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Looking Fear In the Face

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Looking Fear In the Face

In a post about a year and a half ago called “Awareness,” I talked about my experience skydiving, and in it I wrote: After the training, we went up in the plane. I tell you, I have never known fear like the fear I felt when that plane door opened and it was my time to climb out of the plane and onto the wing. I mean, seriously. How was I not just going to get sucked out into the ether? But that is a story for another day.  

 Well, today is that day.

That day was that we were doing a “static jump,” which meant when we jumped the parachute would automatically open, and the jump happens at 3,000 feet. I was already pretty scared by the time we got into the plane, and it was a tiny little airplane—the kind, it occurred to me as we were taking off, that always crash. At 20 years old I was blessed to have not previously known genuine terror, but when they opened the plane doors when we hit 3,000 feet and asked me to climb out of the plane and hold on to the wing I understood what that kind of fear feels like. I mean, climb OUT OF THE PLANE? HOLD ON TO THE WING? How does one even get a grip on the wing? How does one not get blown backward as soon as one attempts to climb out of the plane? Why did anyone think this would be a good idea???? I felt absolutely paralyzed. I felt like I might throw up. I felt like I needed to say “that’s okay, thanks anyway, I think I’ll just watch you guys do it.” I felt like a fool.  I felt sweaty and freezing cold all at the same time. I was completely and utterly terrified.

But.

I did it. I climbed out of that plane and didn’t get sucked away. I held onto the wing, and I managed to find a grip. I jumped. And I experienced a serene and beautiful moment in the air (until I landed, which was the story for that other day).

After it was over, I was exhilarated, elated, and ready to do it again.

It’s on my mind because I had a similar experience last week. I had the great priviledge of speaking at a conference—kicking the entire conference off, as it happens—in front of a crowd of nearly 2,000 participants.  (Some of you reading this were in that audience!). In the weeks leading up to that opportunity, I felt that same kind of fear grip hold of me—it woke me up in the middle of the night. It gnawed at my confidence, assuring me that I would fail. It filled me with butterflies. It consumed my thoughts. On the morning of the conference I felt sweaty and freezing cold all at the same time. I couldn’t eat a thing.

But.

I did it. I walked up on that stage, and I didn’t fall down. And it was So. Much. Fun.   The audience was kind and energetic. I relaxed immediately, remembering that this was my element, that I could do this… that I do do this.

After it was over I felt exhilarated, elated, and ready to do it again.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?  Things that fill us with such terror really aren’t that scary in the end. Sometimes what is scary is just the unknown, and the only way to make the unknown known is to look our fear in the face and do it anyway.

What fear can you look in the face?   

Erika-Brand

Interested in having Erika’s blog come directly to your e-mail each Tuesday? Have comments to share?  E-mail her at erika@tlpnyc.com.

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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.