I am terrified of heights.
So naturally, for my 40th birthday, I decided to go skydiving. I know this sounds counter-intuitive for someone who is scared of heights. But whether I was having a mid-life crisis or subtly executing a form of self-therapy, I became determined to go. It had been on my bucket list for far too long. I even convinced a few friends to go with me.
At first, after booking the jump, it did not feel real. My friends and I talked about it with great excitement. As the actual day grew closer though, the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good plane seemed crazy.
And my other good friend Fear steadily ballooned in my mind like a nuclear mushroom cloud of doom.
Going to sleep the night before, Fear whispered a bunch of “what ifs”. “What if the chute doesn’t open?” “What if the chute rips?” “What if you have a full body spasm and your overly large head jerks back, knocking out your tandem instructor before he has time to open the chute?”
Driving to the jump site, Fear ramped things up and started speaking rapidly. “What are we doing?!” over and over again. I tried to reason with Fear but Fear had several valid points including, “You don’t have to do this. You’ll friends will understand. Plus you are driving the car. Just turn it around and find a doughnut shop. Doughnuts are way tastier than asphalt”
During our 2.5 hour wait at the jump site, we met a woman who was present a few years earlier when a jumper had died. At this point, Fear lost its damn mind. It just started screaming, “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!”
When we finally boarded the plane, Fear began to smugly point out dangers. “So I see the plane is going higher and higher and the ground is growing smaller and smaller. Hmmm . .. it is getting colder up here so maybe you’ll just freeze to death before you shatter into a million pieces once you hit the ground wayyyyyyyy down there.”
I could literally feel my stomach trying to crawl out of my body to safety.
Fear can be crippling in life. It can pretty yell loudly at times.
Fear tells me to stop taking risks. It wants to keep me hiding under my bed, surrounded in bubble wrap, with the front door locked and 911 punched in the phone just in case.
When things go wrong in life, fear likes to place the blame at my feet. It reminds me of all the things I could have done differently that would have prevented this bad thing from happening.
Fear tells me who I am is not good enough. It keeps me trapped in my head, pointing out how others will reject me if they know the real me. It reminds me how much the real me will mess things up.
Fear shouts down vulnerability in my relationships, keeps me afraid to share my real self with others. I then withhold thoughts and feelings, agree to things I do not want to do, and stop asking for what I need.
Yes, Fear can shout loudly at times.
But Fear is also a liar.
A bold-faced, pants on fire, slicker than a used car salesman liar.
When the plane leveled off at the right altitude, things began happening quickly. My tandem instructor buckled our harnesses together, moved me quickly to the door, and before I knew it, I was half jumping, half being pushed out of an airplane at 13,500 feet above the ground.
And can I tell you something? Fear shut its damn mouth.
Instead, all I heard was Joy and Excitement screaming, “THIS IS SO AWESOME!!” The 1 minute of freefall was one of the best minutes of my life. I could not stop smiling during the 6-minute parachute ride back down to earth. I could not believe how fun it was and how much I wanted to do it again.
And I would have hated to miss that joy-filled experience because I listened to Fear.
I believe the secret to having more fun in life is to yell louder than Fear.
Yell back: “Risk in life are necessary. Without risk, nothing happens to us, good or bad.”
Scream: “I cannot control everything in life and safety is never guaranteed!”
Holler: “I am strong enough to handle the tough stuff life throws at me!”
Shout: “Vulnerability is strength, not weakness!”
Yell louder than Fear. And then go experience the fun you were missing.
If you are struggling to silence fear, we’d love to help. We strive to make the first step into counseling the easiest and offer a risk-free initial appointment where we help you determine which of our amazing therapists would be a good fit for you. If you are not completely satisfied, you owe nothing and we will even help you get connected with a therapist outside our practice.
You can schedule online at any time at mathewscounseling.net or give us a call Monday through Friday at 919-587-8018.