Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fearless

In the last few weeks I've had a couple of people characterize me as "fearless", and it's the best compliment ever. I love that description, but it's had me wondering if it's true. Am I really fearless?

The dictionary defines fearless as: without fear; bold or brave; intrepid. (Also intrepid is another fantastic word). I'm admittedly not afraid of a lot of things. I think sometimes people confuse my being fearless with being aggressively candid, but I suppose that's another kind of fearlessness. It takes cojones to say what you think, and I do it often, without reservation. My general thought process is that I like to know where others are coming from, and I hope people appreciate that they always know where I stand. It may be something simple like the abomination of wearing leggings as pants or a complicated legislative issue, but my opinions rarely come as a surprise to anyone. In that sense I am perhaps fearless.

But what about overall? I'm certainly afraid of things. I'm afraid of failing to the extent that I won't even start something I know I'm not good at. I don't love driving in bad weather although it is a necessary evil. I have an irrational fear of driving off a bridge into a body of water. When trying to capture a bat last weekend in my house I discovered that I definitely am afraid to be too close to a bat. I'm sure there are other things I'm afraid of, but I don't dwell on them or worry about them. What's the point? Worry, particularly about things we cannot control, is a useless endeavor. Worry creates fear, and that's a vicious cycle in which I refuse to get swept up.

Before my first triathlon. I was petrified.
For me being fearless isn't being without fear; it's how you handle the fear. We can give in to it, and we can let it get the best of us. Or we can push through the fear and challenge ourselves. It's good to force myself to do something that scares me. I use fear as a motivator, and it works like a charm.

When I started running I was terrified - terrified of failing, of getting injured, of looking silly. Then I realized that was the reason I should do it. Things that have meaning should be intimidating.  Whether it's taking a new job, taking on a new life challenge (like running), traveling someplace where you don't speak the language, starting a family or falling in love - anything worth doing is scary. Being fearless doesn't mean you're not afraid. It means you've taken afraid and made it your b*tch. 

I spent my 20s making fearless decisions, and I spent a lot of time handling the terrified. I moved to Texas and visited my third year of law school at Baylor (a terrifyingly good school where I knew no one). I moved to Virginia and applied for a job with the Mayor from a classified ad. It turned out to be a huge catalyst for my love of cities. I moved to Michigan for a new job in the state legislature. I didn't know anyone here, and the move changed my life. I met my husband, amazing friends, and have fallen into a career that I love. I would be lying if I said all of these large changes weren't scary, but the fear is what drives me to conquer new challenges.

Before my first marathon - Detroit in 2010. I was a bundle of nerves.
Fear is natural. There is nobody - even the most adventurous and bold people - who don't feel fear. Being fearless is about conquering the fear and using it to your advantage. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world." Being fearless is about beating down the fear and taking control of it. Are there things I fear? Absolutely. That's part of what makes me fearless.    

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