Feeling scared

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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.

4 thoughts on “Feeling scared

  1. I think the generally accepted difference between being scared and anxious is that being scared (fear) has an identified object, whereas being anxious is fear of… not sure what.For me, being scared of being scared is different from anxiety — but pretty bad too. When you're scared of being scared, you hold off from confronting your fears and maybe realizing that you're being too scared considering the importance of the danger you're afraid of. It might also — like it did for me for years — prevent you from identifying that you're scared, and that that is what is paralyzing you — therefore blocking you in your tracks.


  2. Yes, you can grapple with being scared, more readily than anxiety, but as you say, it is sneaky and goes underground and hides from you. This is why finding it and facing it matters so much.


  3. Hi EuanI like the distinction between being scared and anxious that you make, and especially the notion that avoiding being scared creates anxiety as a different, more troubling form of fear. I've done the pole climb, too; stood on the top and then jumped to hanging rope out of reach from the top. Yikes. I thought I had it all under control, but when I finally got down, one of my friends leaned over to me and said, "Congratulations, you look white as a ghost." Guess I couldn't quite keep the terror hidden under a cool facade! This post is a nice reminder that fear is part of life and that facing it is part of what it means to be fully awake and alive. Many best wishes.


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