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How My Greatest Fear Became My Greatest Strength

05/25/2015 05:43 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 05:59 EDT
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I had a huge smile on my face yesterday as I drove my car around Vancouver. The sun was shining and I had the windows down and the radio cranked up, happily driving along and belting out the words to my favourite tunes. When I arrived home, I felt absolutely exhilarated. I LOVE driving.

Driving is a normal, everyday activity. We can all do it. So surely it's no big deal that I enjoy it, right? First, let's back up the truck a little (no pun intended). There's more to the story.

When I was 18 years old, I learned to drive in England and I passed my driving test first time with flying colours. I was then faced with the decision to buy a car and stay in England, or buy a ticket to fly to Vancouver for one year overseas. To cut a long story short, I spent 12 months in Canada and ultimately decided to immigrate to this incredible country.

Fast forward to summer 2014. I was a fully-fledged Canadian citizen by this point and I had called Vancouver home for five years. In the midst of my busyness, I realized there was an 11-year-old elephant in the room -- I hadn't been behind the wheel of a car since the day I passed my driving test. While absolutely everything in my life had changed, this one issue remained. And it was really getting in the way.

Imagine that for a second. You don't drive. In one way or another, it dictates everything in your life -- where you live, where you work, even where you go on vacation. Simple things like going to the grocery store require planning around transit. And it's been this way for more than a decade.

It was true that I had been busy. I had set up a life for myself in a country where I knew absolutely nobody. I had built up a successful career in public relations and secured a beautiful apartment in the city. All of this had occupied a large chunk of my time. That was surely the reason why I wasn't driving yet. Wasn't it?

No. I was afraid.

All the reasons, all the excuses, all the times I've said "I've been busy" -- they all amounted to the same thing. I was absolutely petrified of getting back behind the wheel. The thought made me feel physically sick. But I'd had enough of avoiding the issue and pretending it wasn't there. It was time wave goodbye to that elephant once and for all.

After a personal pep talk, I worked up the courage and hired a driving instructor who specialized in teaching drivers from overseas. We met for our first session and I figured we would take a short drive around the quiet streets of my neighbourhood and practice a simple maneuver in an empty parking lot. In reality, I found myself gunning it across Granville Street Bridge and cruising around downtown Vancouver. I hadn't driven in 11 years and this was my first experience driving in North America, and I was absolutely rocking it.

After a series of sessions with my instructor, I happily walked away with my full license. It was now early December of last year and I was ready to start driving on my own. I signed up for a membership with a popular car-share program in the city. I received my key fob. I played with the app more times than I care to admit. But two months later I still hadn't done it. I hadn't driven a car on my own.

It was getting out of control. This had to change.

So I turned to a fellow coach for help.

"I can't drive," I said sadly as I sat down for our session together.

"What makes you say that?" she responded. "You have your full license and you've been driving in Canada since the summer. What makes you say you can't drive?"

"Well, I -- what if I can't? After all this, what if I can't do it? What if I can't drive on my own?" I said, before pausing. I was certainly afraid of screwing it all up, but there was more there. "And what if -- what if I can?"

"So... what if you can?" she asked.

"Well... then I have to see myself differently. I'm no longer the girl who can't drive. I've used driving as an excuse for so many things. 'I'm not able to do that because I can't drive. I can't live there because I can't drive. I can't reach my full potential because I can't drive.'"

"It's not about the car," she said simply.

I wasn't sure if it was a question, a challenge or simply a brilliant observation, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't about the car at all. It never had been. It was about me placing a limit on myself so I couldn't enjoy the life I dreamed of. It was, quite honestly, a rather elaborate form of self-sabotage.

I worked with my coach on a plan to take short drives in my neighbourhood, slowly building up to longer journeys as I gained confidence in my abilities (abilities that, as it turns out, had been there the entire time). Three days after our initial chat, I happily sat in my car at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park and texted her, "I did it!!!"

After months of persevering and mastering longer drives, I started to feel secure in my abilities behind the wheel. I learned something incredibly ironic -- not only did I absolutely love driving, but I was good at it. Worries spanning more than a decade simply disappeared before my eyes. They were completely unfounded.

Now, I realize that a fear of driving might be tough to understand for those of you who do this simple activity every day without a second thought. But that's not the point. The truth is, we all have an "I can't drive" in our lives. We all have some limiting self-belief that keeps us trapped and settling for a life that is less than what we truly deserve.

I invite you to give yourself some straight-talk and ask - What is your "I can't drive"?

Face your fear. I promise you it will be the most liberating experience of your life.

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