I remember a time when I lived paralyzed by fear, and nearly allowed it to convince me my life wasn’t worth living. To be honest, fear is something I struggle with day to day, but this time I’m specifically remembering lasted for awhile and turned into one of the most pivotal moments of my life.

When I finally walked out of it, I felt a level of fearlessness. I don’t mean I no longer had fear. What I mean is I finally realized the risks associated with facing my fears were better than living trapped by those fears.

It’s been a few years since that moment happened, and as I’ve spent time processing the whole thing, I’ve come up with the 3 main factors that helped me embrace fearlessness in that moment. These are my definition of “fearlessness”.

Fearlessness is being aware of your weaknesses and learning how to disarm them

Coming to terms with the fact that we have weaknesses (yes, more than one!) is a whole topic on its own, but it’s also a huge part of embracing fearlessness. Fearlessness is not self-confidence to the point of self-destruction. It’s a delicate balance of owning who you are, and realizing it does not hold you back.

The idea that an overblown self-confidence is going to render you fearless is a misconception…Self-delusion is not going to protect you from discouragement, depression, or anxiety. Individuals become fearless only when they accept their own weaknesses, and as a result, learn to deal calmly with stressful situations. They become fearless because they are willing to give up the pretension of invulnerability, while at the same time, they are committed to remaining effective and alert. – John Vespasian

What are your weaknesses? I can give you some examples of mine if you’re having a tough time at coming up with a list on your own:

  • Anger – this is, hands down, my biggest weakness. Fear manifests, for me, as anger and if I’m in a stressful situation, my initial reaction is lashing out. Choosing to disarm my anger with a fact-check, though, typically works. If my anger has no basis in reality, it has no ability to exist.
  • Perfectionism – paralysis from the fear of not doing something perfectly is very real, and very difficult to overcome. But, you can disarm perfectionism by changing its definition. Make your own version of perfect, instead of using someone else’s barometer to measure yourself (this is the main reason social media can become so toxic, amiright?).
  • Failure – allowing the fear of failure to prevent you from ever beginning is something I am super good at. It’s why it took me a year to even begin this blog (and then once I finally started it, it took me months to pull the trigger on actually writing!). Breaking down whatever you’re afraid of failing at into smaller tasks, though, can effectively disarm failure. Small wins add up to huge ones over time.

Fearlessness is fueled by hope

When you’re aware of your weaknesses, it’s very easy to succumb to them and tell yourself that even with your tactics at disarming them, you’ll still never really succeed.

This is where hope comes in.

We don’t give up because we encounter challenges. We give up when we lose hope that we can overcome them. Hope, more than perseverance, is the linchpin of success. – Stephen Palmer

When we underpin the determination to face and disarm our weaknesses with the power of hope, we catapult ourselves that much further to living out fearlessness and actually achieving what we’ve set out to do.

How do you keep a hand on hope, though? Here are three quick ideas:

  • Remind yourself of your why – when your weaknesses flare up in your face, what is the why that triggered that flare? Were you working toward a goal, or trying to achieve a dream (maybe write a book, or tell a really important story to someone, or reach out to a potential mentor)? Focus on that why and let it drive instead of fear.
  • Get real about what you stand to gain – what I mean is, focus on the facts of a situation instead of the “what if”s. Wondering “what if I fail again?” is not going to reinforce a hopeful mindset. But wondering “what if I succeed and I help that person?” or any other potential win definitely will.
  • Ask for help – sometimes it’s not enough to look inside yourself and pull out hope, and at that point you need to be brave (and aware) enough to ask for help. Find a trusted friend, family member, or mentor and tell them you’re struggling and need a little boost.

Fearlessness is controlling that voice in your head that says you’re not enough

This is something I continually have to remind myself (and maybe you feel the same way): I am in control of my own thoughts.

But there is that internal voice that often creeps in and says things like – “people are going to laugh at you!” or “everyone is thinking you’re going to fail at this.” or “why are you bothering to try another thing? You never finish anything you start.”

Realizing you have the power to take control of that internal monologue, though, can be life changing. You don’t have to listen to your inner mean girl.

How do you tell her to take a seat?

  • Empathize with your inner mean voice – I know this is a funny thing to consider, but why is your inner voice being so mean to you anyway? Chances are it’s rooted in fear and weakness, which we talked about above. If you’re hearing something along the lines of you’re going to fail at this or that, maybe it’s because the reality is in the past you have failed. Maybe you berated yourself, instead of giving yourself some much-needed compassion. Take a moment to uncover the why, then give yourself some grace.
  • Correct what’s wrong with the facts – Your inner mean voice often has things wrong, or blown out of proportion. Usually, it goes to the extreme of a situation. Here’s an example: “If you try to ask for a raise, you’re going to come across as greedy, and then your boss is never going to think of you the same way again!”. What’s the reality, though? The reality, in our example, is more like if you asked for a raise, your boss will consider your request, then act based on your performance – more times than not, things are not as sensational as we imagine them to be.
  • Imagine yourself as a child (or a pet) – Again, this may sound silly, but would you honestly speak so meanly to a child or to an animal? Probably not. When you hear that voice in your head, imagine it’s speaking to yourself as a child or pet and see if that doesn’t challenge you to lighten up the tone and change the message.

Last, I want to emphasize that sometimes your inner voice can be rooted in fact – sometimes it can be our conscience or intuition warning us about a situation. In those cases, though, the language it’s using is probably not mean. There’s a difference between “you are totally going to fail at this business venture because you stink at planning!” and “Remember when you decided it wasn’t the right time to quit your job and start this business because you didn’t have enough saved up?” Distinguish between these, and focus on quieting the mean voice.

Are you ready to be fearless?

I still work on cultivating fearlessness, because when you walk out of one situation, you’re certain to walk into another at some point in time that causes you to be afraid, or nervous, or anxious. The hope, though, is that when that happens, you’re better equipped to choose fearlessness instead of fearfulness.

Start by identifying your weaknesses and how you can disarm them, then underpin those tactics with hope, and, finally, tell your inner mean girl to chill out. The key is to repeat this sequence until it becomes second nature. You have the power to change your narrative from one of fear, to one of fearlessness. I believe in you, and I hope you believe in you, too.

Originally published at myfearlessheart.com