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Don't get trapped by your fears

What comes to mind when you hear the word fear?

For me, it’s [stray] dogs, and, frustratingly I have been known to let this define me. During my frequent travels to India, I have found myself factoring in my fear of dogs in my day to day planning. I’m not sure if I can go to such an early yoga class, the streets will be quiet and the dogs territorial. I don’t know where this fear came from, but it has affected my travels since my first trip in 2010 from which I have a memory of taking a motorbike-taxi to avoid the yapping street dogs. It frustrates me that I have let this fear affect my choices, for the past nine years!

Fears are rational and irrational, and most of us don’t know where they came from, nor can we determine how long they have existed. From darkness to death; dating to loneliness; snakes to spiders; and vermin to vaccinations, some fears can be so entrenched that they are treated as a psychological condition. It appears that most people have some degree of fear which may be affecting their life choices or overshadowing their day to day activities.

Have you ever thought about the fear of trying something new, the fear of stepping outside your comfort zone, which so many of us don’t? According to ancient Toltec Wisdom, humans are living in such fear that it has been normalised. It’s normal for humans to suffer, to live in fear, and to create emotional dramas.

I’m a traveller whom is free spirited and I guess some would say that means I’m a thrill seeker. I’ve travelled internationally and lived abroad as much as possible for the past nine years. On my social media handle, I probably look like I have "the perfect, instagrammable life" and that I find travelling easy. This is largely an example of Instagram vs. Reality. Because, of course, I am human, and I do get scared sometimes.

Last February, whilst in India, I signed up for a night ride (on motorbikes) and trek in order to see the sunrise from the top of a mountain. A few hours before I had to meet the group of strangers, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly nervous:

I was scared that the cars and trucks would be driving recklessly on the deserted night roads.

I was scared about being a pillion on a motorbike with someone I had just met.

I was scared that I had sunstroke or a fever from spending the day outside in the Indian summer heat.

I was scared that I was developing symptoms of the dreaded Delhi belly.

I was scared that I would be physically too weak or tired to climb the peak, due to lack of sleep the night before.

I was scared that I'd be the person at the back slowing the group down.

I was scared that I would be the only female.

I was scared that it would be too cold at the top.

Despite my fears, I did it and it was one of the most amazing, rewarding, and thrilling experiences. As I sat shivering at the top of the mountain, eagerly awaiting the rising sun, I felt so content and pleased that I hadn’t let my fears overcome me. I could so easily have been a no-show or cancelled my place on the trip. Instead, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and into the unknown; I took to the Indian roads, posed for cliché group biker photos at the side of the highway, and climbed up 4 steep kilometres to the peak in the dark of the night.

I think we should all challenge ourselves once in a while, step out of our comfort zone, and try not to let life become too monogamous. Think about an activity that you’ve always wanted to do, but you’ve been too scared to try, or you haven't wanted to go alone. Don’t let the lack of company get in the way of what really interests you. Visualise the positive energy you’ll feel after accomplishing your feat – whether it be going on a blind date, trying a dance class, joining a local walking group, eating in a restaurant alone, going for a walk in the countryside, or visiting a local tourist attraction which you’ve always taken for granted. After all, variety is the spice of life!

By definition, courage is the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation. Without fear, there’s no courage. Being courageous grants us access to a whole new world; it opens us up to new experiences and gives us pride in achieving even the smallest of accomplishments. Being courageous could open the door to the promotion you’ve been longing for, the year group or key stage change you thought you’d never survive, further student progression, and possibly greater job satisfaction.

Being courageous in India allows me to wake up as the sun rises, do my morning meditation, and walk down the empty streets along with the barking dogs, to the best yoga class in town!

This article featured in Innovate Journal in July, 2019
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