Welcoming Fear: A Radical Step to Living Authentically

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”~ Anaïs Nin


In high school, I remember the shirts that lined our hallways were full of inspiration:

  • “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” ® Big Dogs
  • “Just do it.” ~Nike
  • “No Fear” ~No Fear Clothing Brand

These catch phrases were used as inspirational mantras. I wanted to be a big dog, not living in fear, and just doing it—whatever that was.

Somewhere along my life’s journey, I had this epiphany that I was not here to play small. It probably had something to do with Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principals of “A Course in Miracles.

I am not entirely sure where I received these huge ideologies of grandeur, but I had so many dreams and desires. I was determined that I was birthed into this universe to somehow make an impact—to make a difference.

When I was almost eighteen, I had an opportunity to chaperone The African Children’s Choir. For me, this was huge. I wanted to see, taste, feel—experience the world. The itinerary said we would be traveling from Africa, the USA, and Canada.

I turned eighteen in February 1995 and began obtaining all of the necessary paperwork, travel vaccinations, etc. However, in April 1995, we received notification that all flights would be cancelled to Africa due to the terror of the Rwanda Genocide and the Kibeho Massacre.

I felt displaced. I felt lost. Now what was I supposed to do? I had so much ambition but very little direction.

I was in awe of the vast unknown and the possibilities that lay before me. I was full of inquiries: What is my destiny? Who am I? What are my beliefs, my hopes, and my desires? What do I want to accomplish with my life?

Yet, when clarity would surface, I would find myself running from, instead of toward my destiny (whatever I thought that was in that moment).

By the end of my late twenties and early thirties I graduated valedictorian with a degree from the School of Hard Knocks.

I learned about life, love, and loss. I learned that happiness only comes from within and that money literally cannot buy it.

I learned that the amount of money in my bank account didn’t define me.

My thirties have taught me what is really important in this life and that none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. I’ve learned independence, survival, and what real friendship looks like.

I have learned boundaries and to be forgiving with expectations. I have learned what I will or will not tolerate in a relationship.

I learned how to open my heart and trust. I also learned that both can be broken in an instant.

I’ve learned what it’s like to be poor. I’ve learned about sacrifice and the difference between want and need.

I have learned that much of my life has been led by fear.

Every day I find myself trying to quiet the voices of reason and self-doubt: How can I make a difference? How do I expand my reader following? Will my life stories resonate with others? Will they find inspiration? Or will my words fall short and be lost in the sea that is the internet? How do I take my craft to the next level? Branding—what?!

You can imagine, then, my joy when I finally picked up a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. As I read her words, they resonated, and hit home—hard.

“Trust me,” she states, “your fear will always show up—especially when you’re trying to be inventive or innovative. Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

Somewhere along the line, I had another epiphany. I realized that I keep picking up these wonderful books: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, etc.

I realized I was looking for specific answers and all arrows continued to point to the same answer: How do I live transparently without dealing with the fear and vulnerability that runs beside it? The answer: I can’t.

Part of living a transparent life is embracing the vulnerability aspect and dealing with the “I-need-to-hide-under-a-blanket-and-resurface-at-a-later-date” because I just shared a very real and raw piece of myself.

So, then, how do we learn to live with vulnerability, fear, and insecurity?

Well, we get our big dog asses off the porch and just do it. We take control of what we can, expect the worst, and hope for the best.

As I am approaching forty, I have learned to face my fears head on. I have determined that my passion far outweighs my fear. I have learned introspect as sometimes just the act of identifying why I am feeling a particular emotion removes it.

Very often, though, the fear doesn’t leave me. Sometimes, it remains by my side throughout the entire creative process, sleeps with me and invites itself to dinner as my work is released into the world, and often hugs me with its icy embrace as I prepare myself to read reviews.

Taking Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice, I have decided to embrace fear instead of trying to figure out how to absolve my life from it. I am, instead, learning to create space for my fear and to become friends with.

I would encourage all of you to do the same because, as Ms. Gilbert states, “I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back…”

Author: Mary Rogers

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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