September 3, 2015

The Pursuit of Fears.

Steve Corey/Flickr

Stop Doing the Things You Don’t Like.

Last year, while traveling alone in Portugal, I met a beautiful girl my age from the States.

She is a writer and a wonderful person, and while in the beautiful town of Odeceixe, where we stayed at the same hostel, she decided to take surf lessons.

She had never surfed before.

We met after her morning session, and she told me she had absolutely hated it. Found it freakin’ scary and not for a moment enjoyable.

However, the other people and even her instructor had all made it clear that she should definitely not bail on the afternoon session, because that would mean she was a sissy/baby/chicken, etc.

I told her I thought she shouldn’t surf again.

Why should we do things we don’t find enjoyable? Life is too short.

Instead, we had lunch and drank cappuccinos and talked about everything important for 12 hours straight. Much more enjoyable than facing certain death on a wooden board in the ocean.

I don’t know why we seem to be so obsessed with doing everything we know we don’t like in the name of overcoming our fears.

Afraid of heights? You should definitely jump out of a plane! Hate speaking in public? Take that teaching job! Spider phobia? Buy a tarantula and call it Fluffy!

Overcome, overcome, overcome!

We seem to forget that there is a difference between going out of our comfort zone (where the magic happens and all that), and going over our limits, where there’s nothing but anxiety, depression and burn-outs.

This is a crucial difference, however.

Going out of our comfort zone means doing things that scare us because they are new and different and challenging. At the same time, they are things that we really want to do, despite the fear. We have to be brave to do them, but we also know, deep down, that doing them will enrich our lives.

Brave means something different for everyone, of course. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Going over our limits, though, means doing things while not listening to our minds, hearts and bodies screaming “No!” It’s not only doing the things that scare us, but also doing what we really don’t want to do.

We all have our specific set of strengths and weaknesses, fears and gifts. We’re not supposed to flatten it all out by ignoring the things we love and are good at, and putting all of our energy into trying to overcome what scares us.

I’m not saying we should pretend our fears don’t exist and avoid every situation remotely linked to them; what I am saying is that maybe we shouldn’t run towards them all the time.

There should be balance.

If we’re drained from doing things we don’t enjoy, we have no more energy left to do the things we love. If we keep living in the pursuit of fears instead of happiness, we can even start to forget what we like, and what “good” actually feels like.

I struggle immensely with accepting my fears, just like everybody else, and ideally I would love to overcome them. I’m also great at rationalizing my tushy out of my fears. Talking to a group of people, or going up the Eiffel Tower, for example. Those things are really not at all scary, until I actually have to do them.

I try as much as possible to stop focusing on the things I don’t enjoy and to put more energy towards doing what I love.

At the end of the road, I think we all prefer having tried to live a life we love, instead of having put most of our energy towards trying to overcome the things we don’t.

I’m not sure it’s even possible to overcome our fears, nor do I think it is necessary in order to live a full life.

Nature is a great teacher. Plants know it is good and nourishing for them to grow towards the sun, and so they do.

It is only we human beings who, for some reason, think we have to try to grow in the dark, even when there is light.

But no flower will ever grow as lovely in the darkness as it would in the light.

So, let us be kind to ourselves, accept our fears and encourage each other to do more of what we love. We desperately need each other’s kindness, love and support in growing towards the sun.

Usually we are our own worst critics, and everyone who tries to march to the beat of their own drum will encounter a whole bunch of naysayers. There is no need to become one of them.

It is immensely nurturing to be that person who gives compliments, notices growth and encourages it. Someone who says it is okay not to do something if it doesn’t excite our heart.

Because when we are finally given the comfort to be ourselves, that’s when the truly magical things can happen.


Relephant Read:

How to Overcome your Fears & Start Living.


Author: Ruth Van de steene

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Steve Corey/Flickr // The Pug Father/Flickr


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Ruth Van de steene