Last week, I decided to challenge myself and face my three biggest fears in only three days. We’ve all heard the “face your fears” mantra, which ultimately stems from the fact that fears can be harmful. They can subvert our growth and leave us feeling frustrated and defeated. In my case, I’m sick of running away from situations out of fear, which is why I decided it was time to face my three biggest fears.
Day 1: Raising my hand in a massive lecture hall
Public speaking is definitely my greatest fear, which is why I knew it would be one of the first — and most dreaded — fears I’d have to face if I were to pursue this challenge.
Because of the online nature of most of my classes this year, I actually only have one class in a lecture hall. Ever since the start of the semester, I’ve been meaning to raise my hand and contribute during this sociology lecture. Yet, in every single class, when the time came, I chose to reside in the corner seat at the very back of the lecture hall. I found it easier to silently hide behind my computer screen and protect myself from the potential embarrassment of revealing my anxiety through my shaky voice or trembling hands.
However, on this day, I chose to sit in the fourth row, and I was determined to respond to a question. In fact, I was so determined that I raised my hand to the first question my professor asked, without even giving myself the time to come up with an answer.
It was too late to back down now, though, since she was asking for my name. “Salma,” I reluctantly replied. I then sat staring at her with a bewildered expression plastered across my face before she repeated the question to me. With my racing thoughts and shaky hands, I tried to answer the question as best as I could. I won’t say that I answered it perfectly, but it wasn’t a total disaster — and I actually managed to get a point across! I left that class feeling incredibly joyful and proud of myself.
Day 2: Fear of rejection
I’ve always been afraid of being told “no.” I’ll avoid asking someone something at all costs if I think there’s a chance I’ll be rejected, and this can prevent me from seeking the things I want.
On this day, I was at the mall with a friend and decided to open up about this fear. My friend brilliantly suggested that I approach one of the workers at the mall and ask for something ridiculous that I know they do not sell. Although I shunned this suggestion at first, I then remembered my challenge and decided to enter a fine jewelry store to ask the vendor if they were selling anything less than $10. The vendor was taken aback, and with a subtle smirk and a bemused expression, he suggested that I “go upstairs” to the clothes section and look for something in my budget over there.
Was this embarrassing? Yes, it was — especially after I caught him excitedly running over to his co-workers with a wide-toothed grin. But after leaving the store, I actually forgot that it had even happened for the rest of the evening.
Day 3: Make conversation with a stranger
While I have no problem with speaking to strangers, my issue is approaching them myself. On the bus the other day, I was sitting next to another student (who appeared older than me), and I forced myself to strike up a conversation.
It started off being about her hoodie, but we ended up chatting about classes, dead week and advice for finals. Overall, I ended up learning something from my conversation with her, and I was thankful that I had decided to tackle this fear on that day.
In the end, I successfully survived these three days of facing my fears, even if it wasn’t exactly pleasant at times. I wish I didn’t have these fears because they make me feel like there are things that are impossible. This is extremely dangerous because feeling like something is impossible inhibits your dreams and aspirations. I end up letting go of a lot of aspirations because they scare me too much. If it weren’t for this blog post, I would have ended the semester without ever raising my hand in that sociology class. And honestly, I would’ve been disappointed in myself because I’d have let my fears get in the way of doing something I wanted to do.
This challenge isn’t over after three days. I will continue to take small risks on a daily basis, in hopes that one day I will no longer have to run away from my fears. I encourage you to join me. For the next week or so, try doing something that scares you every day.
Contact Salma Sarkis at [email protected].