Teaching Fearlessness

By Kristin Steinmetz

I was washing dishes and I looked out the window to see two of our little groundhogs feasting on clover in the backyard.  We've come to love George (we inexplicably call all the groundhogs "George") and seeing the babies come out every spring.  This particular day, I made some noise by the window and saw the baby run for the safety of the bushes. I immediately remembered that the same little one came right up to the patio and didn't budge when I opened the door a few weeks ago.  I quickly realized that the babies had no fear naturally.  They have to be taught to fear and how to react to situations from their parents.

The same is true for humans. You can repeat the old adage, "Do as I say, not as I do" as much as you'd like, but children learn by example.  I know my girls are watching me - when we're running errands around town, when I'm working out, when I'm interacting with other people.  So what are we inadvertently teaching them on a daily basis?

We ran our 4th Rugged Maniac mud run this summer.  We were joined by several of our Mountainside mom friends, most of which are TreeHouse athletes.  But it was their first time doing a race like this.  They were scared, especially of the daunting 3-story water slide at the finish line, but they were ready to face those fears.  A couple of their children came by to watch us along the course.  At one point, my friend Jeni, who has been CrossFitting at a community box for a bit now, was getting ready to scale one of the walls.  She looked at me and said, "No fear now.  They're watching me." And there were her boys on the side, cheering for Mommy and seeing that YES, she can do anything she sets her mind to.  Not only are they proud of her, but I guarantee they will internalize a little piece of her "fearlessness".

Are you teaching those around you - especially the littlest, most impressionable ones - that it's ok to try new things, to get out of your comfort zone, and to even fail sometimes?  Or are you teaching them to sit on the sidelines and play it safe?
I know one of the most important gifts I can give my girls is a feeling of self-confidence.  You can tell a child as much as you want how great they are and how they can do anything, but those words are empty if they're not actually accomplishing goals.  If they're not taking chances, how will they know all they are capable of?!  I promise that if you show them that it's ok to try new things, and sometimes fall on your butt and subsequently get back up, you willteach them to embrace challenges.  You are showing them that new foods are meant to be tasted, new sports are meant to be played, and new places are meant to be visited. 

You don't have children?  That's ok!! These lessons conveniently apply to your life, too.  What have you quit before you even started because of fear?  If you are living your life to keep the status quo, yes it will be less scary. But it will also be less exciting and less fulfilling. I challenge you: try 1 brand new thing a week for the next month.  It can be as simple as a different flavor of coffee or as involved as trying a new sport (I recommend indoor rock climbing!).  But, I implore you, don't let fear play a decision in your daily decisions, big or small. 

So stay positive and keep facing those fears!
Hopefully in the process of being a good example for others, you'll teach yourself something, too.  Maybe it's like muscle memory when we do Olympic lifts...you practice it again and again until it becomes second nature.