Your heart is pounding. Breaths, quick and shallow. Hands, shaky. Stomach, tight. Are you nervous or excited? What’s the difference?
I choose excited. And it is a choice; one that you can consciously make. A very crucial choice. The physical signs are similar, if not exactly the same. Plus they both usually occur before an uncommon event, normally one with social implications or pressures. But the connotations? Opposite. Nervousness undoubtedly carries a negative connotation, apprehension about the perceived outcome. Excitement, on the other hand, denotes positive anticipation. Yeah, I think that’s it: apprehension vs. anticipation.
So next time you have to give that big speech, want to talk to that cutie, ask your boss for a raise, take the game deciding free throw: Are you nervous? Nope. Excited. Go beast it.
Photo is Knife’s Edge, Zambia.
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I really like this post. Thanks for putting it up here. I still have physical stuff I struggle with petrifying fear around - cliff jumping, for example. I'm about to go skydiving for the first time and I don't think that'll be too hard but I might be surprised when I get up there. I intend to go bungee jumping someday soon, too, and I know that'll have my heart racing and me having to really urge myself to go.
Fear that really literally paralyzes me, in the past, where I've been unable to will myself to do something (jump off a cliff into water 30 feet below that I know is totally deep and safe and I won't hurt myself) is a hard thing to work with because I can't even describe the sensation or reason about it with myself. Intellectually I know it's safe, but I have stood on the edge of a cliff for ten minutes just standing there looking down and then walked back, unable to bring myself to jump. I guess the only way to put it is that I find that panicked state so unpleasant it's dissuading me. But as you say, why do I find it unpleasant?
I was thinking about bungee jumping and came to a kind of similar conclusion as what you say here: I thought, when I'm on the edge of the cliff, about to jump, why not tell myself, "Yes, this is terrifying... but since I have the bungee cord it's entirely safe - what an amazing opportunity, to be able to experience free-fall over a river, but completely safely!" and then try to cultivate that mindset so I jump with an attitude of "I'm going to enjoy this racing-heart state and enjoy falling hundreds of feet through the air because few other times in my life can I safely have this experience."
That's not to say I'll get out there and find it's easy, but I think I can make the jump. We'll see!
I have a thing about rocks and water. The possibility of hitting something is too high for me. Sure, others might have jumped off of the cliff hundreds of times before me, but maybe a rock feel/shifted, and when I jump I'll hit it. It doesn't even have to be a rock that fell, often it could be a tree that has fallen. People have been impaled underwater from such things. The chances just don't help reassure me.
Don't get me wrong, I love heights and jumping off of things. In a few weeks I'll be visiting Las Vegas for a vacation/family reasons. While I am there, I will be doing the SkyJump, which is a jump off of the Stratosphere building. They have a cable attached to you (of course), and it is an 855 foot fall at 40mph. I'm really looking forward to it.
Any time I jumped off a cliff in Austin I went down in the water first and dropped down and felt around on the bottom to make sure it was plenty deep. Because otherwise, yeah, I'm a chicken about that stuff too. I'm not jumping into murky water without testing the depths first.
SkyJump sounds cool. I want to get back to Macau at some point and do that bungee jump, though it is definitely the scariest thing I can imagine doing (the scariest actually-safe thing, that is. It would be scarier to jump off the building without a cord tied to me.)
This is an amazing concept. I really like the whole idea of it. This Summer I may be traveling to Russia as part of a Government exchange program from the NSLI-Y (http://exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/nsli.html). I would be doing it completely alone, which would be the first time I flew alone (I'm a High School kid), let alone into a foreign country. So, my biggest qualm about actually deciding to do it is the fact that I would be arriving in a foreign airport where I don't speak the language (Note, I would be going to Russia for that exact purpose: to learn Russian).
I'm thinking I will just "man" through it, and go for it.
Nathanael, that sounds really awesome! I am 10 years removed form HS and I never even thought about life outside of the US until my final year in college.
You better do it man! What an awesome opportunity.
There will be enough English speaking to get by and the best way to learn a language is to throw yourself into the "fire" so to speak.
There was actually a little change of plans. I'll probably be going to Russia my Senior year Summer. This Summer I am saving for a solo, round-trip to Iceland. I will be hiking 100+ miles across the country. Since it will be mostly all on my dime (parents aren't really pitching in), I have a lot of planning to do, as well as some work. In Iceland they speak Icelandic, and since I don't feel up to learning such a complicated language, I am learning Norwegian (I've already started) instead. I'm really looking forward to it. =D
A short while I ago, as an aside, I mentioned that I might be buying an RV to live in. It seemed like a good idea, so every day I checked ebay to see what sorts of deals were to be had. I wasn't ready to buy, but I figured it would be good to know what's available for when the condo sold.
I sat in my living room chatting with some friends on AIM when one of them brought up the RV idea. While I explained it to them I opened up ebay. By default it shows the most recently listed RVs on top. The very top one was an R-Vision Trail Lite, one of the few models I'd really liked. I glanced over at the price and it was $14,000, less than half of what they usually go for. There must be something wrong with it.
I opened the listing and read through the description. The front "shotgun" seat was missing. No big deal. They'd backed into something and the fiberglass around the tail light was cracked. No big deal. The couch wasn't the one specifically made for the RV. No big deal.
How to Be a Lot Less Nervous in Social Situations
I'd like to share an issue that used to hold me back big-time in the past and one thing that helped me to break out of that place.
Back when I was still single I often got quite nervous before a date.
And before that, when I didn't have a date at all in a long time, I got nervous before most social situations.
It was no fun. And it prevented me from being able to be my best self.