I remember the first time I stepped into the classroom at my new job where I was suddenly a teacher.
I hadn’t gone to school for teaching, didn’t have a teaching certificate, and had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I was nervous as all hell.
It was my first day as a youth counselor at a small charter high school for at-risk youth. At this school, not only did I have my counselor duties, but I was also responsible for teaching job skills classes for one hour out of my work day. Stepping into that classroom for the first time, hearing the roaring silence as I wrote the agenda on the board, seeing all those eyes on me, introducing myself in front of a group of teenagers. Well, I could feel my legs shake and my voice crack with anxiety. I knew it would be a challenge, something new and foreign, but it was also exciting for that very reason. I sensed a huge opportunity for challenge and growth.
When I pushed myself to accept and embrace the challenge, even with that judging voice in my head telling me I sounded stupid and that I was a fraud, something amazing happened. I was able to stay with it, notice the fear, and do it anyway. By immersing myself in it, I was able to get through it.
And even though I felt inept and confused in the beginning, a feeling of accomplishment started taking over. I started to feel good about myself for accepting the challenge instead of running from it. I eventually felt more comfortable in my teaching role and even began to feel like I was a good teacher, despite my lack of formal training.
Sometimes the fear feels suffocating. The worst part is the moment right before doing something frightening. Once you’re in it, it’s easier to just continue. Feel the fear and acknowledge it. Say “Hello.” Invite the fear out to coffee. It’s about not letting that fear scare you away from realizing your potential.
As I write this, I am on a plane to the east coast to visit family who I haven’t seen in over five years. Over the years, flying has become a moderate fear of mine, causing stress and anxiety when I travel. I don’t have all the answers (shocking) and I haven’t quite figured out how to handle this deepening fear. The reality is, I don’t want to die in a plane crash. I’m afraid of literally crashing and burning. This fear makes my muscles tighten and shake, and my stomach roll. I tell myself that I just have to let go of the control—I don’t have any in this situation, so just accept it. It doesn’t matter whether my fears are likely to happen or not; fighting against them isn’t helping.
It is after midnight on this red-eye flight and the anxiety has rendered me wide awake. Writing about this feeling—my way of acknowledging it, saying “hey there, buddy!”—has helped relax my muscles and calm my mind a little. I’ve even developed a mantra to repeat every time we hit turbulence, which came to me out of the raw fear I felt during this experience. It’s nothing profound or the least bit insightful; it’s quite comical, which is perfect, because humor is a powerful antidote to fear.
What is my mantra? “Holy shitty-shit balls!”
Yes, those are the words that formed in my mind during that moment of intense fear. So, I embrace this classy phrase and use it to make me smile.
Through traveling, it’s become very real that I absolutely adore my life. I am grateful for so many things and I think losing them is part of that fear. I am in awe of the many forms of love in my life. Recognizing the fear makes me so much more appreciative of what I have.
Sometimes you have to leave your daily life to really understand and feel how much you love it.
That is the fabulous thing about fear. It allows us to peel away layers of ourselves, to uncover strengths we didn’t know were there. It allows us to take a step back and look at the big picture. I’ve grown immensely by putting myself in uncomfortable and scary situations. How do I know? Because I feel different. I feel like a stronger version of me, a more complete version.
So rather than running from fear or letting it get in the way of our joy, let’s remember that it can be a beautiful opportunity for self discovery and expansion. Acknowledge it (write about it, sing about it, talk about it, make up a story about it, say something silly out loud about it, draw a picture about it…) and then welcome that fear like it was your best buddy at your door bearing gifts. You may discover something new about yourself, which is a pretty sweet gift.
Tria Aronow is a Youth Counselor, Job Skills Teacher, and Certified Life Coach living in Tucson, Arizona. She loves helping others in uncovering passion and achieving life balance! In her free time she enjoys hiking, bicycling, hula hooping, dancing, playing in the desert, and a daily dose of sunshine!
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Ed: T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta