How to smash your fears

face your fears


What are you most afraid of? Is it heights? Spiders? Failure? Death?

For Heather, it wasn’t just death she was afraid of—it was also the very real possibility of leaving her daughter without a mother. Eight years ago, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma and was told she had 15 months to live. She had just given birth to her daughter, Lily.

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Heather’s husband Cameron, who told me his family’s story. Alive and well today, Heather is a seven-year cancer survivor who has been able to watch her daughter grow into a beautiful little girl. Each year, on the anniversary of the day her left lung was removed, Heather celebrates along with her friends and family, and they each write their biggest fears on plates—before smashing them in a bonfire.

Sounds cathartic, right? If I were standing in front of a bonfire with a few plates handy, I’d be able to think of a few things to write down and promptly smash. Namely, my fear of what might happen if I don’t land a job when I finish grad school. What that could mean money-wise. My constant fear of making the wrong decision. And then some.

This message from Cameron is a healthy reminder on how to reframe the way you look at your fears:

What matters is whether we are able to overcome our fears and move forward. I may be lucky—I didn’t see another option when confronted with Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis. I had to face my fears. Mostly I was afraid what the future would bring. I was afraid for Heather, Lily and myself. I was afraid of losing Heather and raising Lily on my own. I was afraid of failing as a father and husband. But there was no way to pause life. I continually had to live in the moment and look forward to whatever tomorrow would bring.

I remember living life from one doctor’s appointment to the next, not being able to make plans very far into the future. Once I realized what I had control over and what I did not, living with an uncertain future became easier. I also told myself to never look back and question any choices I had made. I would make the best decision with the information I had at the time and always move forward.”

And today for Heather, Cameron and Lily isn’t Super Bowl Sunday. It’s not Groundhog Day. It’s Lung Leavin’ Day, and it’s a celebration of life and a day to confront their fears. It’s a good day for the rest of us, too. If you don’t have a bonfire handy, you can virtually smash your fears on Heather’s site here.

So tell me, what’s your biggest fear? How are you going to face it today?