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The Truth About Fear

I had left Australia with a heavy mind and heavy heart. Was I living up to my potential? Was it the right choice to leave behind what became potentially irreparable relationships? Was it selfish of me? Was it the best move for me professionally? 

See, my life wasn’t so atypical of a 23-year-old. My weeks would tessellate and change between business class flights, cities and corporate stages, and remote communities free of Wi-Fi or decent pluming. I’d work with suicide effected remote towns with a population of no more than 200, proceeded by meetings in parliament house. When I got home to my partner, I’d be struck with a deep guilt for not being there or being present. I wanted to escape all of it. After years of this type of service, it becomes hard to know if you’re coming or going. I’d started to wake up in the morning, before I had come to full consciousness, being hit by anxieties sucker-punch. 

I found myself managing, in a life that I was visioning. I began to cling to vices as a way to get through the haziness of my days; either to help me feel, or to stop me feeling completely. I was out of touch yet applauded for how much I had my shit together. I had to do something. So, in the midst of what was fast becoming a fire, I left on a soul-searching mission. 

I detoxed from my phone in the Peruvian mountains, as I slept unprepared in -10 degrees. I sat in silence amidst the Amazon jungle. I rode the waves of anxiety as I let go of control and let go of outcomes. I became present through the physical, mental and emotional challenges. The discomfort woke me up and snapped me out of the film I constantly felt over my mind’s eye. 

It was in Costa Rica, however, that I realised something quite profound. In a little town called Monte Verde, where a friend had been travelling with me, we embarked on an adventure to see some of the jungle. Breathtaking. I was feeling introspective, as I tuned into a voice within me; “free yourself of fear.” 

And thus, the universe cultivated an opportunity to do so. Later that day, as we walked through the jungle, we met two new friends. After hearing that I was a well-known Australian speaker with a fierce passion for actualising potential, one of the men was beyond excited to invite me to participate in the infamous bungee jump at the end of the hike. 

I stopped momentarily, confused by the correlations he had drawn. 

“I’m not quite sure how you’re drawing these two factors together – being a speaker, and completing a bungee jump with you?” I asked.

“What do you mean? He replied, “you’ve just finished telling me that for a living you challenge people on their fears – compel them to step into more love, more adventure, more possibility…”

Standing there blankly, feeling my eyebrows crease as I stared at him with equal parts fear and confusion.

Silence haunted the space, as we looked back and forth at each other, like a battle of will. 

“Look. I have a phobia of heights. Not like a normal fear, but like a… vertigo inducing, may-potentially-pass-out, I absolutely cannot do it, sort of fear. I’m sorry.”  I blurted out to him, hopefully with enough conviction and confidence that I would now be left in peace.

“Nicole,” he paused dramatically, taking a long breath in. “When you ask someone to step toward the edges of their belief systems, step onto the ledge of their limited ideologies and perspectives, look at their fears dead in the eye… it is absolutely no different than stepping onto the edge of that bungee jump and free falling. So, you either need to do the bungee with me, or you need to seriously reconsider your job when you go home.”

That sequence of words may potentially have been the only words able to legitimately corner me into defeat and submission. 

“Okay.” I said.

So, there I was; standing on the edge of a cliff face looking at the South American version of a bungee jump. I need to get this clear; not your standard bungee off a safe ledge, but instead a platform that was aggressively swaying in the wind, held together by two polls that spanned across a valley around 1km apart, with workers pulling participants out to the centre, before dropping 700m. 

As my turn arose, and I commenced my journey on the platform to the middle of the two mountains, a Spanish man proceeded to wrap two pieces of Velcro around my feet. I believe I hit points of sheer terror, where my mind felt like it was beginning to shut down. I managed to stutter to the worker, “has…has anyone ever died doing this?” To which he replied in broken English, “I will tell you after.” 

Fear continued to rise.

It was time for me to jump. I held onto the shoulder of my Spanish friend, looked him in the eyes to try and find some grounding. He was trying to not laugh at me. I looked back at the drop and tried to shuffle forward. I made it half way to the edge, before I just completely froze. Impending doom. I began to coach myself, as I would a client. 

Nicole. Fear is just in your mind. Everything is safe. You’re okay. Just walk forward. Just put one foot in front of the other and jump. It’ll be over soon. 

Then my head started to spiral, 

Do I really make other people feel this way when I challenge them? Is this what the fear of breaking through emotional barriers feels like? I feel like I’m going to die.

I shook my head in a split second of awareness that brought me back to reality. 

Then, boom, a realisation washed over me, and an ocean breaking over shores. I was filled with a sudden power. I realised that I was doing everything in my power to avoid jumping, hoping to find some loop hole in my mind as a way out. I could’ve stood there for another 10 minutes, 2 months or decade and still, the jump was going to be there. Not only that, but it would actually become harder and harder to jump. 

Hesitation is like that. Hesitation is like a prison, the longer you hesitate the tighter the bars become. It’s primal. It’s actually an intended part of our neurological wiring. When we hesitate, our brain and bodies perceive legitimate threat. It’s to protect us. 

When I realised this, I catapulted myself off the bungee jump. 

I dived through the barricade of fear, and I freed myself. The jump itself felt better than someone’s first come on; like legitimate ecstasy. In a split second I was reborn, transformed and free of anything that had ever held me back. It was incredible. 

You know what it taught me? 

We spend so long on that edge. We whittle and waste away our lives thinking and thinking and thinking; trying to cleverly come up with ways to remain in the hesitation and avoidance. We believe the fear. We conclude and accept that the edge is saving us from the scariest bit, when in reality there is absolutely nothing scarier than standing on that ledge. 

Once you jump, you’re freed. The fear no longer has power over you. Ironically, the very act of self-preservation, preserves us in fear.

My perspective changed. I was never trapped, I was never lost, I was never that far away from what it is I was truly wanting. We’re only ever a moment, a single decision away, from what it is we’re seeking. We just need to jump.

So, my question to you is this; what edge are you needing to jump off? What action needs to be taken right now, right this very second when you click out of this article? What’s your bungee jump?

I dare you to free yourself.

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