Fear. I see it affect my students in their lessons and I, their coach, am certainly not immune. Mine may be of different things or generated in a different way, but it is fear just the same. One such fear, while ridiculous, has not affected my life in any significant way, while another has changed the course of my equestrian career.
In Part 1 Ever Heard of the Amygdala? I wrote about rational versus irrational fear – and the sorry situation that whether rational or irrational, it is largely out of our control. Some fears are always there, lurking in the dark basement of our minds, only to leap out at the most inopportune times. Personally, one of my irrational fears lies dormant for long periods of time. It doesn’t get me day to day, but waits for me quietly at amusement parks or maybe a state fair. No, it’s not clowns. Although creepy, they don’t scare me to the point of sweating and hyperventilating in their presence.
What am I scared of?
There I said it. I don’t usually like to admit it, because it’s embarrassing. How can an amusement park ride, gentle enough for pregnant women and the elderly, strike fear in the heart of a healthy, adult woman? It is a question I have asked myself for years. No amount of statistics or logic will help this fear though, because it is based largely in the helplessness we feel when faced with situations beyond our control. And because Ferris wheels move slowly, there’s time to imagine every worst-case scenario. I can clearly picture the dude who was supposed to tighten the bolts, downing Jagermeister shots with his buddies at a bachelor party the night before. He stumbles in to work, hung over, and thinks, “Screw it, I’m going for a nap behind the Tilt O’Whirl.” A bolt falls out of the car I, of course, am in, causing it to violently pitch to the side. I’m thrown out of the car, but manage to grab the frame and cling to it for as long as I can. Ultimately, because I haven’t been able to do a pull-up since the age of 6, my fingers slip and I plunge to my death.
But that’s me. Other people will rock and sway the car because, to them, the ride is too slow and not exhilarating enough. They enjoy that sensation of adrenaline pumping through their veins and actually seek it out. *A sidenote to those types (who are probably eventers), if we are ever on a Ferris wheel together and you rock the car, you’ll be losing a tooth.
Irrational Fear # 2
This fear does affect me day to day and has changed the course of my equestrian career. I have a fear of showing, or more specifically, it’s the fear of being watched, also known as stage fright or performance anxiety. It’s not at all rational, but not any less powerful. For example, the scariest thing I can ever imagine doing is standup comedy. It may not be on the same level as feeling sharp teeth brush my leg while swimming in the ocean, but even so, the thought of doing standup comedy can push me pretty close to wetting my pants. I’m not sure there’s enough Valium in the world to get me up on that stage. I think that’s why I’m so intrigued by comedians. I want Amy Poehler to be my best friend. I imagine us having brunch together. She’ll wear a red dress and pin a flower in her hair. She’ll order pancakes. And maybe a glass of chardonnay…
But I digress.
This fear of showing is also not rational, but not any less powerful. Psychologists say performance anxiety is closely tied to the fear of failure and because of this fear, I have not competed very much. Can you imagine announcing, “Attention, all spectators must go sit in their cars for 10 minutes. That includes you, judge. Now show me some hustle.” I’m pretty sure that would be frowned upon. So, as a result, I haven’t shown much and subsequently haven’t had the equestrian career that I imagined when I was a kid.
So I’d like to know, does anyone else have any equestrian or non-equestrian irrational fears? (If you’re too scared to comment publicly, then I’d love an email.)
In Part 3 we’ll be getting tips and advice from experts to help us all overcome those irrational fears that truly hold us back.
P.S. Check out Amy’s fabulous organization Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. It’s “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.” As if I needed a reason to love her more.