Fear vs. intuition
How do you know when your fear is irrational and something you should “get over” or if it’s your intuition telling you “don’t do it”?
Over the years and through traveling alone, I’ve developed a strong sense of intuition and rarely do I question the gut feeling that tells me not to walk down a certain street or to turn left instead of right.
But I’m not traveling alone and sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in others enthusiasm and write off that niggling feeling as simply nerves. There’s a feeling of wanting to belong, of not being left out.
I thought I had a solid sense of who I was but realized you can still have moments when you forget.
The city team organized a day of white water rafting and many remotes excitedly signed up. I had zero interest, as I’ve had friends who drowned so the idea of getting into an inflatable raft and purposely bouncing off rocks in rushing water didn’t sound smart.
It’s also month four of our 12-month journey so people are reviewing their finances more closely, including myself. I was chatting with a friend about all the activities and mentioned that I wasn’t doing some of them due to costs.
A dear friend overheard part of the conversation and thought I wanted to go white water rafting but couldn’t afford it so she bought me a ticket!
She was so excited to surprise me and I was so overwhelmed by her generosity, we stood there crying and laughing and hugging…and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t want to go. I thought maybe this was a sign that I should go and get over my fear.
I tried to smile but noticed my heart rate had increased.
Over the next two days, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and woke up drenched in sweat, panicked from dreams I couldn’t recall. I prayed for bad weather so the event would be cancelled.
When the list came out to confirm who was going, my name wasn’t on it and I secretly rejoiced – did they overbook and there wasn’t room for me?! But no, they had listed another Michelle by mistake and I was confirmed. Crap!
The morning came for us to go and I was a wreck. I considered backing out but put on what I hoped was a brave face and met the group for the two-hour drive.
The bus was silent as everyone fell asleep but that wasn’t an option for me. I stared out the window at the beautiful scenery and tried to control my breathing.
When we arrived, I tracked down our guide and explained my fears. She assured me everything would be fine. I suited up and we headed down to the river for the safety demonstration.
I’m sure they have to cover every possible scenario which will likely never happen, but as the list of things went on and she continued to say “if this happens, don’t panic”, I could feel myself already panicking and tears starting to escape from my eyes.
But the clincher came when she asked the group to separate into two rafts – one for those who were a little nervous or beginners and one for those experienced or who wanted more thrills.
Everyone stepped away from me and I stood at the beginner raft all alone.
No one wanted to come with me.
At that moment, I never felt so lonely – so homesick for my friends who would have stood by me and put their arms around me for support.
It felt like hours that I stood there alone until I heard someone say, “I’ll come with you, Michelle”.
I looked up and saw one of the youngest, most athletic guys walking towards me – someone I knew wanted to be in the “thrill” raft. He gave me a hug, told me everything would be okay and the floodgate of tears opened.
Slowly our raft filled with others and we were off. My body was visibly shaking but I pressed on.
Forward, back, forward, stop – our guide continued to yell instructions as we went along. Our first rapids approached and I held my breath. We made it without issue but I felt nauseous. The guide asked if I was okay and I said “no, this is not fun”. She simply smiled and said, “it’s okay.”
The second rapids came up and I was terrified. We hit a boulder, knocking one of the girls into the bottom of the raft, and then started going backwards as a huge wave crashed over the raft and I was paralyzed with fear.
Our guide moved us to the side of the river and looked at me – do you want to get off?
I scrambled out of the raft, knees shaking as I tried to climb the bank. The rest of the group carried on down the river and I rode in the van with the photographer, trying to calm my racing heart.
When we met again at the end of the river, I was relieved to see everyone safe and sound. I enjoyed hearing their adventures and never once doubted my decision to get out of the raft early.
It wasn’t a fear I needed to “get over” – it was my intuition telling me it wasn’t right for me. Your body knows the truth, you just have to be willing to listen.
Next time, I’ll remember to speak up in the moment. If I had told my friend from the beginning that I didn’t want to go, I would have saved myself days of anxiety. I’m sure she would have understood but I didn’t want to appear ungrateful.
Lesson learned – you will never disappoint someone if you speak the truth. It is far more damaging to keep it buried inside.
White water rafting is an extreme sport and it isn’t for me – and that’s okay! Not everything is right for everyone. The important thing is to try new things that feel right for you.
And if every cell in your body is screaming “don’t do this!”, listen to that inner voice and make a choice that feels better.
Have you ever done something against your intuition? How did it turn out?