What does risk look like?


If you push through that feeling of being scared that feeling of taking risk, really amazing things can happen

Melissa Mayer

I am afraid of heights.

I didn’t use to be, but sometime in my late twenties, it came upon me.

I knew what it looked like, as my mother is scared of heights. I recognised the symptoms, the inability to move, the panic in a voice, the tears, the dizziness. I just hadn’t experienced them for myself.

The feeling is overwhelming and confusing. Caught between an understanding in my brain, that I am being silly and I am safe, and the unconscious, unwanted reactions of a body that won’t listen to reason.

I can tell you the times I have been overtaken by the fear: the time I climbed an ancient archway in Macau and couldn’t get down; the time I attended a conference where I was seated up in the gods and I experienced a panic attack; and the time I froze on a bridge over a river in Tasmania.

In my mind, a risk is that feeling, the feeling of being at the top off a cliff, frozen in fear, barely able to breathe, eyes closed. And then someone asked me to jump, or worse pushing me!

With this view of risk, I know that there is absolutely no way I would ever jump!

Last year we had a holiday in Albany, and we walked out onto the platform overlooking The Gap (a natural rock formation overlooking the ocean). I knew that it was going to challenge me. I was adamant I did not want to pass my fear onto my girls. So I took tiny steps, I looked straight ahead, I held onto the handrail and I managed to get myself to the edge, and look at the view below.

A risk in life is less like the image in my mind and more like this. A series of tiny steps that take you to the edge, rather than a giant leap off a cliff into a perilous void.

A risk is seeing the goal, the edge that scares you, and taking tiny steps towards it. Sometimes these steps seem minuscule. Sometimes you have a firm (or even panicked) grasp on a handrail. Sometimes you have to remember the edge is your goal, and look straight ahead and not down.

My Dad has a phrase for this, which I love, ‘incremental exposure to stressful situations.’

What is the goal you are edging towards? Is it more study? Is it a business venture? Is it restoring relationship? Keep the goal in front of you. Don’t look down.

What are the tiny steps you need to take today? Is it getting an ABN organised? Is making a phone call?

And who are the people who form your handrail? Supporting you when your dream seems unreachable?

It is possible to reach the edge of the cliff, even when you are afraid. And it doesn’t matter that it is slow progress, or that you sometimes have to stop and catch your breath along the way.

Take the small risky steps, and see how far you go,


About Jodie McCarthy

Jodie is a writer, speaker, poet and mother. An unashamed words girl who writes to process the myriad of experiences of life. In her writing and on her blog she investigates the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging women on their life journey, particularly when that journey traverses the harder places of grief and pain. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake. You can find her books and follow her journey at jodiemccarthy.com