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Sunday, 3 September 2017

My Stream of Consciousness Part 3: What does it really mean to be fearless?

Hi there you beautiful beings of the blog-o-sphere!

So today, I wanted to share with you all some thoughts I have been having on what it means to be ‘fearless’. These thoughts came from a comment that I received by a tutor I had a year or so ago on my introductory counselling course, who told me that I was ‘fearless’ when it came to sharing my personal experiences with the group. This comment caused me to immediately respond by nervously laughing and shaking my head before exclaiming, ‘Oh not me, I’m not fearless at all, you must mean someone else’. After this exchange I looked up what the definition of being ‘fearless’ actually is. To be fearless is defined as ‘having a lack of fear’. I wanted to use this post to explore my thoughts on what 'fearless' means to me, and how I handle moments of fear myself. 

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To me, no one is completely fearless, everyone has worries, and moments of anxiety and times where they are fearful of something or someone. Since this exchange, the word fearless now means something completely different to me. In my eyes, being fearless is feeling the fears that you have about a certain thing but going ahead with that thing regardless. Being fearless is “feeling the fear and doing it anyway”, it is facing your fears head on and moving forward despite those fears. A lot of the time the fears that I have about certain things are self-created. I used to fear things that were not even in the realm of my control, such as people judging me or talking behind my back, or people thinking I was stupid or ugly or fat. These fears were irrational, and were self-deprecating. A few years ago, I went back to therapy for a relapse I had with my eating disorder and anxiety, my counsellor that I had at the time told me about something known as ‘fear setting’. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I would have fears of gaining weight and getting better. When I would voice my fears about recovering, my counsellor would challenge these fears by asking, ‘what is the worst thing that is going to happen if you do get better?’ I would sit there in silence and look at the floor, until he responded with his own answer, stating, ‘the worst thing that will happen is that you will gain some weight.’ To me, that was an awful thing to happen, but he would then challenge that fear further by asking, ‘what is the worst thing that is going to happen if you do gain some weight?’ Again, I would sit there in silence until he responded, ‘the worst thing that will happen is that you may look a bit different, and some people might notice and comment on that, but most sane people will have your best interest at heart and tell you how healthy and beautiful you look’. He went on to further say, ‘So the worst thing that could happen if you recover is that you gain weight, you feel uncomfortable for a while and you have to buy new clothes. Some people might notice and make stupid comments, but if they do they are only brining toxic energy into your life and so that is your sign to get rid of them. So that is what might happen if you recover, but what might happen if you don’t recover is that your life ends before you’ve even lived it and one morning during class or at home with the family , you suddenly fall and drop dead.’ I’d been threatened with the death card before, but this was the first time where it became clear how irrational my eating disorder was making me. The difference between gaining weight and dying was definitely a dramatic one, and for the first time in a long time I knew I needed to get better. The first step was removing all the toxicity from my life and to never look back or dwell on it. I had developed an eating disorder due to my life suddenly being spun out of control and I started using food as a way of attempting to gain some form of control back, and diverted all of my attention to exercise and food as a distraction to what I was actually feeling. I may have momentarily gained control over what I ate or did not eat, but I lost control over the most important thing, my health and my life. 

Fear can be life threatening if you let it become all consuming, but fear can also be something that helps to motivate you and to challenge those negative thoughts and fight them head on. Fear is a primitive feeling; in primitive times when cave man was being approached by a predator, the fight or flight mode would kick in, which helped man to sense danger and run. However, times have changed and we no longer have to fight off predators, yet we still have that same fight or flight automatic response mode. Sometimes a small amount of fear can be healthy, say you are walking home in the evening by yourself and it’s dark, that sense of fear keeps you alert and on the look-out for danger. That sense of fear may cause you to make the decision to get a taxi which is a far safer choice than walking. However, if you are feeling this same level of fear over meeting a friend for coffee or going to school, or gaining weight, that is when fear can get in the way of you living your life and it needs to be challenged. The first step of overcoming these irrational fears is to acknowledge that you are having those fears, to accept them and then to choose to do something about it. When you are in a state of denial, you cannot move forward or grow as a person, you are stuck in this self-made rut with nowhere to go. For me, it is ‘fearless’ to acknowledge your weaknesses and your insecurities and to challenge them head on. One of the fears that myself and many others have, is to be seen truly for who I am, flaws and all. It takes ‘fearlessness’ to be completely okay with being seen internally as well as externally, and to be  okay with people seeing your flaws. It takes courage to allow people to witness your raw genuine, authentic and sometimes ugly emotions. It takes self-confidence to allow people to view the skeletons within your closet and to see the grey areas that you usually keep hidden within. 

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Why is it that with our friends we are fine with sharing the darkest parts of ourselves, but with others it fills us with dread? Share your thoughts with me, I’d be interested to hear what you think! 

- Olivia Charlotte Alice 


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