The Beauty of Fear

The Beauty of Fear

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Fear is something we often try to avoid, but there is beauty in fear, and we can grow by confronting it from time to time. Facing our fears can lead to personal growth and new opportunities for learning and development.  I do a lot of my learning this way, by intentionally leaning into the things that scare me, and I have always come out of the other side feeling stronger, wiser, and more in tune with myself.

There is one fear I have had some significant trouble with.  I have a paralyzing fear of heights.

I remember the first time my fear of heights froze me in my tracks. I was perhaps four years old and attending preschool class at Tiny-Tots. During recess, it was my turn to climb to the top of the slide that I had been admiring for the past year. It looked like so much fun because the slide didn’t go straight down. It was a corkscrew, and I couldn’t wait to fly down the slide. But just when I got to the top of the slide ladder, my body froze. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, all I could do was hold on for dear life, and breathe the best I could. I was so frozen in fear that my Tiny-Tots teacher had to call my mom to come get me off the slide. 

—Fast forward to today—

When my friend Michelle invited me to join her zip-lining amongst the redwood treetops of the Santa Cruz Mountains I immediately said YES. I had zip-lined once before and found it to be terrifying.  I don’t remember much because I think I’ve blocked it out of my memory.  I’ve tried to conquer this fear of heights throughout my life in different ways and haven’t had a whole lot of success.  I knew this was another opportunity to break through that fear. I was really looking forward to it.

I started to feel some anxiety the night before our zip-lining tour. My anxiety was not coming from the zip lining itself or the height.  My anxiety was coming from the fact that I had to get on a scale and I had to be under 250 pounds. I no longer get weighed when I go to the doctor because it does not help my mental health.  I always say “nope, thanks for the offer though”. I really have no idea how much I weigh. I had my fingers crossed that I would not be humiliated and  publicly turned away because of my weight. When it was my turn to step on the scale, I felt myself wanting to curl up and hang my head. But I did it. I have no idea what the number was but it was under 250 so I was good to go!

Now I could go have fun…. or so I thought 🙂

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Doing great so far!

We got all geared up in our harnesses and clips and helmets and headed out for the ropes course. There was a practice line that was just a few feet from the ground and I felt really great about that. I was nervous, but I did it and it was fun. I felt like I wanted more. So we headed off to our first high line that ran through the top of the forest. When we arrived at our little platform suspended around the treetop, I felt my body change.

My fight flight or freeze reactions were starting to kick in.  My parasympathetic nervous system was sparking.  I felt the panic filling my body, and the percolations of a panic attack brewing. I plastered myself to the trunk of that redwood tree and became one with it. I hugged that tree as hard as I could. Terror was taking over.

With the help of our guide and my friend Michelle I did it. I almost didn’t… I almost gave up and turned around. But I didn’t. I stepped off the platform and zipped across the treetops. I did not enjoy it. I was truly terrified.  All I wanted to do was get to the next tree and hug it as hard as I could. I saw the look of concern on the faces of the other people in our party and tried to calm myself. They were all very encouraging and kind.

Here’s a look at my terror as I tried to suspend myself off the ledge.  You’ll see the first time was really scary for me.  Then, I did it again, and guess what?!  It wasn’t pretty, but I did better……

After the second zip line, I started to feel a little bit more confident. I started to have fun. I started to feel like a bad ass! I was proud of myself. I was breathing regularly and I was able to admire the beauty of the forest from a different perspective. I could zip on the line and look down at the creek flowing below on the forest floor. It was lovely and exhilarating.

There was a bouncy bridge, near the end of the course that took you from one tree to another. It would bounce and sway and swing as you walked on it. And here’s the thing, I wasn’t afraid of that at all. I was walking across it with no fear. I actually wanted to jump up and down on it and make it bounce more, but had been told that was against the rules so I minded my manners.

There were other people that were very afraid of the bridge. It made me wonder what is it that makes me unafraid to go across a bridge way up high, yet be so afraid to zip on a line way up high?  Michelle and I believe it’s because my feet were on the bridge. When I have my feet on the ground, or my feet on something solid, I feel secure. But when my feet are not supporting me, I get a bit freaked out.

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No Fear Here!

I learned a lot by intentionally leaning into my fear.

This experience wasn’t always comfortable, and there were moments where I was not enjoying myself. But that’s OK because the beauty is I busted through that fear. The beauty is I let myself be vulnerable, and allowed others to help me.

There is beauty and power on the other side of fear, you just have to power through it to get there sometimes.

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Look at me now!

Thanks for listing to my story.  I hope it has inspired you in some way.

Remember to step into your fears from time to time.  Ask for help when you need it, and keep yourself growing.


Namaste — Karen

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