Women of Adventure
The only way to overcome fear is to embrace it
Wingsuit pilot and rock climber Steph Davis finds peace in places that would daunt many. Her journey has been marked by great loss and unrivaled discovery. And today, she’s dedicated to helping women face down their fears to achieve big goals.
By Steph Davis
Jumping off a cliff at 9,600’ elevation in a thin nylon wingsuit isn’t the most common of sports. It’s very technical, and it can be scary, too, but I always run through a series of physical and mental checks before I jump. And if anything doesn’t feel right, I’ll step back from that edge.
Are there still risks? Of course. But the whole reason I started skydiving was to overcome my fear of falling as a rock climber. And from there, it has evolved into a lifestyle that’s all about building self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Those values support every aspect of my personal and professional life.
We all want to be more fearless. Fear often seems to be the thing stopping us from taking the next step or getting to the next place, and feeling limited or held back by fear can be deeply frustrating.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a woman who had signed up for one of my women’s climbing events. She’s an accomplished CrossFit coach who has gotten into climbing, and we were chatting together while she was waiting her turn on a climb. She asked me how I manage fear while climbing and commented that she has several techniques she uses for managing fear during training or competing, but they don’t seem to work with climbing. Since I don’t know much about CrossFit, I asked her what things happen that would be scary in those situations. After a little bit of thought, she replied that those situations really are more about overcoming doubts about not having enough energy to perform well in the workout, and the feelings are of anxiety more than fear.
I told her that I see the majority of climbing situations as actually being pretty safe. For example, all the climbing our group was doing that day was toprope climbing, where there’s a rope above you the whole time — so if you fall, you don’t actually fall, you just sit in your harness on the rope. I suggested that maybe some of the “fear” she’s feeling when she’s climbing is really just anxiety, which she knows how to deal with. But since she’s associated climbing with the idea of danger, any time she feels anxiety when climbing, her brain reads it as fear, and it becomes a feeling she doesn’t know how to handle with her usual methods.
Think about the actual consequences of something that may be holding you back. This exercise will help you sort out the right reaction to it. So much of our automatic feelings of fear come from our perceptions of things that are unknown, and sometimes those feelings change when you take a deeper look at what you are actually afraid of. Is there real danger associated with the new and unknown thing you want to try? How likely is that danger to actually affect you? The unknown is scary because we don’t know what to expect, but often that is actually the only scary thing in the picture.
Not everything unknown is death defying or even dangerous — it’s just new and different. I think the more we are willing to try new things — to step out of our comfort zones — the more we learn and grow as humans and build confidence in our abilities to manage what comes at us. Training yourself to take a step forward when you feel those tingles of excitement can change your life for the better.
What’s your next adventure?
Come visit me in Moab, and we’ll find lots of options! If you’d like to try rock climbing or advance your skills, check out my site for women’s climbing clinics offered for various levels.