Facing Fear and Finding Courage. Or: How to go Cliff Diving in Croatia
On one of my first days in Croatia, I had joined a group of kayakers to explore the outer walls of Dubrovnik and the island caves of Lockrum.
During the kayak adventure, we stopped at a cove. It was gorgeous, like a big cave with a private beach hidden inside.
The kayak instructor happened to mention that the water – while freezing cold – was deep enough to go cliff diving.
And I was like, “That sounds terrifying…I’m in!”
I jumped in the cold water – momentarily losing my breath – and swam to the cliff.
There were about forty kayakers. Of that forty, four wanted to jump.
Of that four, I was the only woman.
I had hoped to be the first to jump, but one guy made it there ahead of me.
So, I sat on the side and waited for him to jump.
Until I was said, “Damn, son! It’s not like it’s getting any safer. Just do it already.”
Ok, I didn’t actually say that.
What I said was, “It’s ok, dude, take your time.”
Then, I looked down at our instructor (who was waiting with my camera), pointed to my imaginary watch, and rolled my eyes.
Finally, after what felt like days, Sir Waits-A-Lot jumped into the water.
I took over his spot on the cliff and stared out at the horizon, admiring the incredible view. Then, I looked down.
The cliff dropped away to a bed of water that appeared shockingly far away.
Worse, it was so clear that I could actually see the rocks at the bottom.
Sharp, massive rocks.
Rocks could most definitely kill you.
My stomach clenched with fear.
Quickly, the fear rose from my stomach to my chest, icing over my panicked heart. It rose rapidly, reaching for my shoulders and neck.
I thought to myself, “If I let this fear rise to my brain – to the logical part of myself – I am going to be worse than Sir Waits-A-Lot because I will never jump. I will be here forever. If I want to do this, I need to do it now.”
‘If I want to do this, I need to do it now.’
Is that a motto for life or what?
So, I jumped.
Spoiler alert: I don’t make it and am currently dead.
Now, a smart person jumps once and leaves it at that.
Only an idiot tempts fate a second time.
Of those two options, which one do you think I am?
So, I climbed the cliff for a second time.
But this time, I stood on the edge and waited.
I did not jump before the fear.
I waited for it.
I did not have to wait long.
Fear swooped down upon me.
My pulse hammered in my veins and my heart pounded in my ears.
I stared at my fingertips as the flesh quivered and trembled. And in that moment, something occurred to me.
The mind is an amazing thing.
Because here I am, standing on solid ground (ok, a cliff) and completely safe (I mean, I haven’t jumped yet), and yet my mind is already racing.
Its shooting off fear messages and making my body pulse and hum with adrenaline.
Physically, I am safe.
So, why is my brain freaking out?
Because it’s trying to warn me. It’s trying to keep me safe.
And our brains do this whenever we try to do something scary. Whether that’s jumping off a cliff or getting into a relationship after your last one crashed and burned or starting a new job that you’re secretly not entirely sure that you are qualified for.
Our minds make us feel fear to protect us.
But like Jekyll and Hyde, your brain is also the one that whispers, “You can do this.”
I – for one – am far more interested in finding my strength than in feeding my fear.
So, I jumped for the second time.
I jumped, even with the fear.
What are you afraid of? What do you want to improve? Who do you want to be?
And which wolf will you feed?