I actually dare to be myself, all the time. Do I fear the judgment of others? Do I hope to be liked? Absolutely- I am a human, and humans are social mammals just built to crave the goodwill of the group. Do I let it stop me from acting with what I would call integrity or authenticity? Not at all.
I have everything I had behind to go and live in a foreign country for seven months, not knowing anyone, having only textbook application of the language, and just after a time of deeply lacking faith in myself because I was unable to find a job (or figure out what job I wanted.) I thrived there and lost just about all my inhibitions, realized that it really is my life, and I’ve got to live it to the fullest, however I define it.
More than once, in a relationship and not in a relationship, I have put my heart on the line and told someone I cared for deeply exactly how I feel. No, I’m not in a relationship right now but I would rather be single than with someone who can’t take all of me.
I have traveled across the continent of Europe alone, risking being “taken”, talking to strangers, and relying solely on my good judgment. Guess what? I am still here!
So I would say that in a lot of ways I am a fearless person. Of course I fear failure, loneliness, rejection, etc, but I don’t let that control my life. It is interesting how I ranked overcoming my fears and how for me, most of them are socially oriented. Add to the list defying what my truly loving, happy family has asked of me to go live an ocean away, recently overcoming my fear of heights by doing a high ropes course after years of being afraid of escalators, and deciding to pursue a similar career path to the one I initially failed at right out of college, working in the DC policy world.
I would say my biggest fear is not being able to live and learn. I’ve given some people too many chances, if that is possible, and been disappointed over and over, but my tendency is still to hope for the best. I’ve also, in an uninhibited mood, over shared salacious tidbits and been judged by the people around me (in retrospect, immature people) so I do try and tone things down according to the environment. I’m not advocating that everyone think and do whatever they want without respect to the consequences, or that you behave in ways that will cause you to be disrespected. Integrity does not mean standing naked in the crowd of self-hating, bulimic onlookers. It does mean that you don’t do any false advertising wearing a ridiculous padded bra. If you truly believe in serving people, it does require that you might just pull up your shirt and show someone an old scar that has healed over, so that they know that they will survive too. Even if the story of how you got it is not that pretty and you are a much stronger person now.
Being fearless also requires you to admit your deepest desires, in order to put your whole self into getting them. Remember, from “When you wish upon a star,” “fate is kind, she brings to those who love, the sweet fulfillment of their secret longings.” So be a loving person, admit to what you are feeling in the moment, and you will find your way in life. Overcoming what is really the first and most basic fear, that you are unloveable even to yourself, will pave the way to overcoming every other fear. I can’t promise that you will get everything you want, everything will turn out okay, and none of your fears will materialize if you are only true to yourself. If things worked like that, we would be living in a real fairyland. If only! Of course you will face obstacles and adversity from within and without, and it is a neverending battle. But it is a battle that gives life meaning.
True, you can always wait for some external source to give you the life you want, without you even bothering to take the leap of being yourself. It’s not a valid course of action, but it allows you to complain and continue your fearful, conformist ways. A lot of people live their lives like that, and you will fit right in. It won’t be hard to find friends who think similarly. You will never have to take responsibility when your dreams don’t materialize, because it’s just “not in the cards for you,” or you “aren’t lucky enough” or “it’s not God’s will.” Let me tell you, the ways of the Lord are mysterious but it’s not that mysterious that when you put nothing in, you will get nothing out. It does get a bit more mysterious when you do everything you can and don’t get what you want, but in my experience I’ve usually gotten something better, or what I wanted wasn’t so good for me. So advance fearlessly, if you believe your cause is just. It probably won’t be easy, but that is the only way to live a life that’s truly worth it.
In closing, a few favorite quotes on the subject:
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. Henry David Thoreau
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.-Anais Nin
You will erase everything you had written in the book of your life up until now: restlessness, uncertainty, lies. And in the place of all this you will write the word courage. By beginning the journey with that word and continuing with faith in God, you will arrive wherever you need to arrive.
Breviary of Medieval Knights
Whether you are a teacher, businessperson, elected official, policeman, or stay-at-home dad, your real job in this world is to be a spiritual warrior, experience life’s beauty fully, and make the world a better place. Simply put, that is the meaning of your life. The joy of existence will increase as your courage does, and the fear that crowds out love in your life will dissipate. This much I can promise based on experience. So go for it!