Chapter 2: Fear and Judgement

Chapter 2: Fear and Judgement

As I sat on the plane on my way to Mexico, I felt afraid. But what was I scared of exactly? Well, let me tell you…

Chapter 2: Fear and Judgement

As I made the ten hour plane journey to Cancun, a thousand questions flooded my mind: Will I get lonely? Will I make friends? Will I be safe? What if I’m robbed? What if I get into trouble? My mind was racing with a combination of practicalities and insecurities, but the truth is: I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown and the fact that I couldn’t answer any of these questions; they were being left to fate.

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” Gandhi

I promised I would get onto fear. It’s a funny thing when you think about it. I mean it’s probably the most limiting human emotion. How many of us would be living a totally different life if it wasn’t for the ifs and buts that take over our brain?

The last time I had experienced real fear was a couple of weeks ago. I was stood on top of a cliff looking out onto the most beautiful Croatian coastline, my legs were shaking and I was unable to move.

I was in Croatia for a photoshoot and one day, I decided to spend a free afternoon searching for the infamous caves of Pula with my friend Elizabeth and Lydia, the makeup artist. After about an hour of walking, we arrived at the most dazzling beachfront of jagged rocks and turquoise blue sea. We honestly felt that we’d discovered Utopian paradise; it was beautiful. As we made our way along the rocks, we finally arrived at the caves and watched in awe as people jumped off them into the sea below. “I wish I was that brave”, I said to the girls.

“Well why shouldn’t I be that brave?”, I thought to myself (it’s not uncommon for me to berate myself for my shortcomings). “I’m going to jump!” I declared, and I made my way to the top of the cliff as the girls waited with their phones ready to capture my moment of bravery. It was only when I reached the top and looked down that my bravery quickly turned to fear, my legs buckled and I had to sit down. “I’ll be ready in a minute”, I shouted to the girls, who were sat enjoying the sunshine.

What was I afraid of?

Well, death or spinal injury of course, I’m sure we all know of a friend of a friend who has suffered from a reckless jump on holiday. But I had performed a rather rigorous risk-assessment and there wasn’t a protruding rock in sight. It was accident-proof. So, what else was holding me back? Being submerged in sea water and not being able to get back up to the surface? Well that one was completely irrational by the laws of gravity and my swimming abilities (I used to be a lifeguard). Getting seawater in my eyes? Again, a minor.

I had run out of rational reasons to be afraid, and yet there I was, stuck on top of the rock frustrated with myself because I hate not being able to do something, especially when no one other than myself had put pressure on me to jump off a cliff. I sat up there for two whole hours trying to psyche myself up, despite Elizabeth and Lydia telling me several times to just come back down and enjoy the day. For two whole hours that internal voice scolded me: Tom Daley could do much higher dives, as could anyone who had ever completed in the Jump (a show I had ironically been in talks to take part in). But I couldn’t do it, I failed. Fear won. “Next time”, the girls assured me as we walked back to our apartment.

And so it was en route to Mexico that my mind was gripped with fear yet again. As the questions swam through my mind, it struck me that my biggest fear of all is judgement. It’s a fear that I’ve been harbouring for the last few years without even consciously realising it. We live in a world where trolls are no longer monsters hiding under bridges, but monsters hiding behind keyboards judging every action you take. In spending so much time and basing a career around social media and the press, I had subconsciously allowed myself to worry what other people think, and I always take misinterpretations about me and my character to heart. I suppose I’ve always been a bit like that, but the career path I’ve chosen has magnified it. I mean sometimes I’m afraid to even fart in case I’m told I’m doing it wrong. That’s a really gross euphemism, and obviously girls don’t fart, but you get my point.

What I have to regularly remind myself is that people will judge you whether you worry about their opinions or not, so you may as well do what you want to do. Plus, when you think about it, worrying about the opinion of others is actually incredibly self-indulgent because its based on the assumption that you are important enough to others that they even care about what you’re up to.

I was actually talking about this with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, a singer who is having the most tremendous comeback after years out of the limelight, and he summed it up so perfectly with the following analogy: Life is a like movie with each person playing the leading role in their own narrative. Everyone else has their own film to star in, and so at most, you are an extra to them. He recommended I read a book called the Four Agreements (I recommend it to all of you too), and one of the agreements tells you to not take anything personally as nothing others do is because of you. Anything they say or do about others is actually a projection of their own reality, dreams, and insecurities.

Like I said in my previous post, I’ve had a strong desire to write about love and emotions for a long time, just as I’ve wanted to go travelling as a personal endeavour to refocus my life. And it’s scary, because in writing about my journey and emotions I am definitely opening myself up to judgement. But that’s a fear I want to overcome. And what I have to remember is that feelings are not right or wrong, they are just a natural human reaction to the events that take place in our own individual movies.

And so I stepped off the plane bravely facing my fear of the unknown, just as now I sit on Holbox Island facing my fear of judgement as I press publish…

If you’re thinking about travelling or jet setting sometime soon, don’t forget to check out some of my favourite holiday wardrobe pieces below for some style inspo.

Ashley James

Ashley James

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Chapter 13: Zipolite and Mazunte, The Oaxacan coast.
Chapter 12: Diving in Cozumel
Chapter 10: Losing track of time in Tulum
Chapter 9: Love drunk in Gitano
Chapter 8: My Mayan Reading

Chapter 8: My Mayan Reading

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Chapter 6b: Infidelity at home