Fear & The Importance Of Taking Risks

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So let’s talk about fear for a moment. That tiny four letter word, seemingly insignificant when written on a piece of paper, yet in reality, the weight behind it is causing our thoughts and emotions to hinder our progress in life.

Over the years, I have been in positions where time and time again I have let fear hold me back. I remember when I was too afraid to wear a particular outfit for fear someone might think I looked funny. Or when I didn’t go to the gym for fear people would judge me for using a machine incorrectly. Not to mention the times I didn’t travel to certain countries for fear that it was unsafe for solo female travellers. And although there’s some truth to that last one in parts of the world, the build up of worry in my mind escalated my fear more than it needed to be. 

As a result, a few years ago, I found myself living only half a life. I was letting fear take hold and I wasn’t allowing myself to be the person I truly wanted to be. I wasn’t experiencing the things that fuelled my soul or truly made me happy. So one day I told myself, enough is enough. I can either concur my fears, or let me fears concur me. I chose the latter.

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Now when it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with having fear. In fact, the presence of fear gives us the opportunity to trust in our own strength. And if I really think about it, I don’t think fear every truly goes away. I still have it every time I travel and land in a new destination. I start to worry about the tiniest things, like walking around with a backpack on or my camera in hand, for fear I’ll be identified as a “tourist” and be targeted for theft and unwanted attention.

But what I’ve come to learn to do, is acknowledged my fear, accept it and rationalise it. When I get that nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and my heart rate starts to quicken, I ask myself where is the fear coming from? Is it based on something I’ve heard in the media or from a friend. Is it from past experience. Is it related to social situations and judgement from others, or is it an actual life treating situation. If my fears aren’t life threatening, then I push those nerves back down and take control of the situation. I force my way through that first barrier, which is my mind creating exaggerated scenarios, and take a deep breath. I tell myself that the only person who can hold me backs me, and I refuse to let that happen. Once, that first barrier is broken, the rest comes much easier.

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For example, I had the exact same fear of being identified as a “tourist” when I first arrived in London two years ago, walking the streets, camera in hand, taking pictures of Big Ben and other iconic landmarks. But now that I’ve been living in London for a solid amount of time, I don’t think twice about taking my camera out amongst a crowd of strangers. Walking around today is technically no safer than when I first arrived, but because London is no longer “foreign” to me, and I’ve been able to rationalise my situation, my fear is now non-existent.

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The truth is, you have to be willing to face fear and take risks if you want the opportunity to see what’s on the other side. It’s a much higher risk to stay exactly where you are, never pushing the boundaries of yourself or your life. 

Nowadays I live everyday with no regrets. I face fear head on, overcoming it with the strength I’ve grown to know I have. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely doable. So whatever your fear is, take a deep breath and shut it down. Let your strength be bigger than your fear.

*fyi, spiders still scare the crap out of me… I’m working on that fear, but that one may take longer to overcome than others.

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