I don’t remember exactly when I first realised I was fearless.
Perhaps it was that time ten years ago when I became aware that two dishevelled teenage girls were waiting to roll me for cash outside a public toilet. Instead of cowering in the cubicle, I thought “well, this should be interesting” and boldly stepped out of the stall. Perhaps luckily for me, the girls had already fled because a young mother with a pram had entered the room.
The event was not a turning point, but an indication that something in me had changed.
I certainly haven’t always been this way. The list of fears I’ve grappled with over the years is quite lengthy. Many were imagined inadequacies: not measuring up when it came to being smart, pretty, thin, sexy, experienced, cool, quirky, assertive, articulate, patient or affectionate.
Other fears were more substantial and nurtured by the emotional blackmailers and bullies in my life. It was through them that I learned to fear inadequacy, powerlessness and invisibility. And my fear of being selfish kept me involved with those people much longer than I should have been.
It was not the act of leaving those relationships which made me fearless, though. I left only after accepting that it did not make me a bad person to put my own well being first; particularly my mental health, which was unknowingly under pressure at the time.
I believe my refusal to feel guilty for these acts of self-preservation engendered the fearlessness that I feel today.
What does it mean to be fearless? Well, it is more than striding confidently into battle. Being fearless can also mean being ruthless and dispassionate.
For me it means always putting my mental health first, and simply avoiding those stressful situations and people that cause my depression to surface.
It means not feeling guilty to decline invitations, instead of feeling obliged to accept and then stressing and lying about why I cancelled or didn’t show. It means happily refusing the assistance of well-meaning match-makers or dates with men where there is no chemistry, even though the alternative is to be alone.
It also means reducing my social circle to those with whom I really care to spend time, and limiting my exposure to my extended family and its dramas.
Being fearless has brought innumerable positives to my life. Foremost, it has nurtured within me a confident self-acceptance: I’m comfortable with my own company, being in my own skin, my age, my economic circumstances, and my abilities and preferences, while genuinely not giving a toss about what other people might think.
Fearlessness also helps me to resist emotional blackmail and stand up to bullies. It entitles me to refuse to be defined or constrained by others’ value systems and currencies for measuring self-worth. It equips me to speak my mind. And it helps me to accept when I am not liked – or loved – and to understand that solitude does not mean loneliness.
Perhaps most importantly of all, fearlessness enables me to be totally unapologetic about putting my own well being first.
Yes, my fearlessness makes me uncompromising but I write about it in the hope that I can encourage other people to be fearless too. Particularly women, who I believe are not well served by this society which even now encourages them to put themselves second after partners, families and their employers.
Fear makes us small and erodes our self-worth. Fearlessness gives us the right to be, and to protect, ourselves. Be fearless, be yourself, and protect your well being.