If it’s ok with you, I’m going to just plain be vulnerable here and share something very few people know about me. I was reluctant to share this for years because I felt ashamed and frankly odd. Fear of judgment, a dose of embarrassment, and scared of what other people might think kept me in hiding. But then recently I thought, this situation is such a clear and bona fide example of what it is feels like and what is possible when you are willing to face and move through your fears that I could keep it a secret no longer.
You see I used to be deathly afraid of flying. I mean a terrified, out of my mind, anxiety ridden passenger. My family never flew anywhere (and still has never been on a plane) and therefore it was not until high school that I first got on a plane. While I was scared to death, I didn’t let it show (I was 17 years old flying with my high school classmates, remember?), survived the experience, and easily avoided planes for a few more years.
But then it happened. My desire for wanderlust and travel took root right after college. I started with a few very long car trips and then realized that the places I really wanted to go and desperately wanted to see required air travel. So I sucked it up and got on a plane. And I panicked. I stressed, sweated, and heart-palpitated my way through whatever flight(s) I needed to endure to get me where I wanted to go. For years it was like walking through Dante’s inferno as a means to an end (visiting cool new places and having new experiences). My desire to not be limited by my fears was so strong it literally pulled me through. Yes I had to force myself, yes I was miserable, and yes it took a terrible toll on me. Think about it – that much fear and stress in your body has an impact.
Have you ever felt this way – paralyzed by fear? Totally wasted by trying to just “feel the fear and do it anyway”?
One of my low points (or high anxiety points if you will) came the one and only time I have been to Europe. I had to travel there on business and my partner came with me so we could extend the time for a vacation. I literally spent the entire overnight flight panicked, battling heart palpitations, and fearful that every bump and noise would lead to us crashing into the Atlantic. I squeezed my partner’s hand so tight for 8+ hours that I actually drew blood. Crazy, right?
Yet that is what fear does… it paralyzes us and creates irrational terror in our hearts and minds. Whether it is flying, making a career change, or speaking your truth to someone else, fear is fear and it feels so real.
While pushing through it was getting me in action, I knew it wasn’t sustainable. Even with my deep desire to travel I couldn’t stand the stress of the travel days and it took me days to regroup on each end. What a waste of precious time and energy. So I decided I would find a way to make a shift so flying was no longer terrifying. In fact I thought maybe one day I could actually semi-enjoy it.
It started with a decision and an unflappable commitment to what I really wanted to experience. Without this the rest of the how-to’s and actions I took would have been useless.
So what happened? [Read more…]