31 Days of Fear Facing
This past October I decided to face a fear every day. If it sounds hard, good — you are right. However, the benefits far outweighed the actual fear. This week I’ll be sharing some of my experiences and highlighting the insights I gain – some are massive insights.
Last night, I decided to face a fear that I did not conquer (after two attempts) in the last month: Swimming in the ocean at night.
I am not scared of many things—like public speaking or conflict, or singing or dancing in public, or snakes, bears or cockroaches, or never being loved. I am not scared of being broke, obese or not raising my children correctly. But, when the list of fears came out of my head, it was pretty scary—who knew all that was living in there?
After all of the things that I faced in October, swimming in the night sea ended up being one of the top three scariest.
Facing, But Not Conquering Fears
The first two attempts to swim in the night sea were disappointing, but brought amazing insight: 1) You cannot see –and more importantly, you CANNOT HEAR a wave in the dark—until it is too late and they are already crashing upon your head. This made it extremely difficult to get past the wave line to the point where I could actually swim in the dark water. 2) This lack of warning is scarier than the slimy fish I stepped on, or the slimy seaweed I swam through, or even the currents that blendered me when my flippers were ripped off.
Last night, on my third attempt, I conquered the fear. I made it past the wave line, and could see enough of the water in the post post sunset light that it was dark grey in front of me, and black water behind me.
I forced myself to swim out to the point where my flippers couldn’t touch the bottom, and I waited. I waited until my panicked breathing became something I could control, and I looked around to get familiar with the lack of light, the wave movement, and my distance to shore. On more than four occasions, I was hit hard by something underneath me and I popped myself out of the water like a soggy Jack in the Box each time, only to realize it was a large boulder (covered in sea grass, to add extra drama). It was too dark to get used to, and I had no bearings so I couldn’t know when I was going to hit it each time—it is not something to get used to.
As I swam, I rose up with a big wave and watched the dim outline of it head to shore—I realize that my former fears were absolutely founded—these things gain more power, more momentum on their way in—and when you can’t see, your sense of hearing is heightened and the crash to the shoreline is so loud, so scary, that I have empathy with my two-week younger self—I was right to be scared. I also loved my current position. I loved being on the other side of that wave.
On the Other Side of Fear
My tenacity and pig-headedness had a pay off—I can now always picture my future self on the other side of something scary—having compassion for myself, and yet encouragement to keep going.
Now, this was a big fear—one that I had made several attempts at conquering, and one that I know most people have no desire to face. But I also have smaller fears, like a fear of lipstick that I faced earlier in the month (I don’t know how to use it, or why there are all those colors, and it has a mind of its own, creeping off your face like liquid. ANYWAY.). As we all know, there is a range of fear, and the lessons we gain by facing the smaller ones are just as meaningful, symbolic, and transferrable to our daily lives as the largest.
Start with the small things, or jump off to the big one—either way, try it and share it and see what it does to your self esteem, your way of viewing the world, your relationships and most importantly, the life you have left.