This year I faced one of my biggest fears… heights.
We were on a family holiday & had booked the kids on to one of those tree-top aerial adventures. My husband had been due to complete this with them, but rather inconveniently for me (maybe not so much for him) he’d hurt his ankle beforehand and was unable to take part.
I had two choices, cancel the activity & face the look of disappointment on my kids faces or suck it up, strap on the safety-gear and make like Tarzan. From the picture, you can guess which option I chose.
Taking an exceptionally deep breath, the kids & I began the climb…
With every stair we climbed up (this was before we even reached the tree tops) I could feel the increasing shakiness in my legs, the clamminess of my palms, the anxiousness in my throat.
I saw my increasingly shrinking husband wave to me from below, a look of total knowing on his face for what I was going through.
To be honest, I was actually quite shocked about how I was feeling…
I’d had a good pep-talk with myself, shifted into my best positive mindset, reasoned that I was perfectly safe. But something was taking over in a very physical way.
Despite the mask of bravado I was attempting to display, one of the staff cottoned on to my extreme nervousness. Very kindly they offered to complete the course with us and then led the kids confidently over the first obstacle. A rope bridge between two trees.
I could barely hear the shouts of excitement from my daughter over the pounding of my heart in my ears as I took my first step onto the bridge. In fact seeing her waiting for me on the small treetop platform was making my nerves (and the pressure on me) multiply.
As I reached the first tree, rather than feel triumphant, there was an overwhelming urge to cry. I hugged the tree for all its worth, as I watched the staff member whip over the next couple of obstacles with the kids.
Feeling really lightheaded (that’s what happens when you forget to breathe) I attempted to cross to the next tree…
Crossing on a tightrope with only a single rope above you to hold onto. As you can probably guess, it was very wobbly. I made it across but I had completely lost control. That’s when they told me about the zip-wire.
Cries of encouragement were thrown across to me by my kids & the staff member. I was willing myself to take that step of faith, to show my family what I could do despite being scared.
I just couldn’t.
Maybe if it had all been rope obstacles, I could have done it, just maybe. But a zip-wire was a challenge too far – being asked to step off a platform into thin air with only the harness to carry me. And as I stared across into my daughter’s disappointed face, I admitted defeat.
It felt like the longest journey back to the ground. The feelings of fear didn’t immediately dissipate. I was still shaky and anxious, plus now I got to add feelings of shame and failure too. It didn’t matter how many positive & well-meaning things I was told once back on earth, I was too overwhelmed to let them sink in.
After an initial ‘What? Mummy you’re quitting?’ my kids merrily completed the course with the amazing member of staff, and for good measure finished with a thrilling descent from the tree-tops across a large lake on a zip wire like it was nothing. They were awesome and I was so proud of them. They were also very supportive of me.
But I on the other hand…
Well, yes I was disappointed in myself at the time. However, a little while later, I saw it as an opportunity to learn.
As part of coming to accept myself – warts & all – I accepted this time, whilst physically capable, I wasn’t mentally capable.
And do you know what else I came to accept? I was being overly hard on myself. I mean come on… despite a long history of being very scared of heights I had put on the safety gear, I had climbed those steps, I did give it a go. And I did the best I was capable of in that moment.
We’re all human. We all have fears.
Sometimes we can push past them and sometimes we might require some extra help. And that’s OK.
Facing our fears is scary, that’s why they’re called fears. The important thing is that we tried. Maybe on each attempt, we only move one step forward, but that’s one step further forward than we were.
Does this mean I’ll be rushing up to the treetops, facing a fear again anytime soon?
Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I never will. I’ll just be more sensible in setting the circumstances in which I attempt it again. And this time – whether I complete it or not – I’ll be a lot more kinder & supportive to myself for trying.
I hope you will be too.
Have you ever found yourself facing a fear? What was it & how did it go? How did you feel afterwards? Can you relate to my experience? Or are you not one for phobias? Do you have any tips to share that have helped you in facing your own fears? Whatever you’d like to say, please do get in touch via the comments box below – I always love to hear from you!