I’d Like To, But I’m AFRAID…!

FEAR is Not Real

Does fear keep you from doing what you would really like to do? I confess, my life was ruled by fear. Not the fear that comes from a realistic response to an actual threat, but rather the type of fear that is an intangible anxiety about “what might happen.” My close-to-irrational fears took a major upward spike this month when I signed up for a horse show. Yes, you riders out there all know about and likely suffer to some degree from “show nerves.” We all do, evidenced by the popularity of a humorous post in Heels Down entitled How to Show Prep as a Nervous AF Adult Ammy by Wendy Angel. I’ve employed many of her 29 steps including attempts to create a way out of showing, self-medicating with liberal amounts of wine, obsessively creating check lists, and experiencing bodily responses we won’t go into here. I could add more. Fear feels real.

FEAR=imagination saying something bad might happen

FEAR is False Evidence

Fear feels real, but it isn’t. Fear is intangible. It is a response to something you are worried will happen in the future but probably won’t. Fear has been described by the acronym F.E.A.R. or  False Evidence Appearing Real. The anxiety is telling your brain that it is real and dangerous and threatening and to be avoided. This fear keeps us from doing things we might enjoy. This fear is crippling. This fear limits our life and experiences. This fear holds us back and must be vanquished, but how?

False Evidence Appearing Real

Run or Rise?

Zig Ziglar famously quoted there are two types of fear: Forget Everything and Run or, Face Everything and Rise. There’s a lot of good advice out there from professionals on how to address and overcome anxiety, so I won’t attempt to tell you how to face your own special brand of fear, but I will share how I am coping with mine. Fear feels very real to the person experiencing it so it does no good to tell them “don’t worry, what’s the worst that can happen?” because at least for me that sets my wild imagination on fire, coming up with all kinds of horrific scenarios. Instead, friends, help the person identify the elements of the fear and then break them down into managable chunks. Take for example the first horse show fear:

  • FEAR: My horse will act crazy. I’ll get hurt.  SOLUTION: Go to the show grounds beforehand with the horse and have a look around. School there if possible.
  • FEAR: I’ll forget the test. I’ll be humiliated. SOLUTION: Memorize the test, practice, and have a reader.
  • FEAR: There’s so much pressure at shows and everyone’s watching. SOLUTION: Go to a low-key schooling show first where you don’t have to wear formal attire and the judges expect you’ll be working out some kinks with your horse.

Do It Afraid

Yup. Sometimes you just have to do it to “get over it,”  or, more precisely, through it. AND it may take several times doing it before the fear and anxiety subside. But, when you are on the other side of fear, when you’ve come through the thing that scared you and kept you up nights worrying, it is a great feeling of empowerment. You are a conquerer. Another fear that kept me prisoner was traveling, especially by myself. I was terrified that I would not be able to figure out transportation connections, that I would get on the wrong train, or horrors! miss a connection. Then a friend asked me to join her on a equitrekking tour of the Loire Valley in France. We would ride all day from one famous chateau to another through vineyards and villages, stay in historic inns and dine on authentic French cuisine. A dream trip, right? But I had to get there and alone.

What I’d Have Missed If I Let Fear Rule Me

I imagined every terrifying travel snafu that could happen and you know what? They ALL did!  A passenger spilled his dinner tray on me, I got caught up in a passport check problem that caused me to miss my train out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, then I missed the next connecting train and it started to rain. Lots of “adventures” challenged me along the way, but you know what? I got there. And it made me more confident about taking on solo travel trips in the future. As for other fear-producing activities, which brings me back to the horse show– It’s coming up. I’ll let you know how it goes!

What causes you to become anxious and fearful? How do you manage fear and press on? I’d love to hear about it.

With friends in front of Chambord castle, France

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