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Replacing fear with confidence

What it is that keeps us from stepping into the gym, yoga studio, or fitness class?

Close your eyes and imagine yourself trying something new. What emotions or sensations do you feel? Is it fear? Is it anxiety? Is it doubt? Open your eyes and take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, let all of those emotions go. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself stepping into a new adventure outside of your comfort zone full of confidence, strength, and faith in yourself.

Changing how you feel about yourself seems so simple doesn’t it? It’s hard to let go of fear and doubt because we’ve been telling ourselves we can’t so often that we don’t even try. Being uncomfortable scares us.

I truly believe that we are made whole and perfect. Somewhere along the way, we pick up doubts and allow pieces of our confidence to be taken away. Before we realize it, we forget who we truly are and fear replaces the confidence we were born with.

I’m 40 years old and finally tried surfing for the first time in my life. Funny part is I’M TERRIFIED OF WATER! I have a huge fear of drowning. My parents even made me take swimming lesson at the YMCA. I used to get so much anxiety that I’d become physically sick to my stomach. Then, I’d just sit and watch the other kids have fun.

That emotion stemmed from a trip to Grayson Lake when I was 5 years old. I was fearless and got in the water without knowing how to even swim. As I walked along the bank, the bottom seemed to drop out from under me. Next thing I knew, the water was over my head, a fish swam in front of me, and I started to panic. My aunt pulled me out and all the elders yelled at me. They told me I was going to die. That summer was when the anxiety started. I had my first moment fearing death by drowning. That fear stayed with me into adulthood.

It’s taken me 35 years but I’m finally let it go by learning how to enjoy the ocean. A surfing trip to Costa Rica seemed logical. My instructor and I spent a total of five minutes on the beach at Jaco learning how to push up on a surfboard and the basics on surfing squat form. Then came the 10-second lesson on what to do when you fall and waves rush over your. He simply said, “You will crash. So stay calm and don’t panic. All you have to do is stand up and keep trying.”
Sure, I can stay calm when I see my life flash before my eyes while a shark tries to eat me as I’m drowning. Sounded easy enough.

Of course, I didn’t get out there my first try and stand up on my board like a pro. I was scared beyond all imagination. The first wave came and I wiped out hard. Second one came and not much changed. Then the third and fourth. After just 30 minutes, I felt so defeated. I told myself I couldn’t do it and gave up.

The next day, I woke up and told myself I didn’t come all the way to Costa Rica to not conquer my fear. So we went out and rented another board. After a few hard wipeouts, I finally realized I was going to be okay. Plus, I didn’t even see one shark the day before. My anxiety started to disappear. Then, something amazing happened. The fear I once had disappeared. I allowed myself to find enjoyment. I started catching wave after wave and even laughed when I crashed.

I’m still by no means a pro or even a halfway decent surfer but I am a person who conquered one of my biggest fears.

Letting go of the pieces that only created doubt and fear allowed me to remember who I truly was again. We are made to be strong and confident. I dare you to choose a new challenging adventure too. You could get those pieces back and start conquering your fears one by one. Maybe my next adventure should be swimming with sharks.



Vivianne Khounlavong-Vallance is a personal trainer, health coach and yoga instructor working in Lawrence County.