By: Sima Kumar, Guest Contributor
Last week I attended the annual Women in the World Summit. It was 3 days of inspired storytelling from women all over the world and all walks of life. The A-Z of “whose who” and the “whose about to be” were at some point represented on the stage of the David H. Koch Theatre in Lincoln Centre.
One common thread that kept coming up in many of the talks was the topic of being fearless. I heard one woman say “I have no fear” and another “I’ve never been afraid a day in my life.” I found this troubling as the conference went by. Especially when there is an in-house audience of 2,500 (many of them impressionable young women looking to have positive impact on the world) and a worldwide audience of millions watching and tweeting.
Here is what I want to share with the I AM THAT GIRL community: Sounds bites aren’t solutions. Anyone who says they have no fear is lying. Fear is natural. It is part of being human. Now I’m not pointing a figure and saying these women are liars. What I am saying is inspired storytelling is different from honest conversation.
I myself have a tattoo on my left foot that reads “Walk Unafraid.” This is not a badge of honor broadcasting I have no fear. It is more a manifesto to walk through my fear.
We live in a culture where young girls and women are struggling to keep up with media’s demands on the perfect body, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect job, the perfect friends, the perfect family … the perfect life. All while knowing there is no such thing as perfect. Now we have the rise of A-list activists sharing amazing stories of courage and how they are pushing their vision for a safer, fairer world for girls in the face of adversity from radical and fundamental cultures and political regimes. Again, these are inspiring women with inspiring stories. What I noticed is that we are presented with extremes: extreme poverty and strife or extreme wealth and beauty. Where does this leave everyone in the middle who is paralyzed with fear of simply going to school, daring to sit at a lunch table different from their regular spot, talking to a boy or girl who is “out of their league,” going for a job they feel they’ll never get, walking into a yoga studio, trying on clothes they would otherwise never wear in a shop, or simply declaring their point of view to friends or family?
Here’s the deal: It is my personal belief we are all going for a feeling not a destination labeled, “success.” That feeling is love and acceptance. Fear seems counterintuitive to achieving this feeling. The bottom line being, “If I show I’m afraid I’ll be weak/rejected/not worthy/ridiculed (the list is as long as our negative inner dialogue). The discomfort of this feeling leads us to stuff ourselves with food, drink, the internet, gossip, drama, or TV. Or we go onto our computers and look up a whole bunch of sites that all preach “don’t be afraid” and think a solution will be on the opposite end of a YouTube video by a motivational speaker.
None of these choices provide a path that is accessible or is a viable solution for MOST girls and young women. I would like to start the dialogue about the value of fear. The author Arundhati Roy, who wrote a brilliant novel called The God of Small Things, recently said at a talk she gave: “Anyone who doesn’t have fear is stupid.” I would have to agree with her. Fear has a lot of information for you. It allows us to develop discernment and risk ratio, it provides a lot of information about the most potent person in your life - YOU.
To feel fear is to be human. Of course it’s one of the less savory of human emotions so we embark on a wild journey to avoid feeling this feeling. We are cursed and blessed to live in a world where we have a plethora of tools at our fingertips to dial down fear and dial up any emotion that is appealing to us in it’s place. How? We cruise Instagram or Facebook. We flip through Twitter feeds with stories that feign an interest we haven’t really developed simply by retweeting. There is no faking it til you make it. It’s a lie. Forget you ever heard that slogan. The only way you make “it” is by going deep and, yes, it sometimes feels like death and looks ugly. There is beauty in this journey. It will be the most rewarding journey we can take in our life and the sooner we can get real and start diving into the deep end of honest dialogue about who we are (now in the present moment) the better our chances of becoming who we want to be: Love & Acceptance (aka: success). Sooner or later your fear will catch up with you. No amount of creative curating or sitting in an audience of inspired story telling will make you fearless. In fact, it may even magnify your fears.
What I want to share is this: experience makes us less afraid. It’s going through an event or life experience, feeling the full spectrum of feelings that come with this (it can be exhilaration, joy, sadness, despair, anxiety). Learning how to weave our success and failures into the fabric of our lives makes us more familiar thereby less fearful. Many of the women I heard speak last week went through a very frightening experience and when presented with a choice point of “am I willing to die for this?” chose the answer, “yes.” How they did this and why they did this is what is at the root of them being fearless in their goals in life NOW. It does not mean they don’t feel fear or have never felt fear. So remember: sound bites are not solutions and there is a difference between inspired storytelling and honest conversation. Let’s get honest about fear. In many ways, it is the best friend you’ll ever have because it illuminates where you are limiting your potential and dimming the light on your beautiful self. Each of us is more than able to walk unafraid.
Born in Fiji & raised in Vancouver Sima describes herself as an Island Girl with an English Heart. She has worked in the fashion & entertainment industry as a stylist & creative director for over two decades and is also a 500 + hour trained yoga teacher. Building community & sharing stories in creative ways is her great passion. Her goal is to return to London & pursue a career in writing & research while exploring all the gems of the city she fell in love with at the age of 11. Read more from Sima over at New Culture Revolution
Image via quotespictures.com