“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Yes, that’s me on top of that cliff along with my fellow adventure seekers. I’m third from the right (obviously not going anywhere NEAR the edge!)
That’s The Mountain-the mountain they named “The Death Road” in Bolivia, so named because of its inherent danger and yearly death toll. From beginning to end its about 40 miles, straight downhill, with a drop off of 2,000 feet. The road is only 10 feet of wide, with tiny little pieces of gravel under your tires that can send you spinning off the edge quite easily.
Before that day I’d never been on a mountain bike. Of course they recommend that you be a confident beginner or an advanced/expert mountain biker, neither of which I was. I hadn’t even ridden a bicycle in probably ten years.
Before that day I had also never been so scared in my life. Seriously. I had never been so scared about what was in front of me. The unknown. I could literally die going down this mountain.
But, on that day I had to decide. Would I go horseback riding (which I’ve done tons of times) alone or would I ride down the scariest, most dangerous road in the world on a bike with my boyfriend? Which would I choose? Which would you choose?
Why Face Fear?
I chose the dangerous, scary road. Why? Because I knew that if I didn’t I would regret it. No matter how scared I was I was determined to get down that damn road. Once I got on the bike not only was I determined to get down I was determined to be the first girl down and pass half the guys on my way!
I was literally shaking with cold and fear but I kept on going. When you start at the top the paved road is covered with blocks of ice. Everything is downhill so you are racing at about 25-30 miles per hour. Trucks are coming up the road which you have to maneuver around and other bikers are going to your left and your right navigating their own way down the hairpin turns. Nearly one tourist a year dies going down the mountain and I sure didn’t intend to be one of them.
But you know what I did? I kept on going. Going past my fears, past my thoughts, past all mental limitations and into the unknown. And, you know what? When I got to the bottom I was unbelievably proud of myself. I’d done something very few people would ever do in their lifetime.
What is Fear?
Fear of the unknown is an example of the type of fear we can face in our lifetime. Fear can wear many disguises: fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of being rejected or abandoned. Believe it or not, you may even fear being happy.
The question is, What do you do about your fears? Do you face them head on, or run from them? Fear is your body’s natural instinct trying to protect you from some unforeseen harm. The problem is that most of our fears are not based on any real harm, they’re mostly based on fears we create in our own mind.
For example, for many women walking alone at night when we go to our car causes us to heighten our senses and be aware of who is around us. This is a normal, rational fear based on a potential harm that could occur.
However, most of the time the fears that we create do nothing but protect us from OLD hurts. They allow us to cope in a way we no longer need to cope anymore and actually paralyze us from moving forward.
Why do we keep these fears and why do we keep living them over and over? What exactly is it we are afraid of? Is change so horrifyingly scary? Is doing something new all that crazy? I would say that living in fear is the crazy thing to do and that every day you live in fear is a day you have wasted your potential.
Identifying Your Fears
Most people don’t even realize they are living in fear. But, we all do just to different extents. The question is whether we will decide to push past our fears and experience the terror that comes with the unknown or whether we want to continue to live in a somewhat sanitized state.
Although, I must admit I have one fear I am not willing to face no matter what. I am deathly, unreasonably afraid of fish. Fish in the store. Fish on television. Fish in a tank. Fish in the water. Fish on my table (if they still have a head). But, this fear doesn’t really impact my life other than the fact that I’ll never go scuba diving so I choose to let it persist.
Some fears are you big deal. Maybe you don’t like spiders. Who cares? Unless you are seeing spiders everywhere in your waking life it isn’t a big deal. What I’m talking about are those fears that keep you from living the biggest and most wonderful existence that you can.
I would say that it’s time to face your fears. Whatever they are. Whatever it is. Next time you feel it (and you most certainly will feel it) whether it expresses itself through anxiety or anger just sit with it. Try to understand what triggered the fear. Talk to yourself. Close your eyes and say, “I am safe”,- because in reality you are.
Thoughts can control you or you can control them. If you continue to allow your thoughts to control you then you will continue to be controlled by fear and you will live a life that will never be fully realized. A person living in fear cannot ever connect with another human in any real way. The connection will always be superficial.
Fear is a powerful emotion. I will ask you what you can do to conquer your fears, or even one fear. Maybe just for today. Maybe just with that one person. Maybe try something different.
Let your fears motivate you, instead of paralyze you.