Challenging your anxieties

Photo courtesy of Maxwell GS (Flickr)

What can be more frustrating than realizing your whole life has been caged by a compilation of fears? As an anxiety-ridden human being, close friends and relatives have always known me for my ‘scaredy cat’ tendencies. I construct myself out of fear; frightening ‘what-if’ scenarios are on my mind’s most-played list. Although I told myself I could never be too careful, it was a lie — you can be too careful if it’s to the point where you aren’t really living anymore.

During the break between semesters, my Toronto friend and I decided to meet up in New York City for a fun reunion. Now, you might be thinking all sorts of positive things about the idea of spending five days in New York City with a close friend. I was excited too, but I was also more or less panicking.

The trip promised everything I avoided in everyday life: all things involved with being on an airplane, large crowds of people, navigating myself through that same crowd by myself, a slightly questionable place of residence, and of course, the ever present ‘unknown.’ In summary, I was having an existential panic attack on the five-hour plane ride to this wonderful city.

The moment I stepped off the plane, I vowed to make the most out of my trip. Although there were things that went wrong, more things went right. I came home with the realization that I had conquered many fears, talked to many strangers, and actually had a lot of fun. Looking back, the most memorable moments of my trip weren’t the times I played it by my tacky, seamless schedule, but the chaotic spontaneity of existing in the ‘unknown.’

You can be too careful if it’s to the point where you aren’t really living anymore.

Everybody is afraid of something, and fear will always exist within us, only to be triggered by certain situations. That said, I believe that constantly living in anticipation of fear is paralyzing. Living this way hinders you from achieving your fullest potential, and from taking advantage of the great opportunities and adventures within your reach.

If you are a ‘scaredy cat’ like me, I suggest you wake up and do what I should have done a long time ago. Vow to make the most out of your life by letting go of your fears, especially the fear of oblivion.

Some fears I can’t actually overcome at this present moment — for example, horror movies and bugs still scare me to the core — but when it comes to other frightening activities such as ziplining, camping in a suspended spherical tent in the woods (an actual activity on Vancouver Island!), learning to drive, and travelling, I feel almost excited to challenge these now that I know how rewarding it can be.

Fear is not worth cutting yourself short, or diminishing life-enriching activities. Fear is especially not worth compromising the moments that take your breath away, make your head spin or your heart race. Before you doubt yourself, try to push past your usual boundaries; you may find that you’re braver than you think.