Facing Fears Sky High

By Karla Lopez Editor

The United States is the capital of the best skydiving drop zones, with 49 out of 50 states containing spaces to feel the thrill of jumping off a miniature airplane. People pay to voluntarily face their near death and others even pursue this activity as a career choice for a skydiving corporation or for the U.S. Armed Forces.

Just recently, I paid to tandem skydive, an experience in which a skydiving student is attached to the skydiving instructor with a harness. I jumped off an airplane from 8,000 feet in Banning, a city between Big Bear and the San Jacinto Mountains. I chose to jump to defeat my fear of heights.

Matthew Desilet, the instructor who accompanied me throughout the whole experience, discussed his interest in the sport itself. Desilet had grown up witnessing his own father skydive regularly since his father was a part of the U.S. National Guard. He was so astonished by his father’s skydiving that he decided to make his first skydiving experience at the age of 18.

Desilet recognizes that skydiving helped him with confronting a fear of heights and gave him the ability to try new activities that were out of his comfort zone.

When I was going 120mph in the first seconds of the jump, the cold breeze hit my face, the world swirled, and my mind began to race from the sensation. This idea of fear had led me to this spontaneous act but the real question was how the feeling of terror started in humans.

According to my research, humans are most fearful of being ostracized, left out alone. This social phobia began in the early days when large predators were a regular threat to humans. Social groups protected their community from harm. Glenn Croston, contributor for Psychology Today, says that “in a group, other group members can alert each other to predators and help to fight them off.” If the group found you incapable of contributing in a social or physical way, however, you got the boot and you were left in the openness of the wild, where you were more likely to be harmed.

Because of this, social anxiety is the biggest fear of individuals, based on a study done by Jacob Olesen, creator of the FearOf website.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the fear of public speaking (74 percent) surpasses the fear of death (68 percent). We live for acceptance and rejection becomes the end for us.

The overbearing fear of socializing shocked me, not just because I assumed death was the most feared factor, but because we humans have to socialize on the daily.

Yet we seem to be fearful of the outcome of communicating with others.

Being accepted by their peers is important to individuals because how long someone will give you their attention is unknown. People usually cling to negative core beliefs of human connection, and when someone is infatuated with them, they don’t know how to react.  

Reflecting on fear is what got me to do tandem skydiving in the first place. People strive to grow, and I believe fear helps with thinking of ideas to defeat them. It's only a matter of taking the steps to do so.

As my mind came back to its senses after the rush of adrenaline from free fall, my feet felt the hard ground as Desilet gestured that we would be faced with the sudden jolt of the gravitational pull. I knew I had accomplished the objective I had in mind: facing my fear of heights.

I don’t expect everyone to go skydiving and feel as though they have conquered all their fears. The meaning behind all of this writing is to inform and motivate individuals to think about their fears and know they have the potential of defeating them. It all starts with you.