People often think that brave people are not scared of anything, but the truth is that everyone experiences fear in some capacity. The difference is that brave people choose to take action, in spite of that fear.
I can think of a number of times when I was scared, probably freaked out, maybe even wanted to chicken out of something. The truth is that there have been times when I have chickened out. However, the times when I chose to go for it, the feeling of triumph afterwards was beyond worth it. What I’ve learned about myself is that I actually fear the feeling of regret more than whatever the initial fear is.
I have also learned that it is in these moments when we are uncomfortable that we grow and learn powerful lessons. I’d like to share three times I took action in spite of my fear and the lessons I learned.
1. For the longest time, I had been dreaming and planning to move into NYC. As I got more serious about it, I started to share my dream with others, thinking that the more I talked about it the more pressure I would put on myself to actually do it. While some people shared my excitement, it was so interesting how many people’s responses were along the lines of “The city is expensive” and “It’s dangerous in the city”, among other objections. Although there is some validity in their points, which I had already taken into account, what I found interesting was how people immediately projected their fears onto my decision; and I’ll admit that doubt started to pop up. Thankfully I was able to refocus on my dream and why I wanted it. I am happy, proud, and excited to share that I stuck to my dream, and I did it! And it is even better than I imagined.
Lesson learned: Other people’s fears are their issue, not yours.
2. Last year, one of my biggest fears came true: I lost someone very close to me: my 26-year-old cousin who was also my friend and like a brother to me. Although the thought of speaking at his funeral seemed unimaginably painful, I did it, and I believe it was fueled by the strength of my love for him, which outweighed the fear. There is no doubt that it is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced in my life, but I am getting through it. From this experience that I learned that we can make it through and survive even the most unimaginable fears.
Lesson learned: We are stronger than we think we are.
3. On a recent trip to Jamaica, I conquered my fear of snorkeling. The first time I tried snorkeling was a few years ago in Abaco, Bahamas, but I freaked out and convinced myself that I didn’t need to do it. This time in Jamaica, I was nervous but told myself that this is something I needed to do because I didn’t want to look back on the trip and regret ‘punking’ out again. So I agreed but was still freaking out on the inside. When the time came, fear took over, and I convinced myself that I didn’t need to do it; but as I was watching everyone go, I realized that the feeling of defeat is worse than the feeling of fear for me. In true Danielle fashion, I decided at the last minute to just do it! When I put on the headgear, I freaked out. With the combination of the Jamaican guides telling me to relax (there’s something about the Jamaican accent that makes “relax” very convincing) and my friend telling me that she’d capture pictures (I never want to pass up the opportunity for a fun picture) with a supportive smile, I jumped in.
With a very patient guide, I swam out and stuck my head in the water and spotted only a few pretty fish. After a few more unsuccessful attempts of me swimming around to find more fish, my guide told me to relax (in that special Jamaican way) and challenged me to keep my mask in the water for 15 seconds and stay very still. I did it, and that’s when it happened!
I relaxed into the flow of the water and submerged into all that was happening around me and saw a whole beautiful world of fish and underwater life. In that moment, I felt humbled, true relaxation, connection and appreciation for the experience I was having. Afterwards I felt like a whole new person, having conquered my fear. I later reflected on that sensation of how it felt to relax, and I had an ‘aha’ moment of how that can apply to other everyday situations. I’m sometimes flailing and trying so hard to make things go how I want, but there are times when I just have to relax and breathe and allow things to work around me.
Lessons learned: The feeling of triumph trumps the feeling of fear (and regret after); Let go and embrace it.
We can apply these lessons to other real life situations, whether it’s going for a new job, moving to a new city, etc. During big changes, it is normal to feel some fear but if we remember that we are stronger than we think, remember the feeling of triumph on the other side, and remember to let go and embrace it, we can feel our fear, yet still go into these situations more confidently. And it can lead to big opportunities and major growth. I’ve actually learned that when things scare me they are probably a good move because they are stretching me to do something bigger and grow into a bigger, better version of me!
I’d love to leave you with a few words I like to live by:
In case you’re wondering what I’m currently freaking out about: Mudderella. I’m nervous but excited that Shawna Kaye and I get to do it together; and I know that with training, preparation and these lessons I can go into it more confidently… even if I am a little scared.
Danielle Fontus is the founder and leader of the She Dares community, where she plans events, outings and adventures that not only dare women to step out of their comfort zones and try new things but also creates a space that allows them to connect on a deeper level. It is her intention that they will be more likely to make more daring decisions in other areas of their lives. To connect with the She Dares community, please visit www.SheDares.com.