“You cannot erase your fears, you can only manage them.” A rock climbing guide taught me this over the weekend and it stuck to the bone. No, you cannot ignore or forget fears to make them go away. You cannot erase the past. But you can build a better understanding of your fears and learn to manage them. If you truly appreciate all the reasons why you fear in the first place, you can start to dissect each reason and face them individually. By managing each aspect of your fear at a time and taking everything step by step, you can slowly build confidence toward a greater whole. Before long, you can trust yourself to unravel complex fears and deal with the sum of their parts.
As I child, I feared heights. I was well aware of this fear and jealous of my friends who were not afraid. I made a goal at age 11 to climb a full gym wall in front of everyone; I never did. Over the years, my understanding of physics and my faith in probability allowed me to enjoy theme park and hot air balloon rides (I remind myself that millions of people have ridden before and never suffered the fate of heights). But I never scaled to more than 20 feet on my own before this weekend. In Joshua Tree, I finally managed my fear and had a blast climbing a 5.7 grade rock face (I believe it was nearly 80 feet tall). If you have never climbed before, do it.