Six years ago, just shy of my 52nd birthday, I bungee jumped 300 feet off this bridge in Whistler BC Canada. I did not think I would be afraid because I had been a rock climber and rappeler in my teens and twenties. I have no fear of heights, but when I stood on that bridge, I froze. The idea of diving off into the ravine was terrifying! I told the guy that I changed my mind and didn’t want to do it. Laughing, he assured me that I did want to do it! We argued back and forth for a minute or two. He told me that it wouldn’t get any easier and began a quick countdown.
I knew the longer I waited, the more frightened I’d become. I realized that this was something I did want to do, so I took a deep breath and dove. Let me tell you, there is nothing natural about hurtling 300 feet through the air toward the rocky river below. Nothing. And yet, I was safe. The rope held and I dangled happily at the bottom. I felt so alive and empowered! I dove despite the terror.
I find that life is very much like this. There are things we want to do, accomplish, and create. We feel the urge, the necessity, even. We know what we want. Then we get to the edge and freeze or we're like a deer in headlights. We may begin to talk ourselves out of it, tell ourselves that we really don’t want this, or that it isn’t possible to dive and survive. Worse yet, we may begin to believe the fearful stories we are telling ourselves.
I don’t know about you but when there is something I need or want to do and I don’t do it, I can feel terrible. I can feel ashamed. I can feel ineffectual. It starts to look like a monster, keeping me awake at night. I can spin stressful stories about why I’m not good enough, smart enough, or brave enough to take the action that’s required. These stories take on a life of their own and can paralyze me. Just as I was paralyzed on that bridge 6 years ago.
The young man on the bridge laughed at me, with great compassion and understanding. He did not judge me. He did not shame me. He did not push me. He did playfully challenge my story. He did lovingly, with humor, encourage me to see past the story of fear I was spinning. He did not invite me to be unafraid, but he did invite me to take action, to jump despite the fear.
I can see how important it is to do the same when we’ve spun a story of fear for ourselves. I see how important it is that we not judge or shame ourselves. I see the importance of having compassion for ourselves, even gently laughing at our humanness, and taking action despite the fear.
I see the importance of acting quickly before the fear takes on a life of its own. I see, too, that even if it has taken on a life of its own, we can act at any moment despite what powerful story we’ve spun or how much fear we may feel.
There may be something you’ve dreamed of creating or accomplishing. There may be something you know you need to do in order to take care of yourself. You may be avoiding it because you are afraid. I understand. I’m afraid, too. And, like you, I’ve believed the fear completely. Yet, I want to dive. I know I want it. You want it, too.
So, advocate for yourself, just as the man on the bridge advocated for me. If you can’t find a way to do it for yourself, then find someone who can advocate for you. Someone who believes in you. Someone who understands our human predicament.
“Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, we're afraid!" they responded.
"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, We will fall!" they responded.
"Come to the edge," he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”
― Guillaume Apollinaire
The man on the bridge didn’t push me but he did invite me and he did stand with me.
I invite you.
I invite you to fly despite your fear. I see your wings ready to unfurl.
How can you overcome fear to take action? You could:
- Recognize the fearful stories you are spinning.
- Take them a tad less personally.
- Don't wait for the fear to pass.
- Dive. The sooner, the better.
I'm taking my own advice today after a few weeks of taking my fearful stories all too personally. I feel encouraged knowing that you, too, may do the same.
I enjoy and appreciate your comments! The comment box is below.