“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” – Jack Canfield
Fear is an essential, yet often uncomfortable, part of life. Facing and pushing through your fears is actually less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness; hence Dr. Susan Jeffers’ popular saying,“feel the fear, and do it anyway”. This past summer I realized, among many other things, how important it is to face my fears and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Outside of your comfort zone is where all the magic happens. This past spring break, I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica with my boyfriend. Our time in Jamaica was both a much needed, relaxing getaway and an opportunity for me to try things that I’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to – such as scuba diving and snorkeling.
Ever since I was a little girl I have been scared of the ocean. I hate the fact that I can’t see what’s under and around me. I also find fish gross, and the thought of them being around me freaks me out. It may sound like a silly fear, but it’s a fear that has held me back from enjoying myself in a lot of situations. I always used to feel jealous watching my siblings swim in the ocean, snorkel, and partake in water activities without any reservations. I was always the one who sat on the beach to watch instead of participating. Fear held me back. So I decided that Jamaica would be the perfect opportunity for me to practice feeling the fear, yet doing it anyway.
One night when my boyfriend and I were planning activities for us to do in Jamaica, I blurted out that I wanted to go scuba diving. Right after the words came out of my mouth, I felt fearful: why did I just say that? I figured that when the day came, I’d be too scared and as a result, bail. Then I’d be left with the familiar feeling of disappointment, shame and jealousy. But that was just the anxiety talking. I think that the part of me that blurted that out to my boyfriend was this new, more courageous part of me that has a desire to face my fears.
So, fast forward to Jamaica – the day finally came. We woke up at 8am to complete a resort training scuba diving course so that we could do a dive later that day. From the minute I woke up, I was surprised at how calm I felt. Instead of ruminating over what could go wrong, I felt excited to experience this supposedly amazing underwater experience that I never thought I’d be capable of doing. It also helped that I had someone awesome by my side to encourage me and help me feel safer! The resort course was taught in a pool, so I had time to become comfortable using the equipment and being underwater for long periods of time. Every now and then, I’d get hit by a flood anxious thoughts about what could go wrong. However I managed to override those thoughts by imagining the positive outcome, such as how good I would feel about myself after, how awesome it would feel to be able to conquer a fear, etc. After the course, we walked down to the ocean and hopped in a boat that took us and all our equiptment out to the reef. By this point, I was full of adrenaline. But instead of being anxious about it, I was excited.
And then it was time for us to dive. As I stood at the edge of the boat with all my equipment on, the instructor pushed me backwards into the water, which I have to admit – was a little scary! However, the minute I put my face in the water and saw how unbelievably beautiful the ocean was, and how different it was from the picture I had in my head, I felt at ease again. Before I went scuba diving, I imagined the ocean as this dark, scary open body of water full of big, scary, and gross fish. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was so blue, and beautiful and open. The fish were pretty small, and so colorful. We even saw a sting ray and an eel at one point, but instead of feeling scared, I felt intrigued and eager to get as close as I could. If at any point I found my mind wandering a bit, I was able to pull it back by focusing on all the different fish or grabbing my boyfriend’s hand. I remember feeling weightless, as if I was flying in a world I’ve never seen before. I also remember feeling appreciative of how incredibly calm, quiet and peaceful the underwater world is.
One of the other girls we were diving with ended up panicking during the dive down and ended up bailing. While I really felt for her, watching what happened to her made me feel grateful for how far I’ve come. A year ago I would have been that girl. I would have let fear hold me back, and missed out on an awesome opportunity. It feels really empowering to be able to say that I did something I never thought I’d be capable of doing, and enjoyed it. This experience inspired me to try other things I was fearful of, such as snorkeling and swimming with dolphins (in a lagoon packed full of fish). With these activities, I took the same attitude as I did with scuba diving. I felt the fear, but I did it anyway. And it was so worth it. Moving towards our fears is the first step in seeing that reality is never quite as scary as we may have imagined.