Yep, I had to deal with the scariest thing out there today. I had to go to the dentist. When I was doing my ultramarathon last month, my tooth just chipped away and I have been in agony for at least the past two weeks.
I put it off for as long as I could but I finally plucked up the courage and booked an appointment.
I sat in the waiting room, nervously, as dentists in blue scrubs and masks whisked by in a flurry of activity. I felt sick as I sat waiting for my name to be called.
When it was called I felt like I was walking the green mile. I was a dead lady walking. And so I followed the dentist to her room and seated myself in her torture chair.
I was handed a pair of red safety goggles which actually had the effect of making me feel as though I was in actual Hell. I sat back and waited for the bad news.
She confirmed that it was decaying and I’d probably have to lose the tooth, so I agreed and she set to work. Unfortunately, my tooth had become infected and the pain in my ear was so great that I couldn’t help but scream as she tugged at my poor tooth.
In the end I had to leave the surgery with my mouth heavily anesthetized and a temporary filling plugging the gap. I have been prescribed a course of antibiotics and now I have to see an oral surgeon which sounds even more terrifying.
I arrived at school after a good cry in my car, with blood and drool dripping down my chin, all ready to teach…..sort of.
Fear can eat you up as waves wash over bobbing heads,
Only light from high power torches light the way,
But the water is a dark and murky soup
That churns beneath the ferry boats.
The rays of light will soon come up
And dance across the water’s edge
In pinks and purple hues that make for pretty photo calls.
But still the panic builds within the swimmer’s head
As land dissolves and doesn’t reappear.
I’ve always been fascinated by the water and sea and I have quite a special relationship with it given that I’ve been lucky enough to swim across the English Channel three times.
More than anything in the world, I would love to either row across the Atlantic or sail around the world. Although I know that both can be extremely dangerous. There’s always that worry that I may never come back.
And I think that’s what holds my fascination with the sea. It has this gentle beauty at sunrise when the water is flat and the swimming is easy. But when the wind kicks up it can snatch life away in the blink of an eye.
I’m missing the sea at the moment. The power of the waves crashing on the shore and the wonder of looking out to the horizon and trying to imagine where it may end. It’s not surprising that people in the past thought the Earth was flat.
I think that most of all I miss that feeling of taking a risk. We’ve all been cooped up and I haven’t felt that buzz when you’re bobbing in the middle of the sea and you can’t see land in either direction. It’s quite thrilling…..and I want it back.
It was Oprah who once said that nervousness is actually a selfish emotion. When I first heard this I thought she was having a laugh. As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder I get nervous about lots of situations and I thought it was a bit rich of her to say that made me selfish. But when I read her reasoning behind this statement it made me start to at least try and change my mind set when tackling new and scary things.
When Oprah made this statement she wasn’t trying to say that us anxious types were horrible people; what she was saying was that a safe amount of anxiety is no reason to deny the world of your idea. Saying that you’re too scared and then not carrying through with it because of that fear could stop something really great from being released into the world. And who are you to say that nobody can experience that thing you dreamt up? What would have happened if Fleming had decided he was too scared to tell the world that he had discovered penicillin in case something went wrong and everyone laughed at him? Or if Mandela hadn’t fought for the end of apartheid because he knew that he was going to get resistance? The world could have been a very different place, and don’t go thinking that your small idea couldn’t make the biggest of waves.
If you’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert then you may be familiar with the idea that any inspiration that comes flying into your head is a gift and it should be treated as such. If somebody gave you a gift of a million pounds and told you to spread it between your favourite charities you wouldn’t then put it in your bank and keep it to yourself. Surely this should be the same with gifts that are given to us from God? Use them and help to make the people around you happy.
So yeah, I totally get what Oprah meant when she said that it’s a selfish emotion. She meant that we need to push through our own feelings so that we can make the world a better place. If you’re struggling to get past this first step towards success because you’re feeling frightened then keep these things in mind:
Number One- Most people will be secretly impressed that you’re trying.
Because, news flash! Everyone else is scared too! If people are standing in the wings waiting for you to fail then it’s because it backs up their own theory that they shouldn’t try. If the people around you are real friends then they will support you no matter what you try and it won’t matter whether you succeed or fail.
Number Two – What’s the worst that could happen?
Even if things do go really badly you can still turn it around again. Most of the super successful people in the world have had some pretty serious setbacks. Some very famous billionaires have filed for bankruptcy several times. Hopefully you won’t be at the point where you are doing that, but this is proof that it can still not necessarily mean game over.
If you’re scared of people’s opinions then the worst that could happen is that those people fall out of your life. And would you really want those people in your life?
On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that things could go well, and then what? That business could take off or the book could get published and then you’ll be left wondering what you were ever wondering about in the first place.
Number Three – Try to see these risks like a book of puzzles
If I buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, I normally expect that I can get one or two wrong. But there are normally a hundred or so other puzzles in the book that I can have a go at. There are an infinite number of challenges out there in the world and I can have a go at them even if I’ve already failed at something else.
Keeping with the same analogy, there is nothing stopping me doing a puzzle in pencil so that I can rub it out and have a go at the same one a second time. I had this experience when I first started ultra running. I had a go at a 100 mile race and got to 54 miles before I bombed out. I could have said ‘screw that, I’m not doing that again!’ But I didn’t. I dusted myself off and started training again and it took me another three years, but eventually I did it.
So when you’re scared of taking that first step remember what you could be depriving the world of and keep in mind that even if you do fail miserably, failure is the way that you refine your skills, learn and become the very best you can be at something. So take a deep breath and have a go!
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