Why You Need to Do Something That Scares You

When I climbed the Eiffel Tower, I was scared. It looked rickety to me (false, I know). The wind seemed too strong. The ground seemed so far away.

When I have to use the elevator in the parking garage at work, I don’t go in alone because it is glass and I can see outside. It makes me a little nervous. What if I get stuck up there on the fourth floor, doomed to overlook traffic lights and an Uno’s Chicago Grill until rescue?

Irrational, I know. But I worry about these things nonetheless. I don’t like elevators, fire towers, looking out over cliffs, or long staircases with balconies. Heights scare me.

So when my boyfriend suggested skydiving, I told him I would have to really think about it. He signed himself up before I even decided and said he was going alone if I wasn’t willing. That sneaky man. He knew I would do it. He knew that, along with an irrational fear of heights, I have an irrational desire to try and do everything. Nothing beats the rush of a first time. The adrenaline that comes with doing something that scares you is incomparable. I’m hooked on that feeling, and that is why I committed to jumping out of a plane in August.

But doing something that scares you doesn’t have to be a dramatic (crazy) event like skydiving. It can be as simple as trying something new, like wearing red lipstick (for the record, this is something I only recently got brave enough to do in the last year). Being bold is intense. Overwhelming. Uninhibited. Freeing. And it means different things to different people.

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There are steps to doing something that scares you. First, figure out what scares you about that particular thing. Are you afraid to bring up a new suggestion to your boss? Why are you afraid of that? Once you understand why something is intimidating for you, it is easier to face it. It is probably not the new suggestion that scares you; it is likely the possibility of failure.

Well, failure makes life interesting. If your boss rejects the idea, they reject the idea. That doesn’t mean that stepping out of the box and bringing up a new idea didn’t make a positive impression. Anxiety is healthy when it keeps you on your toes, but when it keeps you from taking chances, it might be crossing the line to unhealthy.

After you have figured out the real reason behind your fear, it is easier to tackle it. There are smaller steps you can take to help quell the panic when you actually do make the suggestion to your boss.

For example, you could try to suggest a totally unfamiliar bar, restaurant, or store for you and your friends to try out. It might sound silly, but they will probably be on board — and you just gained confidence by giving your unique idea a voice. If it is appropriate, try your office-related idea out on a co-worker before presenting it to your boss (but only do this if the environment is conducive to this kind of discussion). And after a couple practice rounds of speaking your mind, go ahead and pitch the plan to your boss. Like I said, they could reject it. But you still tried something new, and they can’t change that. You will know in your heart that you faced something that made you nervous. That knowledge is totally healthy for your self-esteem.

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For a different kind of example, say you are afraid to dye your hair a new color. You figure out that your real fear is of what people may think. How do you handle this one?

Start out by wearing clothes or makeup that you have always wanted to try but never had the guts — those tribal pants? Rock ‘em. That dress with the cutouts? Take a risk. Wear these items out in public and with friends, and see that even if someone isn’t totally a fan, the chances are they won’t be rude. And if you feel fabulous, that’s all that matters. After trying out these “risky” outfits for a while, you should feel comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone. Time to dye your hair blonde, black, purple…whatever you had been hesitant to do before.

The same logic can be applied to almost anything you are afraid of. Nail down the real fear, and then fight it little by little until you are ready to take on the big change.

I decided that the reason I was afraid of heights was because I have a need for control. Falling from thousands of feet is the ultimate moment of being out of control. I am going to do small things in my everyday life that make me feel out of control, like staying quiet in the passenger seat when my boyfriend drives and going in more glass elevators.

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Once you jump, you jump. But now you’ve done the thing that you couldn’t.

No one can take that away from you.