Earlier in the year we took our family on an excellent adventure weekend at Okehampton Youth Hostel. One of the four days of activities included a high ropes exercise where, wearing safety harnesses, we carried out a variety of challenges at what felt like a scary height. The hardest of these was to climb a thirty foot high pole and then clamber onto a precariously fixed three foot square platform. Even though I was roped up, my brain was still screaming at me that this was a dangerous thing to do. I was OK with climbing the pole, and even sort of OK levering myself onto the platform, but became less OK when my friend Tim arrived beside me, clambered up my legs and then proceeded to cling to me as if his life depended on it!
I get scared a lot. In fact as you can see from this story I sometimes seek out being scared. This is partly why I like climbing hills and why I love my job. I get a little scared every time I write a blog post, I get an amazing rush of adrenalin when I press send on a newsletter going out to thousands people, and often, when I am about to speak in public, I get so scared that I fantasise about pulling a sickie or finding some other excuse to back out!
Being scared can feel good, overcoming your fear feels even, better but avoiding being scared is the scariest thing you can do, and is, I am beginning to believe the root cause of anxiety. Being anxious is different from being scared. That creeping, grey veil of doubt that rots away at your confidence has little to recommend it. We know what we are not facing up to, we know the things we could do but are ducking, and if we keep letting anxiety constrict our lives long enough we start to die.
Anxiety is the smell of rotting lives.