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Why Running Towards Your Fears Might be the Best Thing You Ever do

13/10/2014 13:12 BST | Updated 10/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Last week I wrote about aloneness and the pleasures of being solitary. A friend responded that sometimes she's scared of being alone. I reflected a bit and it occurred to me I used to be scared of my own company. That left me wondering what had changed. One thing really stood out for me: the point at which I decided I'd run towards (some of) my fears, not away from them.

I was a really scaredy child. I was terrified of so many things: wolves, being struck by lightning (I'd set up contingency plans for both) and other, more immediate things. I first began to have panic attacks when I was ten years old.

I kept a lot of secrets and I convinced myself the best way to get through life was to keep very quiet about who I really was (a deep, unusual, fey, little girl) and stay entirely under the radar. That began to change the year I came out. (I'm bisexual). I was nineteen. I shrugged off my invisibility and faced my fear to affirm who I was and am.

The Summer I was twenty, I ran towards my aloneness. I was extremely shy then. I had no concept of who I was when my friends weren't around. I disliked my own company. I decided I needed to learn who I was when entirely on my own. I packed a backpack and headed off to Asia for two months on my own.

I realise this isn't the scariest thing in the world for everyone, but for me, then, it was a big deal. It wasn't an easy trip at first: I was robbed, got ill, got a second degree burn. I made it through all those things: made friends, and came home tanned and refreshed. Aloneness no longer scared me.

In my twenties I followed my instincts and twice moved to parts of the country where I knew nobody and started from scratch. It was both difficult and worthwhile. For years in my twenties I also lived with severe and frequently debilitating chronic pain. I learnt to experiment with welcoming that pain; breathing into it; fully feeling it. ("Running towards it," if you like).

The pain didn't magically dissipate, but allowing it was easier than running from it. In allowing it, I could find the minuscule gaps where the pain relented; sink into those. Embracing it, life became subtly easier; the pain less terrifying. I don't want to advocate this so much as to say: "It helped me."

I don't believe I need to shake up my comfort zone every day, or that anyone does, unless they really want to. Some fears are okay to leave well alone. Before you push your boundaries, I reckon it's good to feel safe, comfortable, nurtured. I check in with my instincts, see what fears I want to run up to, meet head-on. In meeting those fears, I'm often left empowered, not frightened.

Aged thirty, I'm as fully myself as I can be. Sometimes I still feel shy. I haven't become completely fearless. Yet, I've moved from being that scared child to an adult whose life is composed of experiences I've run towards. Being this person and being in my own company no longer scare me. Is there another option?