woman walking a slackline over a gorge
Image via Dominik Kapusta/Flickr

 

by Marsha Rakestraw

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (Christopher Robin to Pooh) ~ A.A. Milne

Last week I did two things that really scare me: I gave a public presentation. And I spoke a minority opinion in an online forum.

I’m a believer in pushing fear boundaries.

As someone who has spent much of my life making decisions based on fear, it’s an important strategy for helping me become the person I strive to be.

I’ve done a ropes course, despite my fear of heights.

I regularly push myself to speak in public about humane education issues, even though doing so stresses me out for weeks ahead of time.

I’ve spoken up during scary confrontations with others. I’ve reached out for help.

And almost every time, despite the terror and discomfort involved, I’ve been glad I did it. It has helped me grow and learn to stretch myself even more.

And sometimes doing that scary thing has resulted in helping create a better world.

During my recent presentation about the lives and deaths of animals in agriculture, I inspired someone to go from “slowly transitioning” to “full-on vegan.”

And just a couple days ago, I reluctantly posted a plea in a neighborhood forum asking someone to reconsider killing the moles in her yard. I almost didn’t do it, because conflict rattles me. But I included a bit of accurate information about the beneficial roles moles play in our gardens and yards and asked her to consider a more compassionate choice.

That neighbor didn’t respond, but another one did and said that my kind request and the article I had provided had changed the way she thinks about moles.

So I invite you – as often as you can – to challenge yourself to do something positive that scares you.

If you’re a teacher, maybe today you try that new humane education unit; or discuss a controversial issue in class; or talk about educating a generation of solutionaries with a co-worker or administrator.

If you’re an activist, maybe you write that letter to your legislative official; or start that project that’s been lurking in the back of your mind, but has felt too scary to begin; or strive to practice compassion in the face of the world’s horrors.

And if you’re a concerned citizen, perhaps today is the day you bike to work; or join that community group; or talk to your neighbor about what vitalizes and concerns you.

Today’s a great day to spend just a few minutes pushing yourself to do something you’ve wanted to do to challenge the status quo and build on your passion to create a better you and a better world.

After you’ve done that scary thing, ask yourself: How did it feel? What did you learn?

Then plan to do it again.