I lead a monthly book and wine club within my apartment complex and for the month of October, we selected My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock. It’s a memoir in reflection of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “DO ONE THING EVERYDAY THAT SCARES YOU.” Noelle was nearing the age of 30 in NYC and loss her celebrity gossip job which aided into the idea of facing one fear a day for 365 days, no matter how big or how small.
The book was meant to be empowering for women and the author does a good job staying on track with the impact Eleanor Roosevelt had on her. It’s an entertaining read as she wrings in humor to her challenges however, at some points, it honestly just sounded like whining and complaining from a spoiled insecure individual. At those times, it wasn’t encouraging at all and displayed an overpowering sense of weakness instead. But, putting aside my little annoyances, who am I to judge what a person actually goes through when trying to face their fears? Plus, the book is a testimony of how far she’s truly gone with some of her daring activities, of which many of us have yet to do ourselves.
With that being said, it wasn’t her bold new experiences that moved me, it was what she had mentally gained in the process that spoke to me most. Majority of what she learned came from talks with her therapist, Dr. Bob; who is the contributor to majority of the italicized quotes I’ve included throughout this blog post. It was almost as if I was getting my own therapy session while reading their conversations.
“Your body can’t tell the difference between fear and excitement. It reacts the same way to both – racing heartbeat, butterflies, perspiration. It’s your mind that decides whether the situation is something to be nervous or excited about. What you need to do is turn fear into excitement.” (85) “Change your perspective of the situation. Change the narrative of your thoughts. Instead of thinking ‘I’m so scared!’ tell yourself, ‘I’m so excited!’”
“… the idea of breath as an antidote to fear … fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing into it fully.” (129) “Holding your breath when you’re scared is a way or closing yourself off from fear, trying to reject it. But as we all know, ignoring fear never works. Instead, inhale and invite the fear in eagerly. When you breathe deeply, your anxiety levels lower and feelings of excitement take over.”
Sometimes I can’t fathom how certain things are scary to other people or why people think in such specific ways. But I always end up reminding myself that not everyone is going to be like me. They’re allowed to be more cautious or more thrill-seeking. I am neither right nor wrong in my ways, just simply in a different state of mind. It’s a mentality that places people on various walks of life based on what’s been built over the years of distinct experiences that required a wide range of willingness.
Well, according to Noelle, willingness and sometimes luck; like traveling for instance: riding in a plane, backpacking alone, navigating train systems, getting lost in a new city, etc. It makes sense that these things are scary, I mean, anything could happen. But freaking out about it won’t make it happen less or happen more – what happens will happen. So, yes, with the notion of ‘if there is a will, there is a way’, there’s also the matter of just being in the right place at the right time; luck. Things you can control versus things out of your control.
No, I’m not saying I am the most confident or the bravest in my own head, but I do know that I’ve been exceptionally active in trying new things lately; which in fact makes this just-do-it train ride go on a lot smoother. When it comes to trying new things or doing something over again, there’s always the, what if this or what if that? Well, what if? Just do it. Control versus not your control. Overcoming doubts by following through with the actions and accomplishing the goals (or even failing!) definitely raises your readiness to jump in to future opportunities.
“A great deal of fear is a result of just ‘not knowing’. We do not know what is involved in a new situation. We do not know whether we can deal with it. The sooner we learn what it entails, the sooner we can dissolve our fear.” (225)
“… if you allow yourself to fully experience the fear, eventually you’ll learn how to face it without being overwhelmed by it.” (11)
Forget the fear, worry about the addiction.
On another note, I ran across Michelle Poler’s 100 Days Without Fear. She’s someone else who decided to challenge herself by facing one fear a day for 100 days. She video blogs about it and actually rates how she feels before, during, and after the experience.
Yes, it’s true; I do relate to the anxious Noelle Hancock and nervous Michelle Poler in the way that they second guess themselves. I wouldn’t proclaim myself as the most fearless person out there. Everyone possesses some level of apprehension – just depends on what triggers it and how in-depth it controls us. All in all though, we should try our best to not let fear stop us and override potentially valuable experiences. To piggyback off of that, what I related to most wasn’t necessarily the fears that these ladies had, it was more on how they overanalyzed. Here are some of Dr. Bob’s consultations on worrying that I definitely took note on:
“… most of our worry is unproductive worry. We worry about past mistakes, obsess about what other people think of us, create terrifying future scenarios out of nothing. Our mind chatters away even when we wish to sleep or relax or simply do nothing.” (136)
“… When I was worried about something, I became overly attached to that thought and treated the worry as something I must pay attention to until the problem was solved. Mindfulness would apparently train my mind not to react to these everyday stresses but to let them go.” (162) “During mindfulness practice, whenever thoughts came into my consciousness, I was to simply acknowledge the thought but not react or attach emotions to it … If a worry arose, instead of following the narrative of that worry by trying to solve it or predict how it will affect my future, I’d simply notice the thought but not dwell on it. Mindfulness meditation teaches us to distance ourselves from our worries and stop engaging with them.”
“Mindfulness is a technique where you concentrate on the immediate present experience, without judging or trying to control what is going on. To be fully aware.” (150) “Not only that, mindfulness will help you stay in the present, where fear does not exist. Fear exists in the past, like worrying about the dumb thing you said to your boss yesterday, or in the future, as in fretting over whether your plane will crash.”
If you could be anywhere in the world at this moment, where would you be? In the moment.
Alright, so this wasn’t meant to be some sort of book review, but I couldn’t help wanting to spill out my thoughts in writing. This post is not really about me or the book, but about recognizing your own fears: both physical and mental. They aren’t always going to be grandiose leaps (like moving to a new city alone) and may take more than a couple tries to really conquer (like petting a dog multiple times). Regardless, it’s not about success or failure in overcoming fear, it’s the awareness and attempt that matter.
Oh, and one last thing that Noelle said she learned from Eleanor:
Courage is a muscle; it needs to be exercised often or it’ll weaken.