the fake crutch of a bottle of Pinot.

And then I quit drinking. This was the first of several hurdles in my sober life that I initially suspected I would not be able to manage successfully. How could I, the woman whose kitchen was rarely seen without a bottle or two of wine casually positioned on the side as if they’d been bought almost as an after thought, for whom a night out was not complete without drinking to the point of blacking out, possibly switch to a life that was completely alcohol-free? But I did it. It took many months of experiencing emotional pain and excruciating shyness and fear over exposing myself as a ‘problem drinker’, and what felt like an eternity of wanting to run away from myself, but in the end, I did it. And it made me feel proud.

When I returned to university aged thirty-four to study law, I was so crippled by my lack of self-confidence that I found it close to impossible to stand before my twenty classmates to deliver presentations. I clearly remember sweating and clasping my clammy hands together nervously before shuffling to the front of the room for ‘my turn’. Since I launched Soberistas just two and a half years ago, I have spoken to hundreds of people at conferences and been on live TV several times, talking in front of millions. In the beginning I was scared. The sweaty palms and fast-beating heart lassoed my self-belief and almost got the better of me. But over time, I’ve managed to rein in the irrational fear and these days my pulse barely quickens.

Recently I went away abroad for a couple of days, unintentionally by myself. This was originally meant to be a break for a friend and me, but the friend was unable, at the eleventh hour, to come along. So I decided to go it alone. I’ve learnt the value in jumping headfirst into a situation that might terrify you if you were to consider it for long enough. I didn’t ponder my predicament as a result, and only really wondered if it was going to be OK as I buckled my seatbelt on the aeroplane.

Mallorca sea

I ate on my own, hiked on my own, slept on my own, barely spoke to another human being for three days, explored on my own, worked out my travel arrangements all by myself (not easy when I was staying in a remote place in the middle of the mountains and I don’t speak the language), and sat with my feet dangling in the Mediterranean Sea on my own.

And it was fine. In fact, it was better than fine. It was brilliant: an opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of. A chance to spend some time with me, and to filter out all the external influences that we are bombarded with every day, and which make it so difficult to just exist. A time free from worrying much at all, apart from over things like, ‘Where does this path lead?’ and ‘Have I brought enough water on this hike?’ and ‘How shall I spend the next few hours?’

Bliss.

I wouldn’t have taken that trip a few years ago. I’d have been petrified by the very thought of it, stricken with irrational fears over what might happen and all the things that could, and no doubt would, go wrong. I’d have bottled it and stayed at home drinking instead, a frightened woman with no idea of her own strength.

The thing is, is that human beings are inordinately good at adaptation. It’s what we do best – throw us into any new situation and once the early discomfort has been dealt with we get on beautifully with the revised status quo. Nothing is as scary as our wild imaginations would have us believe – including living without booze. It’s the anticipation that fixes our feet in wet concrete, rendering us too terrified to venture into unchartered waters. But if we can leap over the vacuum of not knowing, springboard ourselves with a blind and total faith that everything will work out fine, then, inevitably, it does. And we grow stronger for facing our fears.

When we push ourselves, we galvanise our sense of exactly how much we are capable of. If we don’t try, we’ll never know.

To conclude, if I ever do feel the fear, I remind myself that there is no such thing as superhuman – we are all one and the same. If one person can do something, then I damn well can as well. This philosophy is a good one to adopt if you ever find yourself struggling to taste the unknown…

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Go Ape!

I can count the times in my life when I have been truly terrified on one hand. There were the births of both my daughters; I hold my hand up and admit that, despite voraciously soaking up as much knowledge about hypnobirthing, water births and earth mothers chilling with a brew minutes after popping their little one out, I was utterly terrified about the whole experience from about six months pregnant onwards. The actual events did nothing to put my fears in to perspective, I may add.

There was the time when I found myself in a tricky situation with a violent ex boyfriend, who decided that he wasn’t too chuffed about me dumping him and took it upon himself to break in to the house I was staying in and telling me, with the aid of a hammer, what he thought of me.

Then there was the skydive that I did a few years ago when, despite me fooling myself and anyone who would listen that I was a crazy, extreme sports fanatic who just couldn’t get enough adrenaline into her bloodstream, I was actually convinced that I was going to die when I jumped out of that miniscule bi-plane, and spent the few weeks leading up to the big day utterly terrified and unable to sleep.

Don’t be fooled by the smile – I thought I was living my final moments.

And the last time was Sunday, my birthday, which I spent with my bloke and my eldest daughter, both of whom are (I have come to realise) much braver than me. We went to Go Ape! which is a circuit high in some treetops in Buxton, Derbyshire, made up of rope ladders, cargo nets, bungee jumps and zip wires, for visitors to make their way around whilst testing their strength of mind and character. I booked it because I wanted to have an exciting experience for my 37th birthday which didn’t revolve around sitting in a pub with a load of people getting drunk, and I’m so glad that I did. Although when I booked, I had forgotten the fact that I suffer a little from vertigo.

An hour in, we reached a bridge of rope swings, hung between two trees about eighty feet in the air. My other half stepped across first, swinging wildly but pulling himself valiantly from one swing to the next until he reached the safety of the facing platform. My daughter went next, froze on the first plank of wood that wobbled violently in front of her, before harnessing her courage and managing to cross in just a few minutes. Then it was my turn – extreme sports extraordinaire…As I put my foot on to the first swinging log and grabbed on to the adjoining ropes that held it to the cable above, I made the mistake of looking beyond my feet and to the ground, way below me. My stomach went in to my mouth, my legs turned to jelly and I froze. Completely. Then I began to make strange wailing sounds that have never been emitted from my mouth prior to that point. It took me twenty minutes to cross just six feet of rope bridge, with the aid of my very supportive and lovely family, who did not burst out laughing, but encouraged me every step of the way whilst I cried like a baby and tried not to throw up my breakfast.

There were many fun elements too, I must add, mainly the zip wires and ‘Tarzan jumps’ – all in all it was a brilliant day out. Facing the fear when you are terrified is a fantastic way to feel alive, and to remind yourself that pretty much anything is possible if you are prepared to meet that terror head on and take it by the horns. There is nothing as satisfying as proving to yourself that whatever life throws at you, you can tackle it by just putting your mind in to ‘brave mode’.