Sometimes our fears can hold us back from doing the things we enjoy or at least enjoying them to the fullest. I have a terrible fear of heights and so far it has not limited my ability to finish a race. It has, however, impacted my enjoyment of a few races, training runs, and hikes. In fact, I was recently hiking Angel’s Landing in Zions National Park and it ended the hike prematurely.
Maybe you like your fear and believe it is healthy. If that’s you, you can probably skip this post, unless you have a friend who has a fear barring their progress. Then maybe there is something here to help them.
Some fears are easier to deal with than others. The more intense the fear is, the longer it is going to take to overcome. The roots of the fear don’t really matter when it comes down to dealing with them. Sometimes we have no idea where they came from and sometimes we know exactly why we developed a fear of a situation.
The process for overcoming a particular fear of this nature is pretty much the same. Some fears which may impact your ability to continue in a race or at a minimum your enjoyment of the race are: heights, water, the dark, and animals/insects.
Slow exposure at low intensity is essential to overcoming most fears. In order for me to overcome my fear of heights, I have to expose myself to situations which trigger my fear. I don’t want to start with something that is going to make the fear worse or disabling. I just want to trigger it enough to make the situation challenging. Even a small challenge is a great place to start. I have done this and my fear has reduced in many situations. Shear drops still scare the crap out of me causing vertigo and shaking.
You can use this same strategy with fear of water and the dark. If it is animals and insects think about starting with step two. The reason I say that is, because some animals and insects are actually dangerous to be exposed to. If you have a debilitating fear of bears or black widows you don’t go out and snuggle up to them.
Step two is knowledge. For animals and insects, find out which are in the area where you live and run. Educate yourself on how to tell if they are in the area and what to do if you see one. Take precautions such as running in a group, wearing a bear bell, or carrying some pepper spray (research which animals this is effective on.
Knowledge as it relates to heights, water, and the dark is all about experiences. The more experiences you have the more confident you are going to become in dealing with scary situations. One thing I tell myself is that the trail that scares me is just as wide as any other trial I run on and I don’t fall and fly into the bushes or trees. I fall right on the trial.
I identified two other fears which can hold you back, but are different in nature. First is injury and second is failure. None of us want to get injured, but we do. All we can do is take precautions to prevent injury, listen to our bodies, and draw upon our experiences and training.
Fear of failure holds people back from taking risks and trying new things. Everyone fails at something. It sucks but we turn it into a lesson as much as we can. Even if the only lesson is we have more work to do before we make a second attempt.
Talking about our fears with others, helps us realize we are not the only ones who have dealt with these situations. Others can also offer you support and suggestions about how to face your fears.
Feel the fear, and do it anyway.