Losing my balance. Falling. Looking ridiculous. Being scared. Bathing suit. Falling. The unknown. Questionable Lake Erie water. Being bad at it. Falling. Looking weak. Failing. Chickening out. Did I mention falling??
This is the list of fears I said aloud to myself as I drove to my first paddle boarding lesson with ginny Walters of the She Collective this past weekend. I wanted to experience my own fear first hand of this new adventure before our upcoming collaborative event on August 27th. Because honestly, I have never been paddle boarding. I have attempted surfing (attempted being the key word here). So nothing like the feeling of being a beginner again.
I felt this surge of excitement, fear and caffeine gather up in my gut as I pulled into her dreamy lakeside home. The first place I feel fear is in my body. It is the easiest indicator that fear is creeping and trying to take control. On this particular day, I felt it first in my gut. I noticed a dull ache in my belly that began to permeate up into my throat and settle into my jaw that ended up clenching tight. I immediately become aware of my physical reaction and relax into my breath.
ginny knows this is my first time on the board and she also knows I’m a bit leery. And the reason she knows all of this is because she is an experienced stand up paddle board (SUP) and yoga teacher, but also because I told her. I figured if we are going to be doing this, let’s just put it out there, right? As ginny began her instruction of safety and the basics of paddle boarding, I felt a little bit more steady and began to loosen up a little.
Then we got on the board.
I stepped on the wobbly dock to kneel on the board and that fear jump right down my throat again and sent an “oh, sh*t” signal to my brain. It was a lot less smooth than I anticipated. But c’mon Katie? What did you think this was going to be like? TBH, I had somehow convinced myself that this wouldn't be so bad and I had visions of me gliding effortlessly across the lake. As I tried to gain balance on the board, I became acutely aware that my muscles were tightening out of this fear reaction and that I just needed to breath and focus.
I started to pay attention to the fear story running rampant in my head and took a moment and breathed, and chose to press onward. It was just for fun after all! As we began to paddle, my body adjusted to balancing on my knees on the board. When ginny suggested I stand, I did it but wobbly and honestly, a lot more shaky than I anticipated. I felt my knees quiver, my leg muscles tighten and my gaze focused. This was a lot harder than I thought! What was more surprising was I realized I had also had a lot more fear than I anticipated. Real talk: I started to judge myself for being this shaky.
The thoughts that started to infiltrate my head weren't gentle or kind. They sounded more like an obnoxious high school bully trying to humiliate the "uncool" kid in the cafeteria. I heard exclamations to the tune of "seriously, you're freaking out?" and "Of course you would fail at this, time to give up" and don't forget "who do you think you are?".
Yea, pretty nasty huh?
Now mind you, this whole epic dialogue in my head has been going on for a total of maybe five minutes. By this time we were nearing the opening where the boats head out to the lake. The water was a little choppy but in my head, fear made it out to feel like I was on the Poseidon Adventure. ginny was so gentle, calm and encouraging this entire time as I awkwardly tried to navigate this board all while continuing to talk and focus on not falling. She gave me options so I decided to kneel and paddle the rest of the way.
Once we got to the lagoon, the water was still so I was able to sit and relax a little. ginny and I started talking about fear and I shared with her how I don’t subscribe to the notion that we need to be fearless. I believe that as humans living a human experience, fear is natural and therefore we need to except it as a part of our journey. However, we don’t need to accept it or allow it to control our lives.
And to be clear, there are definitely different kinds of fear. The fear I am referring to is what some people refer to as the ego or inner critic in our heads that sounds like shame, guilt, perfectionism, doubt, etc. When you feel fear creep up, your natural instinct may vary from feeling paralyzed to wanting to hide or flee. Fear can be a jerk but when you run or hide from it, it gains more power. When you pause to see it for what it is and then activate your courage, it opens you up to reigniting your power allowing you to free yourself from fear's grips. We don't have to eat up everything fear serves us.
ginny suggested we try some yoga poses on the boards and before I even thought about talking myself out of it, I just tried it. It felt sooo good to be able to go into child's pose and do a few rounds of cat-cows. I realized how much fear had settled into my muscles and it felt healing to breath and move it out. And to my surprise, I could do it without falling! But then I thought about that fear of falling-what was that?! So I fall (which I didn’t btw) I would just get back up right? I wouldn't drown or hurt myself. It wouldn’t mean I failed or look like a ridiculous person. When we fall in life, most of the time the only person that really feels it the most is ourselves. And fear does a great job at making it a bigger deal than it is.
I allowed myself to feel my fear on that lagoon and close my eyes and hear the waves, feel the warm water graze my legs and breathe deeply. I felt far more free on the paddle board and even stood up a bit as we made our way back to the dock.
This experience reminded me that each of us is powerful beyond measure; but fear has a sneaky way of trying to convince us otherwise. This experience was something I always wanted to do but felt was way out of my comfort zone. Why? Because fear crafted a story to tell me that I wouldn't be able to do it. But I did do it and I stepped more directly into my own power by facing, feeling and freeing my fear.
We all have fear. And we are all trying to navigate our way through it on the daily as it creeps up in different disguises. Two sure fire ways to lessen fears power? Conversation + connection. I'll be diving into fear and how we can free ourselves from it more at our Paddle + Yoga event on Sunday, August 27th with ginny Walters of She Collective. We only have a few spots left so if you are craving to try something new or face your fears in a safe, non-judgmental container of support to face, feel and free your fear, snag your spot using the button below.