Do Something That Scares You (I Did And It Was Profound)
Do You Ever Do Something That Scares You?
Hello, how’s it going? I’m glad you’ve popped in because I’ve got something I’d love to share with you.
Do you ever do something that scares you? I like to and I’ve been ruminating on an ‘epiphany moment’ I had recently and like all these moments I guess, it took me by complete surprise. And it only happened because I stepped out of my comfort zone. I reckon, no, actually I’ve learned, that the way to achieve any sort of personal growth is to do something that scares you. And thereby, of course, realising that you can do whatever it was that was scaring the crap out of you in the first place.
You don’t have to ‘succeed’ in your goal though because
What you really learn is that you can take a risk, and if you can take a risk here, then you can take a risk there. And taking those risks is what builds resilience.
Enter the inimitable Zoe Langley-Wathen and her new podcast HeadRightOut. Zoe’s passion is that “all women should be encouraged to try new things” (in the outdoors) but she particularly aims to “empower midlife women to question and remedy their own levels of resilience”. And she invited me to be a guest.
I couldn’t work out why to be honest, because I thought, well yes I meet the midlife criteria, but me, resilient? Don’t make me laugh. Still, I thought it would be interesting to see where it would lead. And well, it’s Zoe, so how could I refuse!
Little did I realise that this would lead to the biggest leap in ‘personal growth’ (god I hate that phrase!) I’ve had in years.
And the epiphany? That happened afterwards…
Listening to myself speaking to Zoe on the HeadRightOut Podcast wasn’t something I was looking forward to, so I put it off. I put it off for almost a week, in fact, waiting for friends to listen, hoping they’d tell me I didn’t sound like the idiot I assumed I would. The sound of my voice didn’t worry me, and it was a wonderful conversation, but I was certain I’d be embarrassed by something I’d said.
Embarrassment, for me, goes deep. It triggers (in the psychological sense) deep feelings of shame and worthlessness, which in turn has a huge impact on self-image and self-esteem.
Feelings as intense as these obviously affect the other constant in my life: depression. (Let’s be clear though, they affect it, but there’s no ’cause’, it just is.)
So I’ve developed a strategy of avoidance as a means of self-preservation – and who wouldn’t! But friends told me “it was really good” and I absolutely felt I owed it to Zoe to listen in. She’d put in a lot of work (it’s no mean feat to produce an inspiring podcast) and it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate that.
It came to a crux: I had to step wildely out of my comfort zone, head out for a walk and plug in.
I Listened To Myself And Discovered I Might Not Be Who I Thought I Was
Tears filled my eyes within 10 minutes or so of listening. I walked along a familiar wooded track, safe from traffic, peaceful, in a world of my own. At first, I couldn’t believe it was me I was hearing, it sounded like someone so far removed from how I see myself, someone I’d actually enjoy listening to.
I really grappled with feelings of ‘disconnect’: this was not me, this was someone else entirely.
The person I was listening to had overcome so much and projected quiet confidence in the things she’d achieved. But ‘me’, I’d never done anything remarkable, never had epic hiking adventures, never had amazing stories to share, never won any awards – definitely not someone anyone else would bother to listen to.
But as I listened I realised that what’s important is hearing stories of how ‘ordinary’ women overcome the crap that life throws at them. It’s how hiking, especially solo hiking (for me), gives you the opportunity to learn and grow and connect with something outside your own head. And to take that a step further, it’s understanding that ‘something outside your own head’ can go full circle and positively affect what’s inside.
Then I realised the person I was listening to was actually the person I needed to hear.
Do Something That Scares You And Then Do It Again
At the end of every podcast episode Zoe asks her guest for a ‘HeadRightOut moment’, that epiphany when you do something that scares you that you didn’t think possible. (She shares listeners’ moments too, so if you’ve had one make sure you send it in.) And to be honest I couldn’t really think of one, nothing specific anyway. My HeadRightOut moment occurred afterwards as I walked along a wooded track, plugged into a podcast I was so afraid of listening to that I felt sick at the thought of it.
That moment was utterly profound: it was the moment I realised that the person I was listening to is the person other people see. And that person is me.
I can’t express how acutely this hit me, how just one brief moment of recognition changed everything. People, friends that know me well, might say “you’re inspiring, I don’t know how you do it”. Or “you take risks I never could”, and I smile and reply “thank you”. And then, in my head, comes the weighty ‘but…’ and every embarrassment, everything I’ve done wrong, every failure, every time I’ve inadvertently offended someone, every comparison with worthier people than me – it all comes crashing down at once. All of it, and suddenly I’m drowning under feelings of shame and worthlessness. And nobody sees it because I’m too ashamed to tell them.
But hearing myself, really hearing how other people hear me, brings tears to my eyes (like right now).
This May Be The Biggest Risk Of My Life
So, let me tell you something else I’ve been too scared to tell anyone, in fact, I’ve never told anyone except those really close to me, let alone in black and white:
I have a diagnosis of BPD (“which seems to be in remission” so a psychiatrist said recently), as well as depression.
BPD = Borderline Personality Disorder. I’m not going to go into the details of what it is here (this is a hiking blog after all!) but if you’ve never heard of it, or are unsure, you can find out Borderline Personality Disorder here.
This is possibly the biggest shame I have because I totally identify with it, and I fear I could fall into the depths of it anytime. Why is it so shameful? Because
Most people who think they know about BPD describe people like me as the shittiest type of person on earth. They know bollocks. It’s a label, a fucking horrible one.
The label comes with stigma (so I’m not likely to mention it again), but it’s purely a means to an end: you meet certain long-term criteria, and (hopefully) you get the treatment you deserve. Just like anyone else with a diagnosis of any sort that can only be addressed with medical help.
So there it is. Another risk taken, another time I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone into the complete unknown. And this one really scares me.
It isn’t like conquering the fear of abseiling down a building, which was something on my bucket list. This goes right to my core and once it’s out there there’s no running from it.
I took a huge risk and listened to the podcast, which has lead to this bigger risk. I have no idea how it will pan out, but maybe, just maybe it will help build my resilience.
I’m not saying the ‘podcast epiphany’, or today’s jump into the unknown means I’ll never feel shame again, I absolutely know I will because I can’t help it (it’s how my brain works), but
Zoe has given me a gift I never thought I’d receive.
The gift is ‘evidence’: I can listen anytime my mood is about to take a nose-dive into depression and remember that for a moment at least, I was not the abhorrent person I believed I was.
I took, what for me, was a massive personal risk and did something I thought would probably damage what little self-esteem I’ve managed to build (by complete avoidance). But the fact is we never know what will happen until we take the risk presented to us (or orchestrated by us). And
I got something so unexpectedly precious and meaningful that quite frankly has the power to change my entire view of myself. As long as I let it.
But depression, and everything else I deal with, doesn’t always allow that…
Hiking and walking have always been my first defense against an impending bout of depression (recognising it early is key, but walking for depression doesn’t always work), but now I’ve got something else I can add to my armoury.
Imagine this: I head out the door in a desperate bid to walk the illness into some sort of submission, but this time I’m listening to a positive version of myself. How will that feel I wonder?
I haven’t listened to the podcast again because I want it for the moment I actually need to hear it. It’s another way of connecting with something outside my head: a prompt to remember people don’t see what I see. And their views are valid.
Now I’ve written that though, I wonder if I should listen to it again and again, like some sort of positive affirmation – you know the sort of thing: listen to it enough and you might actually believe it.
Now, there’s a thought…
Thanks for reading, and thanks of course to Zoe for the gift.
Wondering Where To Head Next?
I’d be honoured: episode 7
Find out more about Zoe in Women Afoot:
Or maybe you fancy reading some more from my journals? If that’s the case, head here and to my journal index and dip in. (Also, there’s this particular article on hiking and mental health: Is Going For A Walk Good For Depression?)
And finally, if you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone, or are planning to do something that scares you, I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment and let me know how it’s changed your life. Because surely it has!