The Fallacy of Fearless
and Why That's a Good Thing
In 0.89 seconds, Google reveals approximately 97.7 million hits containing the word fearless. Amazon lists over 8,000 books with fearless in the title. Clearly, the idea of fearless is a popular one. Of course, living without fear is a nice idea, but if you’re waiting on fear to disappear from your life, you’ll be waiting for a long time.
It’s funny how we humans almost always defer to the fear side of things first. Somewhere along our journey, we lost the ability to take action despite the possibility of negative consequences. As little tikes, we attempted everything our bodies allowed. We rolled over, held up our head, learned to crawl and walk. We explored our world without fear. Everything that fit in our mouth went there. If we found a hole, our finger went in—even if there was electricity on the other side.
Over time, awareness began to form followed by fear, often born in the form of pain. The degree of our fear depended in large part on our families and environments. Every moment in our life has taught us something. Unfortunately, many of our early lessons were simply not true. Over time, prison walls of the mind were constructed and anything outside of that was deemed unsafe and to be avoided. It didn’t matter if we were unhappy. We were safe—or so we thought. Experience nudged or propelled us out of our comfort zone if we allowed it, each step growing us a little more. If beliefs created long before were left unaddressed, any perceived success would be muted, less vibrant than hoped. Instead of technicolor Oz, drab gray colored our landscape.
Today, fear is evident throughout our world. Our planet as a whole is experiencing major transformation. This creates overwhelming anxiety for many. The illusion of control is dissolving and normal is unknown. Having become so accustomed to days filled with one distraction or another, many don’t know how to respond to this empty space. It is within this space that fear arises.
When I reference fear, I am not referring to dangers outside of us, real as they are. If a black bear crosses your path, I’m not suggesting you to invite it to tea. The fear I’m talking about is the one that rises from within and stops us in our tracks, the one that places a chokehold on our heart and keeps us from fully living. The fear message from a bear is quite clear (run!)—the inner fear is not quite as easy to discern. Often hidden beneath other emotions or situations, we confuse fear with emotions like jealousy and anger. These are side effects of fear rather than the root cause. Getting clear on what we feel often points back to fear about ourselves—our abilities, our possibilities, our enough-ness.
For those ill-equipped to deal with turbulent emotions, fear arising in this emptiness is where the desire to numb kicks in. Numbing comes in many forms—scrolling, shopping, binge watching and alcohol to name a few. We drown our senses in things external to stop feeling the internal discomfort. Even drama, both our own and from those outside of us, can be a form of numbing—resistance to facing the fear within.
For years, I grasped every aspect of my life out of fear, a false illusion of control. I held onto my victim belief like a liferaft, fear I would lose it all if I let go. This grasping is what causes the angst. In my efforts to “fix” everything for everyone, I depleted myself of any energy for my purpose and shirked responsibility for doing the work. When I enabled others in my life, it enabled me to remain stuck.
Much like the characters portrayed in A Beautiful Mind who could only be seen by John’s schizophrenic brain, fear is always present and never aging. Once John learned they were not real, it changed his life. He learned how to live in their presence. Our deepest fears are a lot like that, never aging or changing because they were formed before our logical mind could comprehend them. Fear is a learned behavior and it can be unlearned.
So what do you fear? Falling apart? Failing? Succeeding? Being alone?
What if we viewed fear differently? As something to be embraced rather than avoided? What if fear is an invitation to look deeper?
Fear greets us in the empty space, signaling an opportunity to expand our comfort zone. Growth is not reliant on the absence of fear, but in our choice to grow in the presence of it. Fear is a tough love friend, a guide to go deeper within. We must do the very thing that seems counterintuitive. We must relinquish control. Fear wishes to be heard, not to keep us small but rather guide us to expand. Something within is seeking to unfold, but we must hold space. We must allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.
Sometimes holding space seems like the last thing any of us have time for. I’m too busy! There are things I have to do. I get that, but if we take time to hold space for the fear and listen, we may find that half of our to-do list is unnecessary.
Fear points the way, but the steps must be our own. If we avoid taking the steps as guided, we remain small, living life just beneath the radar of our dreams—unknown, unseen, unheard. We contract and shrink. Our skewed vision sees only lack. Even though it appears real, fear lives inside the mind. The only power it has is what we give it.
Often we fear our greatness more than any of our perceived weaknesses. Like misery, fear not only loves company, it creates it. We look the person in the mirror and wonder, who do you think you are? The audacity... In a state of fear, all we see is how we should be. When our minds get hijacked by pain of the past or fear of the future, we leave the present and possibility dissipates. But if we can unclench our hands from what should be and allow it to unfold, we find it becomes something better than we ever imagined.
Fear is funny. It can sneak in and blindside us. As we heal and create space for the new, it can trigger fear of the unknown, or we may make great strides forward only to be sidelined by a fear we thought was gone. This isn’t always a sign we’ve dropped the self-help ball. You haven’t gone backwards—you are being guided to go deeper. Self-care is a critical part of this process. Here’s a few tips to keep you moving forward:
Own your impact
Each action we take creates a ripple. We are never alone in any of this. Recognize the positive effect you’ve been in your life and the life of others. All too often we focus on our missteps and mistakes, but we must remember the good we’ve done or helped create. It’s okay to feel lost and bumbling, that’s part of the path. Keep moving forward. Even if your steps are small and shaky, keep moving forward. You will find solid ground. Also, remember to celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
Make it sacred
Make your life sacred by connecting to all that is in whatever form resonates for you—Spirit, Nature, Universe. Slow down, reach out from within. All of life ebbs and flows. There are times we stay in place—sometimes for painfully long stretches. We are not meant to be moving at hyper speed all the time. These are spaces to learn, heal and rest for the next steps. Connecting to nature, meditation and journaling are a few ways to connect. Find what works for you and make it central to your day.
Release the outcome
Life a journey with no elusive there to reach. Here and now is all there is. Get clear on your why and your what, let the Universe take care of the how. If we wait until we see the end of the path, we will never move forward. This is a lesson in trust, one step at a time. Sometimes the action that makes the least logical sense will bring the greatest reward. Also, if we are fixated on a particular outcome, we may miss a better opportunity because we have blinders on.
Here’s the spoiler alert: At the end of your story, you die. Period. Quit placing your focus on the outcome. You already know how your story ends. What do you want to happen between now and then?
When you take the leap, strap fear alongside for the flight. Learn what it is guiding you to. Often as we take these leaps, where we will land is often unknown and unseen. Like leaping out of a plane with no parachute or visibility, all we see is dark cloud layer. Senses are heightened in these moments and your connection to the Universe is intense. If you stay with the emotion of creation, of possibility, coming through you, amazing things can happen. Trust you are being guided and keep moving forward. Yes, you may fail by the standards of this world, but in allowing yourself to show up, you win.
This journey is history’s finest 401k plan—you give and the Universe keeps on giving in return. The paradox is the small step required to begin, a very small investment comparatively, is the hardest. The first word, the first brush stroke, the first note, the first nail…but once the first is done, the second is a little easier. Each step gets easier to take and soon begins to flow freely.
Next time fear hunches your shoulders and causes your ribs to clamp down on your heart and lungs, open up. Stand tall, expand and take a deep breath. Be willing to open up to the possibilities of your life. Yes, there is risk. You may get hurt, you may even fail. Do what scares you anyway. Allow what is within you the space it needs to become. Open up to Life.
You have to be all in for your dreams. If you hold back, the Universe will too. Be all in your life!