There’s a fair chance that at some point in your life you’ve been asked what your superhero power would be. Perhaps you want to be super strong, like Hulk. Manipulate metal like Magneto. Harness the power of the human mind like Professor X.
Maybe you want to fly like Superman. Swift, graceful, without fetters. Uninhibited freedom. Flying would be my stock reply, given without much thought.
Yet I am terrified of flying. I haven’t stepped foot on an airplane for thirteen years and would be happy to never do so again. I hate every single moment of confinement on a plane. Hate the loss of control. You are handing your life over to a complete stranger who is driving a tin can with wings. My mind goes into catastrophe mode, mapping out the various death scenarios that the next nine hours or so of flight could lead to.
At least I am a silent panicker. My last flight hit an electrical storm over Africa around midnight, with six hours to go. I sat silent, arms folded. I watched Mean Girls three times. I tried not to let my fear become contagious when all hell broke loose over the communications system and the staff were shouting MAYDAY! Fear closed me right down. It suspended my critical viewing facilities for starters.
I may have kissed the tarmac at Heathrow when we landed. These days I don’t have a passport and zero incentive to ever get back on a plane. Yorkshire’s nice all year round. Feet firmly on the ground.
There’s a disparity between what I dream of being and what I think I am capable of being. Over it all hangs that word – fear. I fear the sky falling, the world ending. I fear the consequences of something unlikely. I am more likely to be mowed down by a car on a zebra crossing than I am to fall out of the sky. Yet I keep on walking, largely without fear.
I’ve been working on projects that I never give a chance to fly. I stop at the 95% mark. I’m scared to push the button to make them live. To put them out in the wider world. Fear stops me – but fear of what, exactly? Other people’s condemnation? Fear that they may actually like what I’m doing and expect more? I fear failure, yet it must be better to try to fly than it is to remain tethered to the ground by my safety rope, hyperventilating at the margins.
I watch other people take that deep breath and then push themselves skywards, some with grace. Others are more like the blackbird chicks that zoom about my backyard bouncing off windows and clumsily scaling the terrace wall. When they get to the top they stop and you can see them staring. Taking in the world beyond the yard that has framed their whole existence for the past three weeks.
Then they spread their stubby wings and hurtle off the edge. Sometimes the wind catches them and lifts them into the breeze, before carrying them far away. Sometimes it doesn’t, and they face plant the clematis. But still they try. And try again.
Fear hobbles you. It sits there in your mind, twinning itself with anxiety, saying no, on repeat. No one is interested, no-one cares. No one wants to read your miserable chicken scratch. The N word, repeated until you close down, retreating into that ball of fear you’ve made for yourself. It becomes a self-fulfilling mantra.
I want to get over my fear of flying. I want it to be like it is in the movies, where you know the odds are against you but you give the wry hero shrug and do it anyway. I’m wondering how other people get over that fear. Where do you gather the confidence, the chutzpah to drown out the naysayers and push that button?
Life stuff is hard. Fear makes it harder. But perhaps I need to grab onto my metaphorical superhero wings (which would be big and symmetrical and shining copper) and make like a blackbird chick. I should look over the top of the wall. Untie the training rope. Then hit the button that fires me like a rocket, skywards.
I may face plant my own clematis. Who knows? The point is, I won’t know until I try. And I will keep on fretting and regretting until I do. Failure after action doesn’t cost me anything. If anything it gives me insight into what I can do better. And like the scruffy little chicks, I have just got to keep on getting up and trying again. And again.
And then maybe – one day – I will catch the wind and soar.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Do you have any tips or suggestions on how you’ve managed to overcome your own fears and anxieties to try new things or achieve new goals? Is there a project you’ve been hesitating about that we can collectively cheerlead for you? Feel free to comment below.