On Being Afraid

‘Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You’~ Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

I have always loved this quote and I try to follow it every day. I’m not saying that I actually achieve it every day but I do try and I mostly succeed.

The feeling that I associate with being afraid is the feeling that you get just before you do something that requires a bit of courage. Sometimes it’s described as ‘having butterflies’, sometimes it’s just plain old excitement and, in more extreme cases, it’s a rush of adrenalin but whatever it is it’s a great feeling. What is even better is the feeling of having really achieved something after you’ve done whatever it is that scares you.

What really scares you?

It doesn’t have to be huge. Depending on the type of person you are it could be something very small although it may not feel that way to you. It could be:

  • Asking your boss for a pay rise
  • Doing a bungee jump
  • Complaining to a business about their products or services
  • Asking someone out on a date
  • Ending a relationship
  • Contacting someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time
  • Promoting yourself to others
  • Making that first Tweet or Facebook post
  • Deciding to run a marathon
  • Getting on a horse for the first time
  • Holding a spider (preferably non-poisonous)
  • Climbing a tree
That’s just a tiny selection of things you could do and I’m sure you could come up with millions more. The thing is, no matter how big or how small, if it’s something that scares you and you feel it’s holding you back from living life to the full then it’s an issue.
Now, there are certain things that may scare you so much that there is no point in doing them especially if doing them will have no positive effect on your life. There are two things that fall into that category for me. Bungee jumping and parachute jumping. As you can see both involve hurtling to the ground at a huge rate of knots and I will NEVER do either. Even the thought of it makes me feel sick. I used to do white-water rafting and that in itself can be very scary but I loved the adrenalin rush I got from it however, my thinking at that time was that if I was thrown from the raft I could swim or at least float. If I jump from a great height whilst attached to a piece of elastic or a square of nylon and neither of these things do their job I don’t have much chance of surviving. I haven’t yet mastered the art of flying although, when I do, I may give them a try. All I’m saying here is that you don’t have to do anything that makes you fear for your life.
Being Afraid
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One of the scariest things I have ever done was a few years ago. I was very much (and still am) into falconry. I had worked with a few birds through a gamekeeper I knew – mainly owls, sparrow hawks and Harris hawks – but, as a gift I was given a chance to go and fly a bigger bird. The great American Bald Eagle. I have never felt butterflies the way I did at thought of that. The day arrived when I went to the falconry centre to work with the eagle but on arrival I was told that it wouldn’t be happening. The bald eagle was in a foul mood and had had a go at one of the falconers earlier. I was so disappointed but they then told me that instead I could fly the Golden Eagle. Despite being terrified I had the best time ever and will never forget the experience. She had to be launched over the edge of a cliff as they are too heavy to take off on level ground. That was the easy part. The slightly worrying part was when they told me not to look her in the eye as she may see it as a threat and go for my face. This massive and slightly unpredictable bird was perched on my arm less than two feet from my head. I certainly wasn’t going to do anything to upset her. Anyway, after she had flown for a while it was time to call her back. She was perched on an outcrop of rock someway down the cliff-face. We called her back and I stood with my arm outstretched holding my raw chicken in my gloved hand. Eventually she found enough thermals to lift her to where we were standing and back she came. To see this amazing bird heading straight for me with her 7 foot wingspan terrified the life out of me. I wanted to turn and run but the falconer grabbed my arm and held it position. I soon realised why as 10lbs of bird plonked herself firmly on my wrist and grabbed the chicken from my clenched fist. The grabbing of my arm was two-fold. One, to stop me running away and upsetting her and two, because she weighed the same as four bags of sugar. Without him holding my arm in place I would have dropped her which again would have upset her. I flew her twice more on my own before she was tired out and had to go back. That certainly was something that scared me but I feel so much better for having done it.

So I say, ‘Go For It!’  Take Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice and do one thing that scares you every day. Trust me, you will feel better for it.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. There are a few things in life that scare me out of my mind. I like your idea of facing one fear a day. It can be big or small, but the idea is to face it. I’ve often thought of doing this, though maybe not every day. Maybe once a week is more my speed. =)
    Good for you for participating in falconry. That’s not something you often hear about. I think it would be cool to do something like that, though it’s not necessarily on my to-do list.
    Great post!

  2. Hi Kanalt and thanks for your comments. Falconry is the just the most amazing way of connecting with nature. Highly recommended. Finding something every day that scares you is quite a lot and so yes, you can adapt it to suit yourself. It’s amazing how many small things you can find though from taking a spider out of the bath to phoning the bank to ask why they’ve charged you interest for no good reason. The more small things you do the easier it is to tackle the bigger things. Good luck if you do try it.

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