I overcame my fear of needles by walking directly into a blood donation drive.
I overcame my fear of heights through rock climbing.
I overcame my fear of public speaking by becoming president of a student organization in college.
I overcame my fear of wearing a bikini by buying one and heading immediately to the beach.
I could go on and on.
I can’t place my finger on when I decided to rid my life of fear. Sure, I still get scared, but unless there’s an actual threat, I feel the fear and do it anyway.
The most basic definition of fear is that it’s an emotion induced by a perceived threat. Fear causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding, or freezing.
Fear isn’t just a response to a real threat, but a perceived one. It means that we often fear a possible outcome, even though there might not be any real danger.
But most of us are scared and stuck in a paradoxical situation — we are scared to conquer fear because we’re afraid of fear.
In my experience, the only way to overcome fear is to face it and embrace it.
Notice I did not mention getting rid of fear; it’s an important and useful part of our lives, which alerts us to possible dangers and brings out survival instincts.
Fear has prevented me from doing things I need and want to do. So I’ve started voluntarily facing my fears head on.
Sounds scary? It is. No pain, no gain. And truly, once I started tackling my fears, I quickly realized that I had nothing to be afraid of in the first place. I was engaging in fear-based decision making, which is when you let your fears or worries dictate your actions.
- “I’d love to visit a different country, but what if something bad happens on the plane? I’ll just stay home instead.”
- “I’d love to write a book, but what if people hate it? Maybe I should read more before I start writing.”
- “I’d love to get in shape, but what if I look stupid at the gym? I need to lose some weight before I go.”
The unfortunate result is that you don’t do the things that you say are important to you.
Just to be clear, I’ve made this mistake many times myself. But, that doesn’t mean it’s all right to continue making it.
So this past weekend, I overcame my fear of roller coasters.
I remember being 6 years old, strapped into a kiddie roller-coaster, alone. I don’t want to do this, but it’s too late. The ride lurches forward and jerks downward, flipping my stomach and sending me into hysterics.
The ride ends but my crippling fear of roller-coasters is just beginning.
Since then, I’ve avoided amusement parks. While other kids would talk about the Top Thrill Dragster, I’d have to skip out on the conversation.
I was given free tickets to Cedar Point at work and told myself, “It’s now or never.” I didn’t want to spend money on tickets and end up hating my experience, but now, I had no choice!
My friend dragged me on the Wicked Twister, the tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster in the world. I was on the verge of tears and looked at the ground the entire time.
I was pretty shaken up because I wasn’t used anything of that nature. However, I didn’t feel afraid afterwards. I realized that I was horrified during the ride, but once it was over, I was OK.
I wondered to myself: what can I do to let myself enjoy the ride?
Then I realized roller coasters are supposed to be scary. If you’re feeling scared by the idea of a 12-story drop going 60 mph, that’s perfectly normal. That means the theme park is doing its job! Roller coasters are made to be scary to give riders fun thrills and chills, but they aren’t actually dangerous!
I watched as little kids eagerly hopped on the biggest rides and felt kind of silly. If a 10-year-old can handle this, I can too.
I made it my mission to have a good time and before I knew it, I was riding in the front row and smiling!
Look straight ahead. Keep your head secure and back against the seat rest in your chair. Don’t look down or focus on things to the side, which can emphasize the speed at which you’re traveling and increase any feelings of disorientation and nausea.
This is especially helpful if you’re going on a loop. Look straight ahead and focus on the track and you’ll only feel a slight feeling of weightlessness that should actually be pretty pleasant and should pass in a moment or two.
Resist the urge to close your eyes. Inexperienced riders often think that closing your eyes will help make it less scary and that you’ll feel better, but closing your eyes will lead to feelings of disorientation and can make you feel nauseated.
Yell loudly! You definitely won’t be the only one, and the train is usually noisy anyway. Instead of just being quiet with fear, screaming can actually make the ride more fun. Also you can also mix your screaming with some “Woo-hoos”. Screaming can take away the scariness and make you want to laugh, which I did. I couldn’t stop giggling!
While overcoming my fear of roller coasters was a positive one, it’s OK if yours isn’t. Some people just don’t like coasters!
My point is this: life begins at the end of your comfort zone. And it will never hurt to give something a shot. What will hurt is living a life crippled by fear.