The F Word

Fear is a funny concept. When you truly think about the thing that you are scared of, what is it really?

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Recycled photo from July’s Tyndall Glacier ski trip

Heights.

Being alone.

A lack of success.

The list continues forever, but you get my point. I’m sure we can all identify at least one or two things that immobilize us with fear. For me? It’s the incredibly mundane and predictable choice: snakes. I am absolutely, positively phobic about snakes! They’re creepy and weird and move in such a bizarre way that it freaks me out. Besides, they don’t have feet! What is that?!

I’ve come to realize that the internet believes me to be fearless. I find that  entertaining.

USA Today

The bio USA Today wrote for the Best Hiking/Travel Blogger contest

According to this scientist, our brains are hardwired for fear. What was once our ancestors’ intuitive response to threats has evolved into an emotion that some may consider less necessary. Today, we fear not getting a promotion at work or falling on our faces in a front of a large crowd. If anything, we fear injuring our egos, no?

Everyone is scared of something, but most of us create the terror in our mind. I frequently get asked, “But isn’t that scary?” in regards to one of my many outdoor adventures. Fortunately for me {and my adventures!}, fear doesn’t register like that in my brain. If you think about what you are doing in that specific moment, it’s not scary. Taking a step isn’t scary. Scaling a wall isn’t scary. Diving with a shark isn’t scary. The possibilities and the hypotheticals may be terrifying, but those are just floating question marks. I choose to shut those off.

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Recycled photo from last year’s Capitol Peak trip

Does it mean I make stupid decisions on occasion? Sure. Am I special in this regard? Obviously not. Does it mean I’m fearless? That’s laughable. I just make the choice to ignore the terror that keeps me from my goal.

Just keep the snakes away from me.

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How do you handle fear?

24 Comments

  • Reply Beth at

    I usually rely on stats and facts in the outdoors. How many people go into the outdoors and never run into a mountain lion? They scare me but since attacks are so rare, I try to push the concern out of my mind. Most other risks in the outdoors are just inherent and I try to minimize them (or plan for them) as best I can but really, life is better for me when I’m outdoors (and pushing myself a bit) so I’m willing to accept those risks.

    I did a lot of thinking on this idea after finding that dead body last fall. Why was I doing things out where no one might walk for weeks or months? Because I feel alive and happy. I also know that bad things can happen but I cease to actually FEAR them and just live with them.

    • Reply heather at

      Truthfully, YOUR story is probably the scariest I’ve ever heard. I tell people this all the time: mountain lions and bears are obviously not ideal, but I’m much more scared of what people can do instead of animals.

  • Reply Laraine Wyn-Jones at

    Ha, this is a really interesting one; because I do some climbing and scrambling, people assume I’m fine with heights. I’m actually sh*t scared of heights, particularly sheer drops. However, I’ve found as long as I concentrate on what I’m doing at the time instead of constantly thinking of that falling feeling, then I can manage and so far the fear hasn’t stopped me.
    By the way, snakes I’m fine with as long as they’re the big chunky ones. Little wriggly ones though, and worms – urgh. They make me go cold and want to vomit.

    • Reply heather at

      Ugh. They all terrify me! 🙂

  • Reply Sarah C at

    We’re hard-wired to fear snakes – so I’m totally with you on the “why don’t they have feet?!?!?!” thing. If they just had feet (ie, became lizards) we’d be totally cool!

    It’s funny you talk about fear today, because I’m dealing with this as I take my little girl out to one of her first camping trips — the first of just our family of three and not a big group. When it was just me I was able to do just what you said and push my mind to other places if there was something that scared me in the outdoors. But now that I’m a mom – actually, ever since realizing that I wanted to marry my husband – fear for my loved ones can almost paralyze me sometimes. I’m not afraid of wild things hurting them, I’m afraid of people hurting them. So I’m trying to just practice living with my feelings of fear (like stage fright, sometimes when I teach, I just convince myself “this is how I feel now” and then I can move past those feelings and go on to do what I need to do without dwelling on the feelings themselves) and going ahead and taking my family into the wild spaces that we love.

    • Reply heather at

      That’s a great point. In fact, just this morning I had to drop Will off at a mechanic but, due to my work schedule, it was 20 minutes before they opened. It’s not a great part of town and he was wandering around in pre-dawn hours wearing a very nice suit, carrying a briefcase, and generally looking out of place. I was a bit concerned leaving him there but didn’t have a choice because of work. You’re right– when it’s regarding someone you care about, all bets are off!

  • Reply Christy@ My Dirt Road Anthem at

    I think you are pretty kick ass with all the awesome adventures you have. I wish that when I was younger, single and didn’t have kids I had put aside more of my fears and done more things. I was just learning to break free and do more and I had kids. This is good too though. They really test me too 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      I can’t imagine how things changes with kids! I’ll be curious to see how I change once kids come into the picture.

  • Reply Alyssa at

    I generally just succumb to panic attacks. If possible I avoid the thing all together (dogs). If it’s a possibility (getting fired) I use the hours of around 2-4am to obsess over it each night. If I can’t avoid it (needles) I just suck it up and grudgingly deal with many complaints along the way.

    • Reply heather at

      I was hoping you’d respond because I KNOW you have some healthy-sized fears 🙂

  • Reply Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes at

    Oh, seeing your pictures make me miss Colorado. We lived there for 3 years and now in DC. How do I handle fear? I usually confront it head on these days. Having kids has changed the way I handle it. Before I would have just stressed and made myself sick about it, but now I just keep on keeping on…

    • Reply heather at

      Oh man, CO – DC is a big change!! 🙂

  • Reply Kovas - Midwest Multisport Life at

    I overcome fear by just taking the first step – if I’m still scared after that, time to reassess. To me, creepy crawlers are the phobia I can’t shake, though intellectually I know the majority of them wouldn’t hurt me.

    • Reply heather at

      That’s exactly how I am with snakes! I realize it’s absurd, but I can’t help it. They just freak me out to a ridiculous level 🙂

  • Reply RFC at

    What is that saying? Something about how I am more afraid of the things I haven’t done than the things I have done. My number one fear is not having enough time to do all that needs to be done in this life. But do any of us? Great post, Heather!

    • Reply heather at

      Touche. I’ve had to let go of that a little bit just because, like you said, who gets to do EVERYTHING they want?! All we can do is try 🙂

  • Reply Sarah C at

    Came up with another one….lightening. I’m legitimately scared of lightening while in the wilderness, in part because I now live in a place where rainstorms don’t seem to come without significant lightening strikes. I’ve tried reading up on what to do when in the outdoors when lightening starts, but even Outside magazine’s article simply said to “go indoors.” Thanks, OUTSIDE magazine, really awesome advice for people who are miles and miles from anything called an “indoors.”

    • Reply heather at

      You know, I’m not scared of lightning but our house was struck when I was a kid so it has always made me….aware. I was babysitting my little sister at the time and had to evacuate and call the fire department. Fortunately, everyone was fine and other than tons of damaged electronics and burned insulation, everything was ok. Could’ve been worse! I shudder when I read those stories about people who have been hit like five times!

  • Reply Erin @ Her Heartland Soul at

    Great post! I have weird fears of dying young and catching crazy diseases.

    • Reply heather at

      The disease one doesn’t phase me but it’s definitely not ideal to die young. Too many things to accomplish still! 🙂

  • Reply Carla at

    feel it.
    PUSH THROUGH IT.
    STAY WITH IT.
    move beyond it.

    xo

  • Reply Chris at

    Could life be fun without fear? I think my favorite moments in life have been when my heart is racing, the outcome is uncertain, but I manage to do the scary thing anyway…but maybe that’s just me haha 🙂

  • Reply Kayla @ kpLOVINGit at

    Patrick gets scared about a lot more than me. I tease him that it’s the root of all his grey hairs. haha. The question marks…….he literally just thinks of so many things that never even cross my mind!!! Thinking of things to be scared of is a talent all in it’s own.

  • Reply Gareth Hopley at

    Fear is not hard wired it is just as susceptible to natural evolution as all other emotions. We live in a society that will evolve our own environment to make things safer and in turn remove fear from our lives in the knowledge that it will still be there if we need it. that in itself is a complacent belief and complacency after all is a sign of a lack of fear. I have found no evidence at all that suggest that fear has ever been hardwired after all there are species out there whose extinction has been attributed to the “none existence of fear” our species is not THAT different to all other species of animal.

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