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Normalizing Fear

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

An inherent human emotion and how repressing fear can lead to self sabotage.

There was a huge crew of us on a party train lap in the Bike Park. Coming around a corner, I saw someone in the inside ditch so I stopped to check on them. ‘Totally fine’ he said, so I carried on, picking up speed to get the next jump. And then. I flew. From the top of a corner to the bottom of the hill following it. Straight to my hip.

I tried to stand up. Hard no. The next strategy was to assess how I could get out of there on my own. I could sit on my bike and coast? Um, no. I quickly surrendered to calling patrol. And from there I found out (well, I already knew), I had broken the femoral head off and crushed the neck of the femur.

Part of the story is two days later I was back to caretaker mode taking care of a two year old and toddler dog as a single Mum.

Getting back on my bike and riding ‘to capacity’ after this experience had so many layers. An injury on its own can breach confidence, and then the knowing of the realities of caretaking for two on my own really cemented a story of ‘I can’t be there again’.

I was scared.

My approach was very methodical and is as story for another time, but one thing I did not do was REPRESS THE FEAR.

I spent YEARS doing this as a competitive athlete and although it seemed to work for me at the time, it led to burn out. The war I had waged with fear took my spark away. I was exhausted from the fear.

Everyone has fear

The take aways here are first, fear is a universal emotion experienced by all individuals. The loudest, the biggest, the best of the best, the smallest, the tallest, just absolutely everyone.

And once one realizes this, we can also bring in the understanding that fear is not the enemy. Fear is a FRIEND. Fear is here to tell us ‘Hey, be cautious my pal’. Fear is putting its arm around us and saying I care. Fear helps us make good choices. It is actually an incredible resource! We can work with fear methodically.

Fear repression fuels inner battles

Another notable is that repressing fear – shoving it aside and pretending it doesn’t exist - can lead to spending a lot of energy avoiding an inherent part of you. It turns into an exhausting struggle.

". . . more than 99% of us repress fear in order to perform the way we want to. Over time you wind up inadvertently abusing yourself, with fear getting louder and louder in your ear, screaming if it has to, until the athlete ultimately ends up quitting their sport because they can’t handle the fear anymore. It may not even show up as fear. It may show up as anger, under-performance, injuries, insomnia or panic attacks. I can’t tell you how many athletes reach out to me and they had some sort of terrifying incident and they keep trying to block out the fear and they’re now starting to have panic attacks. That’s a sign of repressed fear"
– Kristen Ulmer, author 'The Art of Fear', former professional skier.

Methodically working with fear

One of the many ways on how to work with fear can be read HERE. Because it isn’t going away, for any of us!

Although I am not competing anymore, I have created new fuel for my fire by creating my own challenges outside of competition alongside being a part of others success on the bike, in the gym, or both in mind and body. Fear visits me here too! But the difference from a time that led to burn out, I can now acknowledge the normalcy of fear, I no longer repress it (for the most part! This is a process!) and I can put my arm around my friend fear and use it to my advantage.

Interested in working on this? REACH OUT!


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