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don’t sweat the small stuff: overcoming your everyday fears



We are all afraid of something.

Spiders, confined spaces, heights, ducks – you name it. But underneath it all exists implicit fears that we don’t feel the need to address because we know we can survive without dealing with them. Despite not knowing why or how they came to be, they are inherent inside of us, forcing us to associate certain things and actions with negative outcomes. Something as simple as sleeping without covering your feet or making a phone call can affect us just as greatly. Is this healthy? Should we make more of an effort to overcome these?

Recently I conducted a five day experiment of doing things that scare me. It didn’t matter how big the experience was, as long as it made my stomach uneasy. Why? Because, I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

Keeping accounts of my feelings at the time of each experience proved interesting to say the least. Facing your fears truly can send you on a rollercoaster of emotions! Of these five days three experiences stood out in particular. Below are excerpts of my notes on the days that taught me the most.

DAY 2:

Why? Why, why, why, WHY? Why am I doing this again? Driving to the beach I am full of pure anger – at the assignment, at myself for choosing what I chose. I hop out of my car and grab my red polka dot bikini. After a few steps it occurs to me that I ought to get my iPod, after all, that is what always helps me to zone into my own little world at the gym. Just families, no 5’6 bleach blonde tanned surfer babes in sight, thank god. I head to the filthy unisex public toilets half expecting to fall over on a syringe.

Okay. I take a deep breath. This is it. With my singlet and towel wrapped around my waist I walk between the flags and sit, writing this in the memo pad on my phone. It starts to drizzle. Awesome. I wonder what to do with my belongings, indicative enough that I don’t go to the beach much. Do I wait for sun or do I go into the water now? Scanning the perimeter I realise where all the skinny girls are. They’re in the water, frolicking and playing Frisbee. Where is the sun? Okay. Here goes nothing. I am about to expose my pasty white marshmallow of a body to the Gold Coast.

Wow. I can hardly believe I just did that. Crap my nose burns. The worst part by far was the walk from the beach to the water, it felt like an eternity. I could see people staring with my peripherals but I stared straight ahead and went for it. Once I was in, the waves hammered at me. It was glorious. Liberating. The waves looked so frightening and wild that for a moment it felt like I couldn’t make it, that my bikini top was going to fly off and all my insecurities would be exposed to the world. But then in a matter of seconds, it’s gone. I’ve survived unscathed. I know that there is going to be plenty more where that came from, but I know I can face it. I’m so far out that I am only surrounded by males, but the knowledge that I am here, doing this alone, gives me strength and confidence.

Even though I dreaded it so much, I am so glad I had the guts.  My hair’s a tangled mess, my nose dripping with snot, but it’s worth it.

DAY 3:

Foundation, check. Eyeliner, check. Mascara, check. All dolled up and ready to go out someplace nice. I reach for my clutch, pick up my car keys and with a final look over my shoulder into the mirror, I leave. Singing along with my new ‘upbeat’ playlist, I pump myself up. ‘You can do this Crystal. You are independent. You are just as good as everyone else.’ I repeat the mantra over and over until the words lose all meaning. Broadbeach is buzzing tonight., Thursday night is ‘Ladies Night’ so girls pile in by the dozen in their body-con dresses and 5-inch stilettos.

I finally start to feel it as the fresh breeze hits my face. Deep down I am petrified.

I can already see the look on the waiter at Valentino’s face. I stand outside the restaurant on my phone for a good five minutes before I pluck up the courage, mainly due to my rumbling stomach and the smell of fine Italian herbs.

‘Hi, just a table for one please,’ I say with a scarlet face and a nervous smile, shaking from head to toe.

I can tell that he is trying not to react but his eyes are saying differently.

‘Okay, yes, yes, okay, follow me,’ he has to blink ten times and repeat himself to fully understand the nature of my odd request. I just want to bury my head in a pillow and scream.

I sit down and he passes me the oversized menu. I can feel the waiter and his friend’s eyes staring at me so I lift the menu so that it hides my head. He brings over a glass of water and I thank him and sip eagerly.

I order a Fettuccini Carbonara and once again he leaves me. Huh, this isn’t actually so bad. There are only two other couples in the restaurant, they both seem so intent on the other and I only get the occasional glance. This could have gone so much worse I realise in my head. At the same time it’s not comfortable and I want it to be over as soon as possible. I play on my phone as I wait, drowning out the rest of the world. My fettuccini arrives and I shovel it down my throat. It’s tasty but I can hardly taste it. Finished. Payed. Phew. I did it.

I am practically run over walking to my car at the speed of a marathon walker.

DAY 4:

Today I conquered a completely irrational fear, and didn’t enjoy it one bit. More than half of my time is spent during the week watching re-runs of channel MAX’s top 100 countdowns or listening to Triple J. For some reason I feel like my music is a personal thing and I have issues with listening to music that I dislike.

With that said, everyone’s taste in music is unique. Many of my friends enjoy different genres and artists than I do. Listening to music in my car provides a sort of therapeutic release. I like to be in control of what plays. I decide to let one of my close friends (whose music taste I know differs greatly from my own) play her iPod through my speakers, loud.

Wincing as the beats shake the car we pull up at the first red light. A car pulls up beside us. Inside I am bubbling, I hate this song. Perhaps I feel like people will judge my personality as complimentary to the music I enjoy. Pretending not to mind to my poor unaware experimental guinea pig of a friend I force a smile and head bob.

Needless to say I feel like I am being tortured for a good half hour. I know it is not a normal emotion to experience, especially since the songs are designed to be upbeat and uplifting, but on me they have the opposite effect.

When we finally arrive at our destination I let out a giant sigh. What was the point in being so concerned? We are here. No one had even noticed or looked twice. I resigned myself to try to be more accepting of others music because in the end, who cares?

The other two days saw me joining a netball team full of strangers and going to hipster central ‘Elsewhere’, both of which were equally as petrifying.

We are all afraid of something.

Facing up to those little fears, the ones we could do without, could one day help us to find the courage to face a bigger fear – and ultimately feel more freedom.

Even though at the time I was petrified, I would do it over and over again. That rush of achievement makes you feel as though you could take on the world. It helped me to realise that things aren’t always quite as bad as they seem, and that you never know until you try. Just do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

By Crystal Landers

What are your irrational fears? Have you done something recently that scares you?

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