At the time of initiating this writing, I’m on my 50th day of the 100ScaryDays challenge. This seems like the perfect time to stop and reflect for a few moments. Looking back at what I’ve achieved, looking forward at what I’d like to face and establishing if there has been any value in the exercise.
The intention was always to give me a focus, where each day I consciously make the decision to put myself out of my comfort zone. In some scenarios, I may indeed be doing something scary… something that really makes me freeze with fear, like the first attempt to climb up a two-storey ladder onto scaffolding. This said, it was never the aim to encounter this level of fear every single day. Some days may simply be about pushing myself to do something differently, speak up for that in which I believe, or take the plunge to make a commitment. These are all likely to be things that I feel uncomfortable with and hence need to take a micro bravery approach. I see it as baby steps of courage that will retrain my brain to understand my fear, do the ‘thing’ anyway and then allow myself to approach it next time with a different expectation.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I first heard or read about the concept of micro bravery. It was about eighteen months ago however and I just remember I was wowed by the simplistic genius of it: build on the positive feeling of small successes, day after day. Increase the difficulty by a small margin each time and eventually the bigger challenges should become a little less impossible to face. I see it as a couch to 5k program for the brain. The brain needs exercise and training, just like any other part of our body, in order to allow it to work in the way we need it to.
That’s the basic theory behind the concept, so how has it been working from my point of view? I’ve definitely pushed myself into situations more than I would have done without the 100ScaryDays challenge. It’s so easy to avoid these difficult tasks – if it feels too much, we simply find another way, delegate the job or ditch it altogether. That’s not so easy when you are halfway up a mountain, crag-fast with fear and clinging to the rocks a few hundred feet up, terrified of looking down and desperately hoping that you can be teleported to your destination.
Therein lies the reasoning for my choice to begin 100ScaryDays. The more I put myself into difficult scenarios, the more resilient I become. As ‘problems’ present themselves I find myself more able to discover a workable solution and am less likely to give up. With the accountability of a public 100ScaryDays challenge as opposed to a private challenge, I am also unlikely to drop it on a whim, so really this is a win-win task for me!
My vulnerability is usually one of the most private feelings I own. I am not used to sharing it with anyone other than perhaps those closest to me. Even then, I will often keep what I am experiencing at those trickier times to myself. This then, has become an integral part of my #100ScaryDays insofar as I AM now actively sharing my insecurities, fears and struggles, in both written, video and image form – for all to share, respond to and ultimately base judgements on me. This arena is completely new territory and while it has been challenging me on a whole new scale, it also gives me opportunities to discover more about myself.
There have been so many fears tackled over the past fifty days. Some have been faced and overcome. Others definitely needed revisiting, the first of these being my trip to the Dolphin swimming pool in Poole. I was determined to tackle my fear of getting my head underwater, particularly after listening to Caroline Bramwell on the Tough Girl Podcast. I took myself swimming on my own, which is the first time I’ve done this, ever. I swam six lengths and with an impingement in my left shoulder still, this was not that easy. If my shoulder hurt, I rolled onto my front and swam on my back, using a strangely concocted flipper action with my hands down by my sides. Doing back crawl certainly was not an option as this only serves to aggravate the sore shoulder.
Each time I reached the other end of the pool, I attempted to pop my head down and blow bubbles, just like the author and triathlete, Caroline Bramwell has suggested trying. However hard I coached myself, I simply could not bear to put my face under or even bring my nose close to dipping. The fear of feeling like others were watching my spectacle of splashing, blowing bubbles and panicking was also growing. As a result, after six lengths I climbed out, showered and dressed. I knew that I would need to retry this but perhaps by taking an alternative method of going underwater.
Revisiting swimming with my head underwater arrived soon, as I decided to fill the bath and get in with my swimsuit on whilst recording my face-sinking attempts. There was a mini success that involved some dramatic spluttering and great smiles afterwards. In terms of head underwater however, this had not been fully conquered despite feeling as though it had. An old friend reminded me that she teaches swimming – what perfect timing this was. I attended two sessions with Sheena, which were hugely positive. Much of my face was now going underwater and some breathing and blowing out takes place (without too much intake of pool water!) At present I am unable to return as I seem to have built up an extreme sensitivity to the chorine with recurring eye infections. Once I have a handle on this, I will return (even if I have to go occasionally after moving up to South Wales!)
Because I am a supply teacher now, this often causes me a little more in the way of ‘new school nerves’, despite having been at the same school for a short while previously. So sharing my story publicly with three hundred or so staff and students on three different days was a ScaryDay on many levels. While I did not find it difficult to stand up in front of the school and talk, what I did find to be challenging was worrying what they would think about me…would they discover I was a fraud? Perhaps they will jeer at me or judge me if I show the video clip of me lip-syncing to Climb Ev’ry Mountain? Nothing more than a classic case of imposter syndrome of course. I recognised it, coached myself and put the video back into the presentation.
What else have I achieved during this first half of my ScaryCentury? I have applied to be an OS GetOutside Champion, given blood, attempted ‘impossible’ yoga poses, admitted when I was embarrassed, stood up for myself, caught spiders (though not yet in my bare hand but it’s a start), filleted a trout, ‘cleaned’ a pheasant ready for the pot and sold much of my jewellery. I wasn’t overly impressed at getting rid of my books and clothes and found the latter to be an emotional trigger for all sorts of memory lane replays. Once the items had finally gone however, I felt totally different and am now looking forward to shifting more items to get the benefit of this feeling of clear room – clear mind.
So with another fifty of the 100ScaryDays challenge to work through, I have made a conscious decision NOT to fill my planning calendar, booking up a timetable of scary things to give fright to me and delight to my followers, viewers and readers. Instead, I remain steadfast in my trust of the micro bravery concept, which if it is to work authentically really needs to happen as a spontaneous action. I will continue to face the difficult daily situations as they arise and document them as best as I can. In the meantime, there are a few coordinated ScaryDays I have planned to keep the momentum and excitement flowing (for all of us!) I’m not going to reveal what they are yet but there’s definitely more than one ScaryDay ‘dealing with my fear of heights’!
Finally, I am eager to be able to tell you that my ScaryDays challenge will transition from spontaneous to planned during the month of Fearbruary… see what I did there?! As I mentioned before, I am treating the 100ScaryDays as a couch to 5k program for the brain. Therefore, Fearbruary is like me stepping up to my 10k brain training and eventually it’ll build up to half marathon and perhaps even a full marathon. Good grief, I hope you understand I am hypothetically speaking, otherwise this could get awkward! Excited to share more with you about what I am doing every day to scare me, next week.