For about two decades of my life I was terrified of heights. I could look over the side of tall buildings, walk down high steps and ride sky scraping roller coasters without stress or anxiety but any time I was asked about phobias, I habitually responded “oh yea I’m afraid of heights”.
This fear was never broken because it never seemed to be a problem. It never impeded me. It was just something I said. My fear was heights. I knew why I was afraid of wasps (randomly chased into the house by an angry red flying bug as a child). That fear had grounds, an event that had caused the avoidance. Heights, for me, did not.
My dad had been afraid of heights for as long as I could remember. I’m not sure if his fears were groundless but mine were. I had always been a daddy’s girl, desperate to distinguish myself against my younger sister- she could be a Mommas girl but Dad was mine. This might be why I took on his fears as my own.
When a belief takes root in the mind, something concrete and factual, it is only as immovable as the mind allows it to be. I was afraid of heights because I had convinced myself I was afraid of heights. I had repeated this to myself and to others for years. This was a fact in my mind so why would anyone else think differently. This story, although seemingly a small falsehood in the grand scheme of things, was still branding and building me into the person who was afraid of heights. What if I had continued to believe this? What did it keep me from doing while I believed it?
One time I tried a climbing wall as a child. I was to race my cousin to the top. Although he had climbed trees his whole life and I had not (afraid of heights, remember?) I thought myself capable of anything he could do. At this point in my life I had zero and a half upper body strength and had never even touched a rock wall. Needless to say the race was over before it started. I was stuck a few feet off the ground, unable to pull myself higher. My immediate response was oh it was too high. I’m afraid of heights. My fear that wasn’t my own became my excuse for being an inexperienced climber. Why would I keep trying to be a good climber if being afraid of heights was an acceptable way around the effort? This was a model of how I shaped my life. I let my excuses and shortcomings keep me on the path of least resistance.
I don’t live like this now. I actually adore rock climbing and hiking. These are things that I would have gladly never done with my previous mindset. Nothing was making me look bad or lazy or any less than the person I wanted to be at the time. Having low standards means a more reachable goal.
It’s incredible how much your mindset and your beliefs regarding your own self can shape your life, your ambitions and your interests. Everyone has met someone whose mind is impossible to change despite the arguement or the facts presented. Think of their mind as a bed of concrete, things haphazardly becoming firm and stuck in place. Self awareness is how we evolve, how we adapt and become closer to our true selves. Concrete brains have a plain of peace in this respect because they don’t question things once they fall into place in their minds. There is no internal conflict because there are no questions being asked. When you ask those hard questions and the cracks in the foundation start to show it can be scary. Realizing you built a life for who you were before is scary. However you truly discover who you are at the end of your comfort zone.
Everything changes. We, as a universe existing within a universe, have an opportunity to evolve our perceptions and to shape ourselves. Keep your mind as fluid as the world around you. The things we repeat become our mantras, consciously or otherwise, and build the person we are around these rooted beliefs. The words we say to ourselves day in and day out have tangible effects on how we see the world around us and how we react to it. So why not make it an intentional practice? If you can choose the materials to build your own view then why leave it with a cracked foundation?