A few days ago, I set out again to challenge myself and test some limits. The first task was to try some seafood (I’ve always been seafood-phobic.) I was challenged by a colleague to try oysters, and en route, I decided I would try calamari. I was excited to try the oysters, but as I saw the heaping plate of cornmeal-dusted calamari rings arrive, I began to sweat. I felt it dripping down my neck. I got a little queasy; I felt my whole body tense up. I was terrified! Of food! How did I develop such a fear? But, regardless, I made a promise. I stuck my fork in, and proceeded to put one ring in my mouth. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I imagined, although…I doubt I’ll be ordering it again. Oysters, however, I adore! Who would’ve thought?

Pushing the limit and trying something new…caused a change within. I am now someone who likes shellfish. In that, I am new. Different. Changed. And shouldn’t life be like this? Always reinventing, growing, and changing? Isn’t that what it is to be alive? I think it should be. This is just one small example, out of many recent experiences, but the point is that fears can be so limiting, and can keep us from beautiful experiences that can change us, for the better.

5 Steps for facing your fears:

Know Yourself — Do you know what things scare you? Are there things that you avoid, that make your belly rumble? Identify them. Only then can you determine how and whether you want to challenge them. Note that I’m not talking about true danger, here…but more the seemingly irrational fears that hold us back from living a joyful, intentional life.

Have a New Vision of Yourself — See yourself as someone who has the strengths that you might lack, the nerve that you wish you had, the confidence that you might crave, and all the things that you want in life. Envision that person, a new and improved you, the best that you can be. Let that future self guide you and empower you in your becoming. Listen.

Pick One Fear to Focus On — Pick one, just one, to start. And expose yourself to it. Alone, with a friend, however you want to do it, but do it. Whether it’s challenging your culinary tastes, or going dancing, or having authentic conversations with people, or singing in front of people, skydiving, traveling…the list of things that can scare us is unending. We’re all different. Start with one thing. You can have a preference one way or another about it afterwards, but to try it…conquers the fear of it, makes room for something else, and starts a magical ripple of change, within.

Find Joy in It — The art of challenging ourselves takes courage. Whether it’s something small and simple or something daring and exhilarating, it takes courage to actively choose to confront our fears. And be kind to yourself about it; phobias don’t often make sense. Sometimes, we just don’t know how they began. How many of us are afraid of tiny little spiders? Or a little mouse, stuck indoors, instead of out? So when you face a fear head-on and come through it, celebrate that. It’s an amazing feeling; it encourages growth.

Accept and Acknowledge that Fear is Part of Life — Take ownership of your fear. See it, understand it, and accept it. And appreciate it. Each fear is an opportunity to push through, to grow, and to gain experiences. Experience is the key to a fulfilling life. And accept that we have many fears throughout our lives, they pop up constantly, at different times, for different reasons. We’re human beings and will never be immune to things scaring us, or to having powerful emotions, in general. But the more we face our fears and get past them, the more comfortable we become with unknowns. Tackle the little ones, they’ll prepare you and pave the way for the bigger ones. Each step makes us stronger. And when unexpected unknowns hit us, when serious hardships come, we’re a little braver, a little more daring, and more resilient.

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Stacie Hammond loves serving her community as a public librarian, which she’s done faithfully for the past ten years. But her passion lies in writing. A long-time intermittent blogger, Ana J. Awakens is her first published book.

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