I’m 29 years old, but when I was in high school, I was really scared of everything. I was scared of letting my crush know how I felt, I was scared of not being good at essay writing, I was scared of people not liking me.
Now that I’m older, I’ve conquered fear. I’m no longer scared. I no longer feel the way I used to. I am a rock. I am an island. All my worries: gone, vanished, never to be seen again. Except…they’re not. Inside, I am still the scared little boy who, once upon a time, didn’t have the courage to admit his favourite band was ABBA. The amazing thing, however, is that when you allow yourself to do the things you are most afraid of doing, you become the person you were born to be.
I’m from Melbourne, but 4 years ago I moved to New Zealand because I fell in love with someone. I was really scared since it was my first relationship and I was moving to a country where I didn’t know anybody. But I’m so grateful I moved here anyway, and not just because of how great Lewis Road Creamery chocolate milk is. I’m grateful I moved here, because it was absolutely the right thing to do. To stare all my fears in the face and do what I knew I wanted to and needed to in my heart of hearts, even though it probably didn’t make any sense to anybody else.
The relationship didn’t work out, but I’m so grateful I gave it a chance to. As much as failure sucks, you learn so much more from it than you do from success. There are countless other times when I didn’t have the courage to do what I was afraid of doing. For example, when I was in high school, I didn’t have the courage to let people I liked know how I felt. By never risking rejection, I never experienced success. Be gentle with yourself when you try to do what you’re scared of, but chicken out. Take heart from the fact you tried your best and try again.
So what would YOU do if you weren’t afraid? Would you sign up to extra curricular activities? Would you decide not to go to university like all your friends? Would you leave Twizel for Takapuna? Would you be the first to tell someone that you love them? Would you give your dad a hug on his birthday instead of a handshake? Would you say sorry to a friend you didn’t mean to hurt? Would you ask your parents to get you ABBA’s greatest hits as a birthday present?
Take out a piece of paper and at the top of the piece of paper write the heading ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’ Whenever I’m unsure of what to do in my life (and even when I am), I ask myself this question. Write out all the things you can think of. There is no wrong answer and nothing is off limits! Personal life, family life, love life, work life, NCEA life, school/university life. Once you’ve got a few things on your list, pick one. And then do it. Even if you fall flat on your face, if you act on what you’re afraid of, you cannot lose. You can only succeed. The confidence and joy you will gain is unlike anything you will have ever experienced before. Except maybe Lewis Road Creamery chocolate milk.
Then pick another thing off the list. And another. And before you know it, you’ll have done all these things you thought were too scary to do. Staring your fears in the face and choosing to forge ahead anyway is just a fancy way of saying ‘love yourself’. Like knowing all the words to ‘Dancing Queen’, loving yourself is not very trendy in high school. Especially since you’re still working out who ‘yourself’ is. But why wait?
Once you start, you will never want to stop. The world will open up to you in ways you never imagined, allowing you to become the person you always hoped you would become.
Before you can be who you want to be when you grow up, you need to be a person who asks themselves ‘what would I do if I wasn’t afraid’ and then does those things.
If you can get good at doing things you’re scared of as a teenager, being an adult will be the most exciting, wonderful ride of your life. It has been for me. The coolest, most successful people in New Zealand and around the world are all scared on the inside. The reason your heroes and the favourite people in your life became who they are is because, despite being afraid, they did what they wanted to do anyway. So take a deep breath, love yourself and be afraid, be very afraid.