I talk, write and think a lot about fear. I’m a firm believer in facing my fears, I’ve already confessed that I have a ton of them and I’ve also been known to say that it’s usually the stuff that’s worth doing that is preceded by fear. I’ve realised recently, however, that just because something causes fear in you doesn’t automatically mean that it’s worth doing.
A couple of years ago, I had a boyfriend whose primary passion was surfing, as his girlfriend I couldn’t help but get involved in the sport. It was either that or spend many a weekend sat on the beach reading my book. It was hardly a hardship, I loved being introduced to surfing and despite some fears, I gave it everything I had.
Over the years I’ve attempted to surf all over the world; Barbados, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and most recently Bali. I use the word “attempted” because there is surfing and then there is what beginners do, which is to catch the white water, after the wave has broken. This is usually much closer to shore where the water is only waist high making it safer, easier and requiring much less skill.
I love messing about in the white water, I get a good work out, usually swallow a fair amount of sea water and I get a huge rush every time I manage to stand up on my board. Over the years, however, I’ve been encouraged to step up my game and paddle out back to catch ‘green’ (unbroken) waves, by those people who can actually surf. I’ve humored them to an extent but I’ve never really enjoyed it. It requires a lot of strength to paddle out against the waves and the chances of nose diving on a wave and ending up in what feels like a washing machine situation are pretty high.
A few weeks ago in, I decided to do a three-day surfing course for beginners at the famous Kuta Beach in Bali. I chose a ‘beginner’ course because a couple of summers ago, I had an accident while surfing in Portugal which involved splitting my nose open on the edge of my surfboard. It knocked my confidence quite a bit and I haven’t really been surfing since. I figured starting from scratch would be a good way to get my confidence back.
Day one went as predicted, lots of theory and practice on the beach followed by some time trying to catch white water and stand up on our boards. Day two saw more of the same but we were taught how to get through the waves to get out back and much of this lesson was spent practicing those techniques. I enjoyed day two far less as the realisation dawned on me that what was coming on day three would be paddling out back and catching the green waves.
On my way home at the end of day two, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread about the next day. I knew what would be involved and I had no desire to do it. I’d tried countless times before and I’d never enjoyed it. As I started to tell myself to ‘man up’ I suddenly realised that I was trying to force myself to do something that I had absolutely no desire to do and that would bring me no pleasure whatsoever.
That’s when it dawned on me that being scared of something isn’t enough of a reason to do it. There has to be an obvious benefit and as much as being able to surf like a cool Roxy chick would be awesome it’s a) never going to happen and b) not really a priority in my life. So instead of going to the third lesson, I skipped class and spent the day doing things that I do enjoy doing instead. It was an important reminder for me not to get so wrapped up in facing my fears and to focus instead on doing those things that ultimately bring me joy and help me to achieve my dreams.