What are you so scared of?!

Hey SMASH London crew... Sam here! 

This week I saved a poor defenceless spider from the screams of one of the gym members. It’s something I've been called up for at home too if there are any around! I simply let it crawl onto my hand and calmly escort it out into the garden/carpark/windowsill. I’d go as far to say I feel a little sorry for the poor spiders having to be screamed at and thrown into the cold, but this wasn’t always the case. 

I had such a fear of the eight-legged creepies when I was younger and actually still hated them up to a few years ago! I remember one particular week back in my old house in Manchester where it seemed like every night I was visited by the same massive spider. Each night I would either try to hoover it, throw things at it from afar or try to freeze it with my body spray. Cruel, I know. There was one time I got home from school and a tiny spider was dangling from its web just at the top of the stairs… meaning I wasn’t able to access my bedroom or the bathroom “just in case” – just in case what?! What would that tiny little thing do to me? 

I can’t put my finger on when I stopped being scared of spiders. Working in a lab for 7 years testing samples that sometimes arrived with maggots inside, and store rooms that were mainly held together with spider webs probably desensitised me to the yuck factor, but I still would avoid contact where possible. I feel that by travelling to countries with insects and animals that actually bite and can cause harm really counteracted that fear factor.

When I arrived in Nepal at the beginning of my travels in 2014 I used insect repellent every minute of the day, having sleepless nights worrying about mosquitoes and other bugs but after a week or so I'd relaxed into being much more casual with the thousand-percent deet and more at peace with sleeping with the animals! Volunteering in India, I encountered snakes, scorpions and pretty nasty biting ants on a daily basis - staying in such an environment with a herpetologist the "snake man of India" gave me a new appreciation for all sorts of animals and I think totally knocked out the previous fear I had of the common household spider. I think coming face to face with creepies that could actually cause harm made my subconscious pull itself together. 

Of course some fears come from more rational beginnings. After overcoming my fear of living life without alcohol 10 years ago, I realised that the confidence I felt under the influence would have to be recreated in sobriety - so dancing like a lunatic and singing (badly) to my favourite tunes has had to come more and more naturally. After being so shy and unsure of myself for so long I developed a new strategy and life rule to keep pushing my boundaries and challenging my fears. 

One of the biggest fears stemming from my shyness was public speaking - in any situation, be it a meeting, a training session or during work open days, I would get super duper nervous speaking out loud, often meaning that my views were never taken into account, my input was not noticed or my knowledge undervalued. Step by step I started putting more effort into being heard... making a point of adding a constructive comment or observation if I had something to say; I put myself forward to take presentations at work when the opportunities arose and volunteered to join the training team at the Swindon Samaritans. My confidence grew and grew, and soon enough I thrived on presenting during open days and my confidence in meetings ensured that not only were my views heard, but I was able to influence the outcome of key decisions made. Of course now I am "presenting" on a daily basis and just LOVE it! 

My ex was a big believer of job security - planning for the future and settling into a comfortable, secure routine. This is fine for some people but, with all the new energy and confidence that I'd gained, I knew that home comforts would not help me challenge myself. Many people told me I was crazy for quitting a secure job, packing my life into boxes and leaving everything and everyone I knew for a year; but at the same time many people were in awe... "I wish I could do the same" is something I heard from so many people - but wishes can be realities if you let them.

Just like my old fear of spiders though, fears manifest themselves in different ways. After an incident in primary school, where I built a raft and fell straight into the lake, I developed a fear of open water. Along the way I also developed a fear of heights, not even being able to go up ladders – ruining one of my favourite childhood games of climbing up a ladder into an upstairs bedroom and running downstairs again! At a point in my life I developed these fears – the same with spiders and public speaking. I wasn’t born with them and so it’s a choice that my subconscious has decided to hold onto.

These days I’m trying to quash these fears… In Bali, I found that despite the initial uneasiness of being on a small boat, that snorkelling was one of the best things I did on my travels… I still get a little vertigo up high, and I didn’t do very well when I tried abseiling, but I managed to do a skydive a few years ago, and can now successfully get in and out of the loft without turning into a jibbering wreck. Doing the Tough Mudder a few years ago combined both fears of water and heights in one particular obstacle making me have to jump from a 10ft platform into a cold pool of water… I didn't like it at the time, but I got through it. Maybe the fear of not trying outweighs the obstacles in our way! 

I came back from travelling 4 years ago now; have totally changed my career, build a successful personal training business and co-founded SMASH London!. The unknown of how things will work out scares me a little, but it excites me more because I have confidence in myself and in SMASH and I know... whatever you put your mind to; as long as you push past that comfort zone, you can achieve anything.

So tell me something... What are you so scared of?! Let's do this! Have a great weekend.