I was not born Fearless. Not by surname, birthright, or character. It did not come by enlightenment or tragedy. It was not given. It was taken. Like most of you I was made fun of growing up. Children love criticizing anything unique in the individual. When you are young, homogeny is the goal. I remember this. I remember not wanting to be seen or noticed, except by my teachers. Teachers were safe.
But I did stand out. And there was no way to avoid it. Part of the problem was the frizzy carrot that sat on top of my head. The brown sprinkles covering my body didn’t help. Neither did being from away. I was not an athlete, PE was my doom. And I was in band. Yep, band. Many years before American Pie I made an arbitrary decision to play the flute. And I have never heard the end of it since. Fortunately, I don’t care. About any of it.
I love myself.
I love my ginger hair.
I love my paleness.
I love my brown sprinkles.
I truly, indulgently enjoy being me.
And that is worth most of all.
The 5 Steps to Fearlessness
1) Own who you are right now. Own your body. Own yourself.
I used to live and work at sea. I was often the only woman on board the ship. At this point in my life I was slightly overweight. One day a fellow crew member started heckling me about my body. He was telling me I shouldn’t be eating so many deserts because I was not thin and would regret it. What happened next shocked everyone, including myself.
“You know what…”, I said “I like my body.”
The air was silent for a few moments.
“Well go eat some bon bons then,” He said. “I don’t even know what a bon bon is!”
That day I was awakened. I realized that I loved myself as I came. I accepted the body I had. His words faded and I remained.
When you stop judging yourself others stop judging you.
What else could he have done in this situation? He was trying to exert dominance over me. He tried to shame me into thinking I was not good enough. That I needed to be more, actually that I needed to be less. He failed. He held me up to his standard and I did not meet it.
He tried to take my power. He attempted to boost himself by climbing over me. But I cannot be overpowered. I am not weak.
2) Don’t fear people who are different from you.
Actively find and invite into your life persons of many backgrounds. Get to know them intimately. Ask them why they make their decisions. Ask them how they see the world. Ask them about their hardships. Ask them how they grew up, what they were taught, and what they believe. Soak it in
If someone’s lifestyle, values, and beliefs don’t conform to the narrow set we grew up they are judged.
It sounds like this…
“I live my life right and you live your life differently. You are wrong, you must be.”
My values are what I have known. Therefore, they are the way things should be. We have trouble conceiving that someone else’s values could be “morally” right. This is because we only see the world through the lens of our own experiences.
The way things should be. There are many ways to be, none are right.
I recommend seeking them out.
Start collecting people for your Arc of Acceptance…
- Education Backgrounds
- Grew up in other states than you
- Live an alternative lifestyle
- Political Beliefs
3) Don’t be afraid to be seen and heard.
How often are you noticed? How often are you overlooked? Which do you prefer. Confidence gives you the freedom to be bold and unashamed. If you’re not offending someone you are not living as you. Learn to be bold.
Here’s how to start…
Read aloud. Sounds simple, but It’s harder than that. You’ll see.
Sing aloud. You probably already do this alone. Start singing aloud in your car with friends. When you’re at home and have a song stuck in your head, sing it don’t hymn it.
Dance. Just dance. Do it in your living room. In your underwear. In the club. Don’t worry about if anyone else is around.
“Why would I do these things? I feel like I’m going to embarrass myself.” Reading aloud is good for your comprehension. So there’s that. But also, what you are doing is taking small bold steps. You’re starting to be seen and heard more. It may not feel good at first. But it builds. Another benefit of being seen and heard is you will quickly find out who supports your boldness and new found confidence. Are your friends or roomies giving you weird looks? Are they putting you down? Are they uncomfortable with a more confident you? If so, drop them. They are trying to liquefy you into chicken soup for their soul. Don’t be chicken soup.
Making someone else uncomfortable does not mean you are doing something wrong. It just means you are doing something different.
4) Do not fear silence.
Magical things happen in silence. Sometimes they are scary. Sometimes enlightening. Take the risk.
I realized a few months ago that my entire day was filled with noise. Funny enough, I only came to this realization after sitting in silence by a stream in the woods. I had been actively avoiding silence for years. I would wake up and get ready for the day. This usually included a shower. The sound of water has always soothed me. Sometimes it would also include talking to roommates. I would come downstairs and the first thing I would do would be turn on the squeezebox and play a pandora station. I got anxious if the music didn’t get turned on quick enough. If I asked my roommate to turn the music on and he/she took more than a few minutes to do so, I would become mad.
I would listen to music all day. I would listen while I worked. I would listen while I read. I would listen while I drove. When I wasn’t listening to music I was watching a show. So when was I thinking? The noise drowns out the noise in my head. I was never able to hear myself. Never able to hear my own voice. I was drowned in un-original voices.
I never gave a thought to how few thoughts I was giving.
Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself. It can change everything.
If you try nothing else, then just try this. Read in silence. Write in silence. And listen to yourself.
4) Do not fear growth and change.
Make a home with people who free you. Your friends should encourage the craziness of you. Take stock of the people you spend time with. Start with a list of the five, don’t include family. What do they have in common? Do they live similar lives? Marriage, kids, 9-5? Do they come from similar backgrounds? Are they homogenized? By homogenized I mean is there an expectation to be alike. How would your social circle respond to a new person in your life or a new passion? Is growth encouraged? Or is stagnation and “contentment” expected? If this group is homogenized, do you aspire to the lives they live? Is it truly what you want for yourself and your family? If it’s not, get out now. Seriously. Even if you resist they will indoctrinate you to their standard.
Think about what you are giving up to be part of the whole. You are giving up everything. A whole you for a partial them.
That’s a bad trade.
Up until now you have lived. Maybe you have felt like you haven’t been able to control the direction your life has gone. Things have just happened to you, probably some bad and terrible things, hopefully many good things too. All the circumstances that have led you to here and all the people who have affected you will remain. They are part of the story. They have shaped you. You cannot change who you are in this moment, but you can take control from here.
Stand with me, stand with other women, and say…