I've had a fear of heights for as long as I can remember. I do not enjoy being high up on things. Tall ladders, the roof, ropes courses, and standing on big bridges have long presented a challenge for me. As I've gotten older, I deal with it better than I did when I was a kid, but it is still something that is a challenge for me.
A few years ago, I was working as an assistant basketball coach for a program that did a ropes course in the pre-season with their team. As soon as we arrived at the course, they started fitting us for harnesses and helmets, because we were going to climb to the top of what basically amounted to a telephone pole, and then leap off.
Based on my unfavorable opinion on heights, I was really excited.
Unfortunately for me, this wasn't going to be the type of activity where the coaches watched from a distance while the players participated. Everyone was going to be involved. With all of our players around, many of whom were scared to death, right then and there didn't seem to be the best time for me to start complaining about my fear of heights, and bow out.
So I said nothing. I allowed them to tighten the harness around me to the necessary level of discomfort, put my helmet on, and started climbing the telephone pole. Besides the heights, there were other excuses going through my head.
My size 14 shoes are not the best fit for the microscopic pegs they use as climbing handles to get to the top of the pole. And at the top of the pole, I was supposed to stand up, which also was not ideal for my size 14's. And then, I was to leap off the pole, and catch myself on a trapeze bar that was suspended out in mid air, which was certainly going to hurt the shoulder I'd had surgery on in high school but never fully recovered from.
But again, during one of my first activities with the team, bowing out for any of these reasons probably wouldn't have done much for my credibility moving forward. More importantly, it would have kept me from doing something that challenged me, and having some the feeling of accomplishment that comes with climbing to the top of a telephone pole in an ill fitting harness, standing up on top of it, and grabbing a trapeze bar in mid air, which I did, and it was an awesome feeling.
We have so much that we are afraid of: pain, "failure", looking foolish in front of others, awkwardness, speaking in public, being wrong, making a mistake, and many others that I'm sure you could list when you are being completely honest with yourself.
The truth is, most of these things, are feelings. They aren't concrete results, they aren't the end, and they don't define us. But we often treat them like they do. And when we do that, we often end up burying our dreams, our potential, the excitement that testing the waters brings us.
If we want to get to another place, if we want to grow, if we want reach a goal, then we are going to have to go through these things. They are, without question, a part of the process.
Who is going to read this, why should I write?
What if I try out for the team and don't make it, and everyone makes fun of me?
What if I get embarrassed?
This is going to be hard...
Please understand, me writing this doesn't mean that I've found a way to eliminate all of the thoughts and feelings that I've mentioned. It's hard.
And many times, it stinks.
But the alternative, is what? Safety? Security? Never being embarrassed? Never getting hurt?
I don't know that those things are actually possible. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, you are probably going to be hurt, embarrassed and feel awkward based on things that are beyond your control any way. And I'm not even sure I know what "safety" and "security" really means in life.
Might as well go and experience those challenges while we are pursuing something we care about.
So I encourage you to focus doing things that excite you, to pursue things that are challenging, and to go after the things that are most important to you, regardless of the emotional obstacles that so often get in the way. They won't define you.
I don't mean that we throw all caution to the wind, and ignore common sense and wisdom. However, what I usually do, is slowly convert my fears and worry into "common sense". If I turn my emotions over and over in my mind enough, I can force myself to arrive at a place that convinces me that I shouldn't be doing something. Don't let your emotion and worry bury you.
Stop worrying about what could go wrong, and get excited about what could go right.