How to face your fears

It's not always easy finding the courage to stare into the eyes of what scares you the most. We talked to Bruce Kirkby and learned the most effective ways to face your fears.

By Nicole Pulsinelli

How to face your fears
Photography by ©iStock.com/hadynyah
Fear is something everybody experiences. It manifests itself in different ways and for different reasons, but we all have our own way of dealing or, more commonly, avoiding it. 

Even Canadian adventurer, photographer and author Bruce Kirkby is scared of something: heights. Luckily for Kirkby, his fear of heights hasn't stopped him from enjoying life. While soaring altitudes may not be Kirkby's favourite thing, he has climbed the Rocky Mountains and Mount Everest.

Kirkby believes it's important to get comfortable with what scares you. "When people aren't acquainted with interacting with fear and discomfort, they turn away from things I know they could do, hands down," he says.

"Fear is a compass and a natural reflex to keep us safe," Kirkby explains. "But the whole point of fear is not to turn around and go the other way because partway down that vector is what I call 'the Stretch.'" The Stretch occurs when you start to push past your fear. Fear is turned into experience and then into routine. He likens it to taking the subway for the first time. It can be daunting at first, but once it's been done the fear is replaced with normalcy. "Fear is pointing towards a stretch zone not just a danger zone," he says.

Challenging your comfort zone
Get our of your comfort zone by getting out of your routine. A great starting point to getting over your fear is becoming more adventurous. "In five to 10 years you'll never remember sending that email or getting that specialty coffee, but you will remember doing something that gave you pause or felt impossible," Kirkby says.

Most people don't live near a mountain to scale or a desert to cross by camelback, so Kirkby recommends having small adventures. "I'm a big fan of trying to do one thing differently every day." He suggests taking a different route to work, tasting a new cuisine, trying a new sport or writing that book you've been putting off.

The radius of your comfort bubble isn't always easily defined, but Kirkby believes you may go outside our comfort zone more often than you realize -- your first kiss, first time giving birth or even travelling.

Be in control

"I believe people hold themselves back because there is an unhealthy addiction to stability in our society," he says. You might fear events before you can control them because "your imagination is so strong, you see fear from the distance and convince yourself to turn around and go back." Kirkby says, while he is on an adventure there's no way for him to envisage if he's going to get sick or even bit by a camel, but that's not a reason to not pursue it.

Being in control is not taking a blind leap of faith, it means trusting your own judgment. For example, if you're scared of heights, go climbing. Even if you haven't completed the climb, your judgment will tell you when to stop. Kirkby says by the time you're back down you will have felt better about making the attempt than sitting the entire adventure out.  Next time you want to brave the climb, it will be more familiar than frightening. You are now officially in Kirkby's Stretch.


Now that you've learned to summon up your courage, why not plan on trying something adventurous? We suggest kayaking in Ontario's Pinery Provincial Park. You'll have a blast!




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