There’s a line in a cheesy 90’s movie called Strictly Ballroom that comes to mind every time I think of the word “fearless.” At the end of the movie, the father turns to his son before a ballroom dancing competition. He doesn’t want his son to walk away from the competition and end up regretting it, like he did. He says, “We had the chance but we were scared. We walked away…We lived our lives in fear!” The son stops and listens to his father, he decides at that moment that he is going to dance his own steps and follow his own rules. He won’t live his life wondering if he should have or could have.
Over the past few weeks it seems everywhere I go I have been confronted with the idea of being fearless. As an anxious person, I know what it feels like to be consumed by fear. When I was a child, I suffered from bouts of panic attacks. It would feel like the world was caving in on me. Every negative thought, every negative emotion would come tumbling down and I was sure that this was the end, that my life was over and I was headed for the pearly white gates. I was so scared of being scared that I began to have anxiety about having an anxiety attack. It had gone too far. I knew I had to do something about it.
In college I found a book called Women Who Worry Too Much by Holly Hazlett-Stevens. I felt like I finally had a name for what I was going through: anxiety. I realized there was an entire community of people in the world just like me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy, I started to learn how to recognize when I was feeling anxious and re-train my brain to think of something else. I began to see how irrational some of my thoughts were, but most of all I turned to positive thinking as a way to release the fear and start holding onto my faith.
Years went by and I had all but forgotten about the anxiety. I thought the fear had subsided, and then suddenly I was struck by life events beyond my control: the loss of a job, the death of a family member, the judgement of my peers. I suddenly found myself back at square one. Once again I was straddling the thin line between being fearful and having a full blown panic attack. Why was I going through this again? Hadn’t I learned my lesson? With sweaty palms, I would read stories of other people who were fighting anxiety disorders. Once again I realized I was not alone and feeling part of a community did help. But I wondered, was there more to this? Was there something more I was yet to learn.
Two emails found their way into my inbox this morning. The first one was from “On Becoming Fearless” and the subject was: Day 4 – Inner Dialogue. The second one was from a leadership organization I belong to and the subject was: Be Fearless! Many people would just trash these emails and chalk it up to a coincidence. The problem is, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe everything is exactly as its meant to be and that things come into our lives to alert us of patterns and messages. I left both emails in my inbox and went about my day but somehow the word “fearless” kept buzzing in my ear.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘fearless’ is simply defined as, “being free from fear.” It makes it sound so simple. Like any day we can just wake up and remove the fearful chains that bind us. But it got me thinking today, what if we could just wake up and be free of fear? What if we could take the bold steps needed to live the life we were always meant to live? Like that father in Strictly Ballroom warned, do we want to turn into our parents? Do we want to never try because we are so scared to fail? A repeating line in that movie is, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” (If you haven’t watched the movie, please do, you will thank me for it).
So as I sit and wipe my sweaty palms, and continue to fight the knots in my stomach or the fear bubbling in my chest, I stand with the resolve of knowing that maybe it is time to not just turn away from fear. Not just distract my mind and pretend that there is nothing fearful in the world. Just replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts might only be half of the answer. Perhaps it is a time for me to confront the fear. To be bold and daring and live a life that is free of fear. Perhaps part of my journey living through fear is to come out the other side and send messages back to my fellow man letting them know, “It’s alright, I made it through, I took the leap and I landed safely on the other side. I had the chance and I took it and you should too. I won’t live my life in fear.” I hope you will take the leap, too.