A few weeks ago I started laughing with a patient about her first time coming in to see me. She had never had acupuncture before, and was terrified of the idea of getting poked with needles. The only reason she made it in was due to hardcore coercion by a friend of hers. It was very obvious how stressed she was about the treatment, so I walked her through the process very slowly and promised her that after the first needle, she would wonder why she was so nervous in the first place. She looked doubtful, but (of course!) I was right. One needle in, and she looked at me and said what every acupuncturist loves to hear: "Oh, that's it? Ok, keep going." As we chatted during a recent session, she marveled at how close she was to not coming in at all, and how glad she was that she had decided to give it a try. I explained that the fear is the worst part...that anticipation of something new and exotic and potentially painful. The needles we use are about the size of a hair, but who sees acupuncture needles on a regular basis, aside from acupuncturists? The only needles we know are the ones that hurt. Pain isn't the issue here; it's the expectation of discomfort that holds us back from trying new things.
I thought about this last night, as I sweated my way through my first Bikram yoga class. I had been wanting to try it for a while, and when I saw that Groupon was running a deal, I snatched it up. However, once the coupon was in my hands, doubts began to creep in. Would I make it through the 105 degree class without passing out? Could I handle such an intense form of yoga when I haven't done it in any form in months? Would the room smell like a giant armpit? I pictured a room full of nearly naked, delightfully twisty people, unfazed by the heat, pitying the new girl in the back who could only succeed at corpse pose. I tried to imagine what 105 degrees would feel like, and I wondered if I would even be able to breathe. Most of all, I kept thinking that the smell of people baking at 105 degrees would put me off onions forever.
As it turned out...I suck at Bikram yoga. But that's okay. I didn't pass out (105 degrees is damn hot, but it was a lot hotter in my imagination.) I managed to work my way through the majority of the poses...not gracefully, but at least I did them. Best of all, everyone seemed to have doubled up on the deodorant for class! In the end, my fears were so much worse than the reality. I'm actually looking forward to going back, because I love a challenge, and I'm excited about seeing myself improve with time. I came so close to simply blowing it off out of nothing more than fear of the unknown, and I'm going to try my hardest not to let my fears or insecurities dictate my actions in the future. Life is way too short for that.