Happy St. Paddy’s Day! I hope you are having a pint for me because I’m sure going to have one for you! Last weekend my housemates and I attended the Kingston St. Paddy’s Day parade. It was lovely to walk along the crowded streets with a thermos of Chai and Irish Cream (trust me, it’s a great combo) and just take in all of the festivities with good friends. It was also nice to meet a lot of interesting new characters as well as see old friends again. All of that aside, I wanted to write about my friend and housemate because her story may resonate with you on some level. She conquered her fear of crowds that day and she did it with complete gusto. She has a very rational fear of large crowds; however, I asked her to go to the parade with me and she said–with understandable trepidation–yes. What we did before the event was to talk about the worst case scenario and together we planned for it. That way, no matter what happened, we had a plan and she would never feel that the situation was beyond her control. Well, she went above and beyond by deciding to run in the 3k race at the beginning of the parade. That way, she had something very positive to focus on, instead of focusing on her fear. She literally ran the race in a crowd of hundreds of people. Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire! Then, we lost her after the race and the worst case scenario planning kicked in. We were able to find her at a prearranged meeting spot and she was completely happy and relaxed. We spent the rest of the day among the hoards of jubilant people and it was glorious.
Fear is a tricky thing. It’s not so much fear but the loss of control that is scary. We love our control. If we all had our druthers we would avoid confronting our fears at all costs, but it wears you down over time. Like it or not, it’s best to confront the things that hold you back from fully enjoying life. You know this. So now do something about it.
1. Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is AND plan for it. Instead of focusing on the worst thing that could happen (which is out of your control), move past it towards the solution that you can control. Nine times out of ten the worst case scenario will never happen and everything in between is cake because you know you can handle it.
2. Have a support system in place and make sure they all know what to do if the worst case scenario does occur. That way, you are all on the same page and there is more control of the outcome.
3. Face your fears with gusto like my housemate did. Sure, going to the parade would have been fun but it probably wouldn’t have excited her like running the race did. It gave her something that she could really look forward to. Finishing the race gave her a goal to focus on instead of focusing on her fear. Plus, that crowd she feared was transformed into a group of like-minded individuals that were there to push her forward towards the finish line. She was doing the work of re-writing her mental idea of what a crowd means to her by giving it a positive association. If you’re afraid of heights, for example, climb that beautiful mountain that you’ve always wanted to instead of going to the top of some tall office building and looking out through the dirty glass. If you’re not looking forward to it, you won’t do it.
4. Celebrate your accomplishment and keep tackling all the things that hold you back.