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Overcoming the Fear of Taking a Risk: Just Do It

Jumping

“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.” ~Isabelle Allende

About eight months ago I hitched a ride to Buenos Aires, Argentina via a one way ticket with the love of my life. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I wasn’t throwing things in my suitcase and cashing out my bank account while kissing friends and family goodbye, sayin’ “See ya!”

My boyfriend and I were recent graduates at wits end suffering economic woes with no place to go. We had always wanted to go abroad to teach English, but weren’t sure where we’d end up.

At one o’clock in the morning after an argument over my apprehension, I just told him to book the tickets and I’d feel better.

Well, I thought I’d feel better. We finally booked our long anticipated flight. Champagne wasn’t popped and confetti didn’t cascade to the floor. I sat on the bed wondering why I felt so petrified to go. It had been a childhood dream of mine to travel abroad.

It was rather terrifying, and for the first time in my life I was afraid of an adventure.

Surprisingly, as I looked at our online itinerary my stomach sank. Nausea filled my days when I looked around knowing I was going to leave everything I knew.

I rationalized every excuse to get out of going but I reminded myself to persevere and that everything would work out. But the questions still popped up in my mind.

Was I making a mistake? Was this risk going to be worth every penny and hardship?

The night before our flight my stomach was curling into knots and my mind was a twisted mess. I tried telling myself to calm down and to just take the risk. I knew that if I could just get my butt into my window seat that everything would be fine. But even then my fear didn’t subside.

It wasn’t until the plane took off that I realized I had done it. I was twenty thousand miles in the air, and nine hours ahead of me was awaiting an entirely different world. But the fear was ever present. After a week of being a tourist, the fear remained hidden under a layer of excitement.

I couldn’t sleep, I was thousands of miles from home, only able to utter a few phrases in Spanish that I remembered from middle school.

I stayed in the apartment as much as possible because I was afraid to go out and communicate with others, let alone take a bus by myself and get lost some bad part of town.

With time, the fear slowly dissolved, the unfamiliar became familiar. We found jobs and an apartment within three weeks of arrival, a blessing considering we had no idea what we’d do when we got there. I had kept on despite my reluctance and faked a smile when I wanted to scream and run.

Everything worked out because I kept a positive affirmation despite the fear.

Many of my friends made excuses for themselves by letting me know how easy it was for me to just up and leave to a foreign country because of my circumstances, especially having a boyfriend who spoke fluent Spanish.

Yes, some of the opportunities I was afforded made the journey easier, but we worked our butts off, sold everything we owned, and packed up our few belongings into plastic bins.

My boyfriend, who is an optimist, was ecstatic and I looked calm because I wanted everyone else to believe that I was confident in my decision to up and leave.

From most people’s expressions and comments they didn’t believe we’d commit to actually boarding the plane, but I surprised everyone and even myself when I handed the boarding pass to the attendant and shook the pilots hand as I entered the plane.

The fear crippled my mind, but my legs managed to carry me to my seat.

Of Course There Will Be Doubt

Despite my crippling fear, sleepless nights, and fake demeanor, I knew deep down that I needed to take the risk; after all, that’s why it’s called a risk. Of course as with any life changing decision, you will doubt yourself.

You think Neil and Buzz weren’t freaking out before they got into an eight-ton firecracker that was going to take three days to get to the moon? They didn’t even know if they’d sink elbow deep in moon dust, but they took one small step for man, and an even greater leap for mankind.

I am sure that despite the years of preparation and endless simulations, they still had a sleepless night before one of humanity’s biggest risks.

Most people who take risks are kidding themselves if they don’t doubt themselves a teeny tiny bit. So do yourself a favor and take one small step toward your goal despite your apprehensions and gut-wrenching fear.

Fake It Until You Make It

Like I did, and so many other risk takers do, you have to fake it until you make it. It sounds cliché but it holds a boatload of truth. Use reverse psychology on yourself. You’re your own worst enemy. Tell yourself and others that you are confident about taking the risk and notice how your apprehension will dissolve.

Nurture the Positives, not the Fear

Print out some pictures of your risk and tape them on your ceiling so when you wake up with cold sweats, you can remind yourself that you are going to do what it is that you set out to do. I put pictures of Patagonia as my desktop screensaver to remind me of the beauty I would experience in Argentina.

Write a pros list and forget the cons. Focus on the major pros. Cons can always be worked through.

Whether it is lack of money, not knowing the language, being thousands of miles away from home, I knew that it was what I had always wanted to do and I could find money by selling all my things, or start learning basic phrases or use Skype to talk to friends and family. There is a positive to every negative.

No Excuses: Just Do It

Even worse, don’t make excuses about why you shouldn’t do it. Nowadays, we make excuses for everything. I’m too busy, I don’t have the money, or I don’t want to disappoint others. Make every excuse why you should do it.

Despite my crippling fear which gave me many sleepless nights, I stuck with it and kept telling myself “We already bought the tickets.” Like the Nike slogan, I needed to “Just Do It.” Perpetual excuses will pour from your mouth, but remember fear shouldn’t be a chain holding you back.

Don’t let fear paralyze you; close your eyes and imagine that everything will work out.

Don’t expect the unexpected and focus on what could go well. Just as life will have its highs and lows, taking a risk comes with excitement and terror. Fear is only natural when taking a risk. So go on! Jump out of that plane (with a parachute of course) into the world of your dreams.

Photo by _overanalyzer

About Christina Kellagher

Christina is a 23-year-old ESL instructor living and breathing Patagonian air with the love of her life in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a novice writer who enjoys sipping hot chai tea, reading anything by Keraouc, and working on her positivity blog: everydaypositivevibrations.tumblr.com.

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  • Jai

    thank you, Christina, for sharing your story. Your name happens to be the name of one of my best friends too. You made me realize how important my dream is to me.

  • Lorrie Jones

    Thank you, Christina, for this inspiring and, for me, very timely article. I love your honesty! I could relate, once I read about how much fear you felt…but “did it anyway”. I have a lifetime decision to make and I feel much more empowered and courageous now – remembering it is ok, if not expected, to feel some fear. Thank you so much!

  • hatshepsut

    Christina, thanks for a great post! I enjoyed it very much. You did leave me wondering how your doing in Argentina.. has it been everything youve want it to be?

  • Christina what a great story. Sometimes I look back at the risks I took and wonder. I know my life wouldn’t be as magical as it is if I had listened to my fear.

    One time I was leading a ropes course.I was standing 60 feet in the air on the top of a tree. The instructor said jump and I very calmly said NO. There were 18 people in my workshop looking at me like I was crazy. There was no other way to get down so I jumped.

    I have found that freedom and joy live on the other side of my fear. The more fear I have the more freedom and joy I experience when I walk through it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Jade Doherty

    OMG! I can so relate to this Christina!

    I did pretty much the same thing (minus the Spanish speaking boyfriend) when I finished Uni and moved to Spain.

    My God, was it awesome/terrible/amazing/stupid! Sometimes I cried myself to sleep, other times I marveled at the fact that I got to live here!

    I bet you’ve had your ups and downs, and have grown more than you ever imagined!

    Thank you for sharing your Argentinian Adventure!

    Jade xxxx

    ps. ¿Ya has aprendido el Español?

  • Kat-Y

    I needed this. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • I completely agree with you on this. The interesting thing as you say is that once you “do it”, your sense of discomfort will begin to wear away.

    It helps to ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” When I ask myself this question I often find that my fears are irrational and overblown. I’m not sure if we’ll ever conquer fear, we may simply have act in spite of our fear.

  • Sara

    You know, I absolutely understand your intention in this article and I agree with what you are saying. I experience these moments too with my intentions on being a therapist in many areas like art, yoga, psychology and chakra healing. To others, it appears ‘unrealistic’ but you know, sometimes the unrealistic things come from within and it will change the world. It’s up to you to take that step and you need to take it, otherwise, you’re going to run around in circles, and one day, someone will take something from you and you will then have a reason to feel disappointed. What I’m trying to say is don’t create disappointment when you still have an opportunity to make it happen.

  • christina

    jaja! estoy aprendiendo español…

    I am glad you shared the same crying self to sleep by night and marveling by day.
    I felt the same exact way and still cry sometimes and look around with wonder.

    I miss my dad, dogs, and friends the most and sometimes its hard not being within driving distance of them but then I look around and think “I did it!”

    Teaching English is the most rewarding job I have ever done, its taxing to do it in Buenos Aires but my students and Argentinean friends are some of the most wonderful and hilarious people I’ve met.

    And yes, my perception of life is ever changing (in a positive way) since being here.

    besitos!

  • christina

    thanks! I am really glad you liked it!

    Things are going smoothly, we’ve been here for 9 months now and still teaching. I have experienced so much since being here and had my ups and downs but it’s been great!

    I get to do a job I feel is worthwhile to me, experience new sights and sounds and appreciate life more, not to mention be able to pay my bills. haha!

    I honestly had no idea what to expect, except that I knew that it’d be different, how different, I wasn’t sure because it’s the first time away from the U.S. But it’s great and now I know what people are talking about when they talk about experiences abroad.

  • Karla McEvoy

    Putting your focus on the positive is a great idea to help keep moving while facing fear. Our minds can scare us out of following our dreams if we let them. I’m going to put these tips into practice next time I’m feeling the fear. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  • Catt

    Thank you so very much for writing this amazing article. I have been paralyzed with fear about moving to Hawaii. Today I asked for a “sign” to show me that moving to Hawaii was indeed the right decision for me…then I came across your article. A “sign” indeed! I’m going to bookmark this page to remind me to feel the fear and do it anyway!

  • christina

    thanks!! I am glad it inspired you, whatever dream you have remember to “just do it!”

    p.s.that’s cool about your best friend’s name 🙂

  • christina

    thank you so much! 🙂 I hope you make that decision that you’ve been wanting too and yes, you will have fear, like I said, I had a ton, I figure it’s a normal response to significant change, but remember to carry yourself through it and tell that little voice that you can do it! (plus the rewarding part will make that fear seem puny in comparison.)

  • christina

    Hey Susan,

    I also took a Ropes course once and had the same exact experience! What a coincidence! I hate drops but I knew I had to just do it even after telling everyone “no, no, no you can’t make me.” but after a few kind words and a “Just do it” yelled at me, I jumped!

    I love what you typed:

    “The more fear I have the more freedom and joy I experience when I walk through it.”

    I will write what you posted on a piece of paper and tape it to my mirror because that is something I need to read when I feel scared facing my next adventure. Thanks! 🙂

  • christina

    Hey Sara,

    I think your intentions on being a therapist in those areas are incredible! (when can I get an appointment!?).

    Rarely are great people conventional and follow the straight and narrow. People reject new ideas because they are scared to even face their dreams, making excuse after excuse for themselves and I am sure seeing you do something you love might make them questions themselves. It’s only natural. I am sure some are inspired by you, they just don’t say it.

    I can be a queen of disappointment and negativity but making the move to Argentina has given me more strength to follow my dreams more than ever now. Thanks for the kind words!

  • christina

    thanks Karla! I had to really concentrate on the positives because I have been somewhat of a negative person my whole life, but like I had said before, somewhere, making the journey here to Argentina gave me a huge boost of confidence in myself!

    I hope you overcome any new fear and even if you don’t and you still go on your next adventure, I know you won’t regret it!

  • christina

    thank you so much Catt, I am glad it can give you a little nudge to move!

    What’s the worst that could happen? You get to spend some time in Hawaii?? Sounds amazing and beautiful to me,

    I say “Just Do It!” Let us know when you buy the plane tickets! 🙂

  • Ericson Ay Mires

    Wow.

    Getting on a plane to a foreign country with no real plan is about as fear conquering as you can get! I definitely don’t think I could do that.

    (Luckily that’s not a particular goal of mind).

    What’s amazing is that you were able to get your body to do what your heart wanted, even though your brain was screaming “this is crazy!” the whole time.

    Next time I feel afraid of pursuing what I really want and think of backing out, I’ll tell myself “if Christina can move to a foreign country not even completely prepared, I think I can do this!”

  • christina

    haha! I will also tell myself that if could get on a plane to Argentina then why not get on a plane to go somewhere else now. The first jump is always the hardest but I think it will get easier with time.

    thanks Ericson! I am glad it inspired you to do something you might be afraid to do.

    Nike said it best: “Just Do It!”

  • Angela Lam Turpin

    This article reminded me of my 19 year old self moving with my husband to a distant city to start a life far from family and friends. After a year of planning, I called him up the night before the move and said, “I’m not going.” He calmly said, “See you in the morning.” It was the best risk of my life to start over with him in a new city, but it was his courage that helped me through the initial move and the tips you described above that carried it through so I would not go back.

  • Merna Schmidt

    Thank you Christina for being brave enough to share your fears. I’ve travelled/volunteered/worked abroad a few times and yes, it’s scary but the rewards have been so worth it! When I feel my heart pounding and butterflies in my stomach, I tell myself I’m excited – same physical reactions as fear but excitement can propel us, whereas fear can paralyze.

    I also find that the more risks I take, the more I’m willing to take. When i start limiting myself and taking the safe roads, I know it’s time to flex those take-a-risk muscles. Keeps the fears lower and expands experiences and opportunities taken or created.

  • Awesome, Christina. I applaud your honesty! It’s definitely not easy to pack all your stuff up and move somewhere – without a set plan. For months now, I’ve been telling myself to do the exact same thing: to risk it all, have fun and book that grand adventure. In October, you should be able to find me somewhere along El Camino de Santiago… as long as I don’t talk myself out of it 🙂

  • christina

    That is incredible! You gotta do it! Like Merna said below the “same physical reactions as fear but excitement can propel us, whereas fear can paralyze.”

    It will be exciting and you will probably be afraid but it will be worth every penny, drop of sweat, blood, and tears! not to mention the glorious views and incredible people and stories they tell when you meet them.

    Keep me posted when you buy your tix! and thanks 🙂

  • christina

    thanks Merna!
    It has given me more courage to step into the unknown too, that is what inspired me to write the article, to prove to people that you’re going to be scared $#%less but you still need to make the plunge because every time you change your course, you will have more and more courage to do it not to mention all the personal growth and sensory experiences.

    I loved how you state “it’s time to flex those take-a-risk muscles.” because I sometimes hole up in my apartment for fear of communication issues being in a Spanish speaking country. With a few months of Spanish class, I’ve gotten out there and have seen more of the city and have made some great friends too.

  • christina

    haha! your husband sounds like my boyfriend. He is always the calm one, never reacting with a cool head.

    He would ask me if I wanted to turn back but I would always say “no, I gotta do this, but don’t expect me to be popping champagne”. He understood how sick to the stomach I was from fear but I think deep down he believed I really wanted to go besides my pale appearance. so it was helpful to have him around.

    sometimes it takes that other person especially the love of your life to be your crutch in rough times. We often say to each other, “Either we experience great things or suffer together, at least we’re not alone.”

  • 🙂 I will! Enjoy yourself, no matter where you find yourself 🙂

  • Sam Lim

    I can totally agree with you, the same feeling I had when I was boarding for the flight and all of my worries swarming around my head. I was so young back then, fresh graduate with just enough money for a month spending. I was just lucky enough to have a job offer abroad while I was in my home country. At first I totally have no idea of what I will experience, countless sleepless nights was indeed tormenting. But I totally agree with you, just doing it (of course with a solid plan beforehand) is totally worth it and I never regret it! We have no time for self doubt and our life is too short for excuses – many of us don’t want to grow old with full of regrets.

  • Freedom and Me

    I love this. I’m currently planning a trip to Italy to visit a friend but I am so nervous and scared that I can’t seem to sit down and buy my ticket.
    After this I’m going get pictures of the places I’m going to visit and post it on my desktop so that I can focus on the best.
    Thank you so much, this was wonderful!
    And congratulations of facing your fears.

  • Joe

    I am doing just this in a few months. Sold nearly everything I own. Resigned a job Ive had for 12 years and am headed to India. Here is to taking a risk. LOTS of sleepless nights and wondering. Your article was just what I needed this afternoon. Thank you!

  • laura

    Love this article. Great job! 🙂 My husband and I are about to do the same. “Just Do It!”