Fear. That one word that leaves most of us paralysed. Fear is supposed to help us survive, but as modern times have progressed it has become a way of subduing, repressing, or even neglecting. We use fear as an excuse to live, and often because we focus so much on our fears, the thing we feared would actually happen. Energy flows to where focus goes and fear is no exception. I cannot tell you when did fear get such a bad rap, and I also cannot tell you what you should do about it. We all have different fears (a post for another day!) and different ways of coping (or avoiding) with them. Our fears stem from beliefs, past experiences or something totally unrelated that happened to an impressionable mind. Where they come from and what they are are, today, of no relevance to me. Today I want to tell you a secret – if you start to simplify your life, you will put yourself on the road to becoming fearless.
I believe that when we simplify our lives, we ensure that all aspects of our life firstly get the right amount of attention and secondly, feeds us optimally. If you spend too much time on something that could be ignored, evaded or even discontinued, you will always feel depleted and tired. By simplifying your life, you can easily identify the areas of your life where you feel more overwhelm than joy, and give more than you get. Fixing those areas will bring you a far way on your ditching-fear journey.
But how? How can simplifying help me to become fearless?
When you simplify your life it means you are conserving energy that you would normally spend on some menial task, leaving that energy available to be directed to where it flows naturally, or where it is more needed. By simplifying your life, you remove those energy drains that leave you depleted, going you more time and money and energy to spend on things that make you happy and fulfilled. Things like morning routines, capsule wardrobes, meal planning, journaling, meditating, and more all add to a simple life. All of these activities I just listed either help you to lessen the time spent on the respective life aspect or make you more efficient when dealing with it (a morning routine means you get to work on time, not flustered, with all your documents in check; meal planning allows you more time with your kids; a capsule wardrobe gives you 10min extra to sleep or meditate; journaling allows you to figure out your focus, identify weak spots and give you room to grow; etc.). If we free up space, time and energy because we have automated, simplified or done away with things, we have that extra time to spend on facing our fears.
Facing your fears
Most people want to run in the opposite direction when they hear the cliché “face your fears”. What I am proposing is not the same as going bungee jumping to overcome your fear of falling. No, rather I want to invite you to become acquainted with your fears. And like any other relationship that is worthwhile, you can only form a bond if you know the other’s backstory. So for you to become your fear’s best opponent, first determine where that fear came from. Most often our fears stem from beliefs that we have accumulated or accepted from a young age. More often than not those beliefs were instilled in you by what you perceived to be true, either because that is what an authority figure told you so, or because that is the way you experienced it. Now just to be very clear, I am not talking about physical fears such as the fear of heights, flying, dying, etc. I am more interested in the internal fears, those that govern how we transact, react and interact with others in the world. Those fears that keep us from building relationships, growing or succeeding. Being afraid of heights will only stand in the way of career advances if you are a window-washer or mountain climber. Being afraid of success, now that is another ball game.
When we tackle our lives intending to simplify them, we are almost by definition also planning on tackling ourselves. Whether that is to take better care of your body or your heart or your mind, a certain degree of self-development is almost always present. So while you are uncluttering your bathroom cupboard you inevitably start asking yourself why you kept so many sentimental things or lack of any sentimental object. This leads to other, more intense questions, and sooner than later you find yourself facing the fact that you have always felt insignificant, that you believe people will the sooner forget you than you are out the door, that you are replaceable. Ouch.
But knowing this can then lead you to discover why you feel that way, and why you have always subconsciously believed this to be true. Of course, many things in your life might have happened that you can name as proof of this belief. Maybe you were looked over for a promotion, or your favourite teacher never got your name right. Or you keep on getting and losing love. See, proof that you are insignificant and unimportant. No! Energy flows where focus goes remember?
When we believe something to be true we inadvertently look for proof. If the proof does not exist, we create it. When we focus on an empty space, our minds want to fill it up. And because we do not like uncertainty, this happens very quickly. Our beliefs form our thoughts, our thoughts form our habits, they form our reactions and that turns into a lifestyle. If our beliefs are negative, they create fears (rational or irrational) which we subscribe to, which is then carried over into our thoughts, which becomes our habits and how we react. And pretty soon we have a lifestyle build around those fears.
If you strive for a simple life you are actively focussing on making yourself strong, self-confident and not dependent on only one aspect of your life. Simplification removes the compulsion to win all the time, mainly because you know in the grand scheme of things a loss here or there will make no difference. Actively bringing your life into calmer, simpler water can help you eliminate fears, so not only are you facing them but you are also overpowering them. Standing on top of your fear, proclaiming victory, is such an empowering feeling! When you know your life is stable and as you want it, you can look fear straight in the eye and say “no more”.
I started serious simplification about a year ago. Some of the first things I did was declutter, remove everything that gives no value, and that includes relationships, set clear boundaries and figure out what I wanted in life. Doing this took a fair amount of introspection, with more than a few very painful realisations. I realised that I lived in fear. Fear of other people’s opinions, fear of my own greatness, fear of rejection, but most importantly, fear of allowing other people to fail. I believed I had to save everyone. That led me to be lenient with my time, energy, and resources. I gave when I didn’t even have enough for myself because if I didn’t I would lose you, or play a part in your failure. When I simplified my wardrobe I realised I didn’t even know what my personal style was, I just subscribed to what other people thought I looked good in. How crazy is that? But unfortunately, not uncommon. We live in fear, whether we care to admit it or not. And it is ruining our lives, stealing from us our authentic selves and robbing the world of the greatness that we can become.
Today I can say that simplifying has enabled me to become fearless. It has shown me how I can take my fears and not only face them but turn them into strengths. When our fears become our safety nets and not our safety dens, we are growing into the person we were made to be. We were born gods, fear just made us forget that. I am still scared of heights, but never again will I be afraid to be insignificant or forgotten.
If this post resonated with you, please share and leave a comment. We all need a bit of encouragement from time to time.