Life is Beautiful Beyond Fear (pt. 2 of 2)

The tools to take the journey inward.

Life is Beautiful Beyond Fear (pt. 2 of 2)

My own lived experiences, copious research, and 20+ years in therapy inform my writing on this matter. I am not a healthcare provider nor a licensed mental health professional. Therapy is for everyone, though it can be challenging to find a good match. If you cannot afford or do not have access to a therapist, these resources may be a good place to start. If you are in crisis, seek help from a friend or loved one, and if you are having suicidal thoughts, confidential help is available in the United States and for US and non-US residents.

You are reading part 2; read part 1

Awareness to Change

Life's work is to enact the only transformation we fully control: the inward journey. Likely, the call to begin will come about once you meet one of your dragons (see Transforming Your Dragons for archetype-based teaching on this topic).

The intensity of the process will depend on how far into life we go before taking charge of our course and owning our choices. The process I am referring to here is, of course, The Work.

Understanding the riches uncovered throughout the journey will compel you further than the pain of beginning. To this end, I will elucidate some useful awareness gained traveling my own path.

This image features a serene, fantastical landscape that blends elements of nature with a dreamlike quality. The central figure, dressed in a warm coat with a hood, stands at the edge of a tranquil body of water. Their reflection is clearly visible in the glassy surface, enhancing the scene's symmetry. To the left, a rocky outcrop is adorned with vibrant pink bushes, while tall trees with red foliage stand majestically. To the right, a gentle grassy slope leads to a single tree with sparse branches, adding to the idyllic setting. In the background, towering cliffs and distant, snow-capped mountains rise against a soft, pastel sky. The overall composition, enclosed in a circular frame with a gradient border transitioning from blue to purple, evokes a sense of peace and wonder, blending realistic and fantastical elements seamlessly.

A point at which the past becomes as unknown to you as the future. This is the point you can accept your existence in the now.

As covered in Pt. 1, awareness is the first step on your path. It will also be alongside you for the duration of your journey and is the truth-teller you will rely on to keep you out of your way. Awareness happens at the beginning of our journey when we accept we must change our patterns. Awareness is also a muscle you learn to flex when your poisonous thoughts clamor at the gate, threatening to break your defenses and thwart your progress.

Strategies for Fear

Awareness knows your ego and what she is up to when fear starts working the ugly patterns back into play. Our ego hates to change. What this looks like in practice is familiar to most of us. Imagine you are on the path of self-discovery and decide to incorporate a new passion to increase your sensory awareness and decrease your fear of new experiences. You choose to take up a sport you enjoyed in your younger years; let's say you played tennis and are looking forward to meeting new people and re-learning the game. The day of your first lesson arrives, and you are uncertain why, but you suddenly feel this day will not go as planned; in fact, you might be coming down with something and cannot make your scheduled lesson after all.

This image portrays a lively, youthful character with a bright and friendly demeanor. The central figure is a young woman with curly hair, styled in a playful and slightly messy manner, tied back with colorful accessories. She wears large, round glasses that amplify her expressive eyes, and a pair of fun, lime-green earrings shaped like balls. Her attire is casual yet sporty, consisting of a light blue t-shirt with purple trim on the sleeves. A delicate necklace with a small pendant adds a touch of elegance to her look. She is smiling broadly, creating an engaging and approachable presence. The background suggests an indoor setting, possibly a sports hall or recreational facility, with people engaged in various activities. The soft, diffused lighting adds to the lively atmosphere, enhancing the vibrant colors and dynamic composition. The image is framed by a circular border with a gradient that transitions from blue to purple, giving it a modern and stylish appearance. This artwork captures the essence of a cheerful, active lifestyle with a touch of whimsy.

Don’t let fear block your progress.

Despite your best intentions, your threatened ego holds the grip of doubt tightly. Your ego has accommodated life by creating an identity it can work with. Often, this identity has roots in deep fear patterns, and when threatened, the ego can make your world feel upside down. Preventing any change that threatens its protective identity, your ego casts a thousand reasons why you cannot, should not, and will not do X. Even if doing X is absolutely in the interest of your physical and mental health, your ego demands compliance.

Call in the accountability buddy. 

Thankfully, you are neither your ego nor is your ego smarter than you and when you booked your tennis lesson, you did so with a plan and a partner. Accountability buddies will keep you climbing your ladder; they are the friends and loved ones who remind us to put one foot in front of the other, even and especially when we cannot see the ground ahead. You can have one or many accountability buddies, but make sure you find at least one. This person will also serve as someone outside of yourself who knows what you are up to (ahem, just doing The Work is all). You make it to your lesson, meet some new friends, realize you definitely need to add more cardio to your routine and reap the double reward of aerobic activity earned while pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Also, your ego just had a reality check and will remember this experience as enriching, sweaty, and positive. The next new thing you try will be less stressful, and the trend will continue as you demand fear to take its place in the backseat of this dune buggy you now call life.

The young woman is seen from a side profile, engaging in a sports activity, likely badminton or tennis, given the net visible in the background. She is wearing large, stylish green sunglasses and has her hair tied back with a few loose strands framing her face. Her earrings are playful and complement her sporty attire. The background includes another player in blue, out of focus, indicating an active game.

Accountability Buddies - keeping you in your game.

Meet Your Inner Child

Recognition

You may wonder what tennis has to do with transformation, but the answer is nothing. The transformation you enact is highly customized by and for you. Action is one path to activating your body-brain connection. Action moves us away from inertia, and being proactive sends powerful positive signals to our minds that we've got this.

A less active but equally critical approach to discovering your True Self is inner child work. Simply put, as we go through life beyond childhood, there is an impetus to become our inner child's ideal parent. As an adult, we must bring the inner child out of any crisis-like state she may have existed in since the age of trauma or traumas occurred. Trauma can be significant, or many small events; these events have an enormous impact on the undeveloped brain of a child. A car crash is traumatic to a child, and abuse is obvious trauma, as is the sound of uncontrolled anger from adults in conflict or the lack of adequate food, love, care, etc.

Ultimately, each of us must escape the bonds of childhood fear and step into our fully formed adult life as a capable parent to our inner child, a parental figure we may have lacked early in life. A licensed therapist will be helpful as you begin this journey. You will encounter aspects of yourself that make you uncomfortable — engage a professional to guide you through this process. Equally, trusted loved ones should know that you are doing this work, ask for patience and support, and remain open to what you uncover. Your journey may be the inspiration your loved one was seeking to begin their own personal transformation.

This image features a young woman with a cheerful and friendly demeanor, set against a vibrant and floral background. She has curly hair, styled in a casual and slightly tousled manner, with a few strands falling around her face. Her large, stylish glasses frame her expressive eyes, adding a touch of sophistication to her look. She is wearing a pair of playful earrings that resemble sunflowers, enhancing her lively and approachable appearance. Her outfit consists of a blue shirt with a casual fit, suggesting a relaxed and comfortable style. The necklace she wears is delicate, adding a subtle touch of elegance. The background is filled with large, colorful flowers, primarily daisies in shades of yellow, pink, and white. These flowers create a whimsical and joyful atmosphere, complementing the subject's bright and engaging presence. The setting appears to be outdoors, with hints of a scenic landscape visible in the distance, possibly a body of water and mountains under a soft, golden light. The image is enclosed in a circular frame with a gradient border transitioning from blue to purple, providing a modern and cohesive look. This artwork captures the essence of a sunny, cheerful day, filled with the beauty of nature and the warmth of a friendly personality.

Knowing Your Self is the greatest gift you can give to you.

You will start to cultivate a relationship with your inner child that has been frayed or disconnected over time. If, as children, we learn to be polite and appeasing (e.g., to accommodate or avoid the immature reaction style of a parental figure), later in life, we tend to develop destructive habits of self-abandonment. Each time we accept someone else's truth over our own knowing to avoid conflict, we are forsaking our Self. Over time, repeatedly ignoring what we truly want (or believe) causes the voice within to grow distant and muted.

Rebuilding the lost connection to the inner child is like finding a long-lost friend, but it is even better. Imagine you have a superhero living inside yourself who totally understands you, thinks you are funny, will stand by your side when times are tough, and never doubt you when you are going for the challenging goals in life. This superhero is the kind of person YOU are. When you rebuild trust with your inner child, she will show up for you in ways you could only dream of, giving you a profound sense of inner resolve and calm.

The Missing Piece is You

Communication

Most of us spend our lives looking for this level of completeness in another person, a job, an ideal life, etc. The inward path will show you the "missing piece" that has been within you all along. When you are ready to begin, I find photographs from periods of my childhood to be helpful tools to assess and guide my process. Find a photo of yourself in which you can look directly into your own eyes. Try to find photos from various ages of your youth and begin with the older "you." Look at the photograph (into your own eyes) and ask yourself how am I doing? With a journal close by, begin to write down whatever comes up. If anything painful comes to the surface, remember to give yourself permission to take a break, call a friend, or cry.

There is no wrong way as long as you engage with a loving curiosity toward yourself. Do not criticize, and if critical voices come to the surface, remember these are not your words, and this is not your voice. As you feel ready to progress, move on to the next photograph, ask yourself how you are and what you need as you engage with different periods of your childhood through the eyes of your child self. Write any ideas or feelings you experience in your journal. Continue exploring this practice to cultivate self-kindness and awareness of your inner child and true feelings.

This image features a young woman in an indoor setting, possibly a library or study room, indicated by the presence of bookshelves in the background. She is sitting at a desk, engaged in writing or drawing in a notebook, which suggests she might be studying, journaling, or working on a creative project. Her curly hair frames her face, highlighted by the soft, warm lighting that creates a pleasant, inviting atmosphere. She wears large, stylish glasses that enhance her expressive eyes, giving her a thoughtful and intellectual appearance. Her earrings are intricate and add a touch of elegance to her casual yet sophisticated style. Her outfit consists of a light-colored blouse, unbuttoned at the top, revealing a layered necklace that adds to her chic look. The natural light coming through the window creates a gentle glow, highlighting her features and giving the scene a cozy, contemplative feel. The image is framed by a circular border with a gradient transitioning from blue to purple, giving it a modern and cohesive look. This artwork captures a moment of quiet focus and creativity, reflecting a sense of calm and intellectual engagement.

Journals are your friend but don’t let them get dusty, write it all down and let it out, tears and all.

As mentioned earlier, awareness will be your ally along this road. Bringing your attention to your thoughts and how your body responds throughout your day will train the muscle of insight. Practice becoming aware of your reactions (both physically and mentally) to people and events. Begin this process with the breath, bringing awareness to your body as you inhale and exhale. Let the awareness of your breath be a reminder that you exist within a living body. You have the right and choice to decide how you will respond in this, and every moment you are alive. Though simple, this awareness is equally profound and will give you precious peace from the constant reactive behavior many of us have adopted as normal.

Once you can easily drop into bodily awareness, try doing so when experiencing slightly stressful thoughts and experiences, training your body and mind to reconnect with your physical body and maintain calm. Once again, this is a process of repairing your connection to your True Self. Each active choice to move from self-abandonment toward self-love is a suture to the wounded soul.

Each active choice to move from self-abandonment toward self-love is a suture to the wounded soul.

Through this process, you will grow stronger and more aligned with your true identity. For a framework that establishes boundaries around your life and work (especially helpful for us overachiever types), read my article on The Pillars of Vitality. My friend and coach Rúna taught me this framework. You can learn more about Rúna's transformative work with global leaders here.

Traveling Inward

Reconciliation

The choice to understand who we truly are requires commitment and support. Leveraging support systems and supporting others on their journey will improve your social awareness and emotional intelligence. You will acquire specialized tools on your quest, tools you would have liked to have known about earlier in life, but be grateful to find them on your own accord.

You will notice more patience with both yourself and others. In addition to tactics and self-compassion, you will observe the emergence of a deep love that feels like a hug inside your soul. Slowly, the Self awakens and begins to open her eyes. The world is not so scary knowing you have got your own back, trusting and steady. You encourage the full expression of yourself, not thwarting but soothing, not silencing but encouraging.

You feel calmer and clearer and like the difficulties of life are manageable.

You've got this. You will be on this road for the duration of your days, but take stock of how far you have come. Observe how differently you now parent your own children. Notice how much joy you have let into your world, previously hidden by old and outgrown patterns from your youth.

Notice how much joy you have let into your world, previously hidden by old and outgrown patterns from your youth.

You feel calmer and clearer and like the difficulties of life are manageable.

Feel free to reach out if you have experienced your own healing journey and want to share ideas that might help others. Have you been sidelined by the need to work on yourself?

The need for transformation can come as a surprise, but there are communities that can support you on this journey. Push yourself outside the familiar to find others actively participating in their healing journeys.

Remember that we are all part of one existence, and our light can only shine when we love ourselves as we love others. Our love for others is limited by our self-worth, just as the lives we dream of living will remain out of reach until we internalize the love we require to live beyond fear.

Call to Action & Motivation

As we close this journey of 'Life is Beautiful Beyond Fear,' remember that transformation is not a destination but a continuous path of growth and self-discovery. Each step you take, no matter how small, is a move towards understanding and loving yourself more fully. I encourage you to embrace this ongoing process with courage and curiosity, and to share your journey with others. By doing so, we not only heal ourselves but also inspire those around us to begin their own journeys. Let’s continue to support each other, celebrate our victories, and navigate challenges together. Remember, you are not alone on this path; we are all evolving, together.

The image portrays a serene and picturesque landscape where a lone figure stands at the edge of a reflective water body, possibly a lake or a pond. The figure is facing away from the viewer, gazing towards a breathtaking sunset or sunrise. The sky is ablaze with vibrant colors, ranging from golden yellows and oranges to deep blues and purples, suggesting the time of day is either dawn or dusk. The water is remarkably still, creating a mirror-like surface that reflects the dramatic sky and the silhouetted figure. Around the figure's feet, the water is shallow, allowing for the presence of delicate, blooming water lilies that add a touch of nature's beauty to the scene. Rocks and foliage border the water, enhancing the natural feel of the environment. In the background, the landscape is dotted with rugged hills or mountains, partially shrouded in the soft, warm light. A solitary tree stands out on the left side, adding a sense of scale and balance to the composition. The image is enclosed in a circular frame with a gradient border that transitions from a light blue to purple, creating a modern and visually appealing presentation. The overall mood of the artwork is tranquil and contemplative, inviting the viewer to imagine the thoughts and emotions of the solitary figure in this stunning natural setting.

Notice how much joy you have let into your world, previously hidden by old and outgrown patterns from your youth.

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