“I Didn’t Quite Realise What I Was Made Of”

These four women share how they conquered their biggest fears and prove that it's never too late to change your life for the better

You’ve probably heard that as people get older, they tend to take fewer risks because they’re afraid of trying new things. Many of us fear the unknown, because the unknown is often scary.

This applies more so to women than men. According to Sim Wei Ping, a life coach at Executive Coach International, many women have problems chasing their dreams because of the way they were raised.

“Perceptions of society, family and peers play a big part in people keeping their dreams locked up for years,” she explains. “Many women play key roles in their families and workplaces, and have difficulty expressing themselves outside of these roles. Or they may think their dreams are not financially viable.”

But don’t think it’s all about the money, or that you should postpone what you long for till the rest of your life is in perfect order. “Having a life change is really about having an internal shift in your thinking and emotional state,” Wei Ping says. It’s also about facing change with gusto and stepping out of your comfort zone. The following four women share how they did it.

Avalyn Jo-Yin Lim, 39, Strategy and Product Director

4 Amazing Stories Of Women Who Conquered Their Fears (2)

The strategy and product director, and mum-of-three, used to be so scared of heights she’d get weak from just standing on a stool.

“If anyone had told me two years ago that I’d soon be voluntarily scaling walls and flinging myself off a plane with a grin plastered on my face, I would have said that this person doesn’t know me at all.

I’d always been afraid of heights. On long flights of stairs, I’d grip the railings firmly or clutch someone else’s hand. In fact, I’d get weak in the knees just standing on a stool.

I think that somewhere deep inside, I wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone.

But I didn’t quite realise what I was made of. When classmates from my Executive Masters of Business Administration course in Beijing invited me to climb the ruined section of the Great Wall of China at Jian Kou in 2012, my first response was, ‘I don’t even like standing on chairs, so I’m not climbing a wall!’

But the pressure to ‘bond and have fun’ was too strong to resist, and I eventually caved in. I think that somewhere deep inside, I wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone.

I had trepidations up to the day itself, and they were all proven true. My heart sank as I looked out at the area we were going to climb, and I wondered if I was being stupid or crazy, or both. The flat pathways were strewn with loose stones and in heavy disrepair, sometimes with sheer drops on either side with nothing to hold on. Worse still, we were supposed to clamber over near-vertical walls. To top things off, I was loaded down with a backpack weighing 8 kg for our overnight camping needs.

Terrified at times – we were some 450 m above sea level at some points – I kept telling myself to keep looking at where I was going, and that I could ask for help if I needed it. After five exhausting hours, I finally got to the top. The astounding views were one thing, but what changed forever was the view I had of myself. I felt truly alive at that moment, and overcoming my fear of heights was truly perspective-changing.

On that note, I instantly said yes when the group wanted to go skydiving in France the following year. Before I knew it, I was on an airplane 4,000 m above the Bordeaux area, strapped to my instructor who was jumping tandem with me. Waiting for my turn to jump was so nerve-wracking that I kept thinking I’d made the wrong decision. I comforted myself by recalling that my grandfather was a World War II parachutist with the Malaysian army. I also told myself, ‘This is in my blood!’

The astounding views were one thing, but what changed forever was the view I had of myself.

My mantra paid off! Once I’d jumped, I instantly felt free with the French countryside spread out below me. On an adrenaline high, I couldn’t stop smiling after we had landed.

Now, as I look back on my experiences, I realise that I’ve come a long way from being the fearful, overly- anxious woman I was two years ago. Thanks to my newfound courage, I’ve since gone on the world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi. It’s important to take on risks and push oneself. I want to encourage my three children not to be too fearful as they grow up and take adventures in their stride – just the way I have.”