The other day I watched a short video that had been posted about a young, 20-something, outgoing, free-spirited woman who lived in my old stomping ground of Venice Beach, California. This young woman, who was full of life, energy and spirit was so inspiring to watch as she glided down the Venice boardwalk on her skateboard, did tricks on her skateboard at the skate park, was shown surfing in the Southern California waters and even had video of her snowboarding down huge snowy mountains. Normally, this adventurous, fearless woman would have already been inspiring to me, but what was even more impressive was that she did it all without legs.
This young woman had, in fact, been born without her legs. And as if this wasn’t already devastating enough, as an infant she had been left on the streets of her homeland in Thailand to fend for herself. Thankfully, life had other plans in store for her and she was rescued by a group of monks who raised her until the age of 2 upon which she was then adopted and raised in the United States.
What was even more interesting and outstanding about this woman, besides her surviving and overcoming such a difficult past, besides her unstoppable positive attitude, high energy, deep sense of gratitude and her exuberance for life, was her blatant fearlessness. This is not to say she had no fear, but as she said in the video, she made a conscious decision each and every day to face each fear as it came and to overcome it. Never considering her “limitations” as a real or valid concern, she simply lived her life exactly as she decided in spite of having no legs and in spite of any fears.
Of course this woman could have just as easily decided at a young age to shut herself down and to hide from society as much as possible to save herself from the challenges of going through life and facing people each and every day with half of her body missing. She could have just as easily become angry or depressed or spent her life living in constant fear of what others might say about her and how others might judge her. As she went through school and became a teenager, she could have decided to be home-schooled or accepted to be a loner or outcast. But she didn’t. In fact, she excelled at school and was one of the most popular and well-liked students with plenty of dates to boot.
After watching this vibrant, no-holds bar, I can do whatever-the-fuck I want woman in Venice Beach, California skateboarding, surfing, chatting with everyone and living her life with real courage and freedom I instantly had to ask myself, “Who would I be without my fears?” And in fact, who would we all be if we didn’t live life trapped by our fears?
For me, it’s an essential question to ask ourselves and one that deserves an honest answer.
Think about it for a moment… what would your life be like if you lived it the way you truly wanted? Who would you be if you weren’t afraid of what other people thought of you?
Because when you really start to think about these questions, for most of us, all our decisions, small and large, each and every single day, are made from a laundry list of our fears. Fear of being judged, fear of being abandoned, fear of someone being angry at us, fear of looking “stupid” or “incompetent,” fear of hurting someone we love, fear of being alone, fear of not being in control, fear of making a mistake, fear of succeeding, fear of failing and the list goes on and on and on. If you take time now, I’m sure you can even come up with some of your own fears to add to the list too.
And yes, of course instinctual, survival fears are normal to protect us from danger. But this isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about our irrational, neurotic fears that are guiding every part of our lives every second of every day that deprive us from the life we are truly meant to live. The fears that keep us imprisoned in some false persona we created within a false life, that over time, vaguely even resembles who we actually are inside.
Is this really the way we want to live? Is this really the purpose of our existence? Living a life out of fear? I don’t believe so and this young woman clearly didn’t think so either.
So what does this all mean?
Right now you might be thinking, “Yeah, but this woman is a rare example. I could never live like that,” or, “But if everyone did what they wanted how would the world function?”
Yes you could.
And the world would actually function much better.
To answer this question take a moment and close your eyes to really connect to yourself. Think about all the ways you go through each and every day trying to prevent something “bad” from happening to yourself or a loved one. How many times a day you worry about what a loved one, a colleague, a friend or a stranger might think about you. How many times you hold your tongue and don’t say what you truly think or feel out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or upsetting them in some way. Maybe there are things you’ve always wanted to do but you never allowed yourself to because you’re afraid of what your family and friends will say if you followed your heart. Sound familiar? Join the club.
When I think about all the decisions I’ve made in my life out of some form of fear, suddenly it becomes all too clear how small I’ve made myself in order to be “responsible,” “good,” and to be “accepted.” And accepted by whom? By other people who are also afraid every minute of the day to show who they really are and who are terrified by living a life that reflects who they truly are? Seems like a bit of a vicious cycle, no?
So what does all this mean? What do we do even if we realize we’re living out of fear rather than living in spite of our fear?
This young woman was courageous, admirable and bold not because she could skateboard, surf and ski without legs, but because she lived her life the way she wanted in spite of her fears and recognized that we are all in fact unique in our own ways. That we’re all “strange” and “weird” and wonderful no matter who we are. And that when you acknowledge this fact and connect to your life through passion and love rather than fear, everything is possible, whether or not you have your legs, your arms, your vision, your hearing, or anything else.
So be bold with your life starting from this moment. Start by making choices, no matter how small, based on how you feel and what you truly want. Maybe you’ve tried to make yourself invisible in your life in some way to try and “blend in” and not be noticed so that you avoid being judged. Or maybe you find yourself constantly trying to prove how valuable and lovable you are by always appearing as if you have everything together and that you are “successful” because of your job, or because you drive an expensive car or buy expensive clothes, living a life that is full of monetary value but has no personal value, happiness or joy. Or maybe you’re like a chameleon constantly changing your personality based on those around you in order to be loved and accepted. Whatever your particular life situation, look at it honestly for what it is. Acknowledge you’ve likely made decisions and are still making decisions out of some form of fear. Once you acknowledge this, you can begin to uncover who you really are underneath all the masks you’ve created and you can begin to be honest with yourself, for the first time maybe, about who you truly are.
More than likely, a good place to start looking will be back to your childhood. Back to a time when you felt most free to be yourself. Or, if this wasn't your experience during your childhood, think of a time during any point of your life when you felt the most happy and free. What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you? What was different about this time? Did you feel any fear, and if so, how did you deal with it?
And if you discover that you’ve never felt free to be yourself… well there’s no better time than now. Living from a place of fear is not a life, in fact, it’s an existence. It’s survival mode. We each have the power and capacity, whatever our perceived limitations, at any given moment to live in spite of our fear and… to be bold. Because when we live our lives from a place of fear, we not only deprive ourselves of living an authentic and joyful life, we deprive those around us of our natural gifts, talents and perspectives on life. By being bold and courageous in our own lives, we inspire others to do the same and we send the message that it’s ok to be wild, wonderful and “weird.” So take time to ask yourself who would you be without your fear and allow yourself to begin to imagine who you are underneath the different masks you've created for yourself.
If you want to see the video of this inspiring woman for yourself, feel free to take a look here:
Tania Manczarek is a holistic swiss army knife. A trained therapist, shamanic energy worker, certified yoga instructor, massage practitioner and spiritual coach and retreat facilitator, she focuses on healing through the mind/body/spirit connection and is passionate about helping people live an authentic and balanced life. Originally, from Los Angeles, she left to travel the world over in 2011 to find her own path of healing and to follow her dreams. Now living in France, she offers individual wellness services by phone/Skype, events and retreats in France and abroad.