What fears hold you back?

It was Family Day here in BC last Monday so I opted to take the day off and, instead of working, go for both a cross-country and downhill ski!  I hope you enjoyed your February long weekend, whenever it may fall.

Via a friend, I came across this post about fear entitled Fear:  Keeping you alive…or stopping you from living.  Specifically related to kayaking and author Amy Elworthy’s experience with a friend drowning, it is definitely an article you can apply in all aspects of your life:  work, fun, school…fear is a big deal.  But some of us are able to harness and work with that fear and others seem to be frozen by it – what’s the difference?  I don’t really have an answer (sorry!) but I do know I get asked that question a lot:  whether it’s for my upcoming solo hike of the PCT or facing a steep on a ski hill or bike trail.

The thing with fear is that it’s all quite relative to your experiences.  Some of the “things” I do seem quite terrifying for people, and yet, there are so many other trails and runs that I think are terrifying.  For the record, I’m truly not a very hardcore individual.  I just love being outside but nailing gap jumps on my bike is not a priority for me.  I do recognize that some of the trails I do are terrifying to other people, though.  I vividly remember when we first moved to Rossland and we hiked up Red Mountain.  I remember looking over at the various runs (specifically, War Eagle) and both Adam & I saying to each other that people must be NUTS to ski or board this hill!  It was so steep and the trees were incredibly tight…neither of us could fathom how people could ski down here.  And yet, a few years later, Red is actually my favourite zone on at the resort.  It’s hilarious to think of my reaction then compared to now.

So what changed?  Obviously, the trees didn’t move.  I merely got used to it and decided that I wanted to push myself a little bit more each year.  I didn’t start off skiing those trees, I worked up to and was able to increase that fear threshold.  People ask if I’m afraid of hiking the PCT this year.  Yes, of course I am!  Not for the physical challenges anymore but for the mental challenges (I’m desperately going to miss my husband and dog).  I know that physically I can handle it and this is predominantly due to my CANOL hiking trip last summer.  Last summer introduced me to river crossings I would never consider even passable, navigations skills I didn’t know I had, bog walking, and the early stages of hyperthermia.  My fears about my physical ability on the PCT are completely gone.   Both in skiing and in hiking, my experiences have created confidence because I pushed my experiences into those fear zones, bit by bit.

Through my own experience and listening to others, I’ve heard three common themes of fears.  They may come out in different manners but they tend to fall under the following broad groups:

7 Summits Climb

My fear on the 7 Summits? I’ll be too slow and/or throw up! So what to do? Intentionally ride slow and have some fun!

1.  I hear or read comments from women about wanting to try a certain sport or activity but being too afraid to do so.  As women, I’d say most of our fears are seeded in concerns of judgement.  We don’t want to appear inexperienced, look stupid, or do something dumb.  This type of fear is preventing you from trying something you may end up loving and may actually be contributing to an earlier grave instead of keeping you from it.   The impacts of inactivity and rates of car travel injury are significantly worse or higher than picking up your bike and riding to work.  Don’t let the fear of looking silly stop you (we all look ridiculous in spandex).

2.  I’m not exactly sure why or when learning became a negative concept but there seems to be an idea that people become “too old” to learn (or to continue participating in) certain activities.  I’m talking a broad range of ages here, typically starting around the 30-ish mark of women thinking they’re too old for something. I’m calling bullshit on this.  It’s ok to be learning and to be new at something.  And here’s another secret:  it’s ok to be BAD at it, too!  It’s ok to fall and it’s ok to look like a newbie.  Can we get over this mindset that we need to have perfect execution in everything we do?  If you’re having fun then that’s all that matters.  Don’t let some random number dictate you can’t try snowboarding.  Are you 60 and want to try surfing?  Then do it.  Always wanted to try a marathon?  Start running.

Haystack Moutain

First time on exposure and through a boulder field! I’d rock it now but I was TERRIFIED at the time!

3.  There are injuries (and even death) in pretty much every sport.  And they can be valid fears but, especially when first starting out, you’re more likely to twist an ankle or scratch your knee.  Most people don’t just attempt their first mountaineering experience on Everest.  They work up to it.  Accidents may happen but they shouldn’t stop you from hiking up a mountain.  As mentioned above, there are more dangers in being inactive than being active.

What fears do you have that are holding you back from trying something new?  How do you recognize and work around those fears?

There are 4 comments

  1. Noreen

    Excellent article Tara and so true that fear does prevent us from trying something new….. Fear of injury at a later age in life is what prevents me….however, if the desire is great enough then I will pursue, slowly.


    1. tarahowse

      Sure, injuries can cause fear, but don’t let age be your excuse! It’s a myth that you can’t be active or take up something new when you hit a certain age (which, depending on who you’re taking to, that “certain age” ranges quite dramatically). It’s merely necessary that you consider your own abilities and work within them: don’t try running a marathon off the start, participate in a walk-run program first!


  2. Jayne Doxtater

    I turned 60 in Jan. 2015 and feel much younger than that! My birthday gift from daughter was going back country/cross country skiing into Skoki Lodge around Lake Louise. Incredible!!! Our 3 day, 2 night adventure was amazing and to do it with my daughter incredibly special. I feel blessed and honoured that she wanted to help celebrate my ‘big’ day doing something active in one of the most beautiful places on earth! I also did it! . . even though I felt I wasn’t really in shape . . . what is the saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”!!! Don’t let your age or your mind stop you from doing things that will challenge and change you forever!


    1. tarahowse

      Jayne, that’s fantastic and sounds incredible! As a 32 year old, I love seeing and meeting women that are active as they get older. It shows me I don’t have to stop and that I can keep participating in fun activities, in spite of age. You also sound like a woman who could be a feature for Awesome Active Women! Please check out that link and send me your contact info!


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