Mary Tyler Moore is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Watching reruns late night in bed is one of my guilty pleasures. I love falling asleep to the antics of Lou and Ted, Rhoda comparing her life to Mary’s, or Mr. Grant giving Mary good-meaning yet gruff advice.
As a young girl, I idolized Mary. Beautiful, kind, smart, and quirky … I wanted to be her. But now I see this assistant news producer at WJM from a different perspective. While she appears to have it all together, many times she does not. I suppose that is what makes her endearing … she’s human and experiences heart ache, friendship issues, frustrations, and fears …exactly what we all face from time to time. Maybe that’s why my heart warms during the opening song when she tosses her knit hat into the air, as if she hasn’t a care in the world. This young woman, who left her hometown to work in a newsroom in Minneapolis, does her best to face the unknown and conquer her fears. Perhaps she understands doing so is the secret to personal growth.
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow.”—Mary Tyler Moore
But sometimes it’s difficult to follow this advice. The uncertainty of not knowing how things will turn out feels uncomfortable. Rarely one to dive into the deep end of the pool, I usually choose the steps, slowing immersing myself while my body adjusts to the cold water. I still arrive at the same end point; it just takes me a bit longer. Yet, I know this slow and steady approach keeps me from new experiences, opportunities, and adventures.
Why we are we hesitant to venture out of our comfort zone? Is fear holding us back, or are we intentionally choosing a different path?
Lately, I’ve been catching myself choosing from fear. Certainly not the only person to opt for the safe route, I want to shift this pattern and instead choose from a position of love.
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These acronyms deeply resonate. For years, fearful expectations of what might occur held me back and kept me from fully enjoying what was. However, I now know that when I act from love and faith, I can accept what is now, unbridled by concerns of the unknown.
Choosing from love does not require us to be carefree, throwing our hat into the wind (like Mary). But it does imply that our actions emanate from the heart. Released from the rules and regulations of our mind, we instead settle into our fourth chakra, where we can begin to sense the world around us. No longer do we think our way through things. Instead, we feel. Discovering our heart holds the key to our power, we begin to come into our truth.
Wanting to live in my heart instead of my head, I committed to examining my fears. Was being afraid embedded in my DNA, or am I meant to resolve what scares me—as a karmic lesson—during this lifetime? Regardless, I was ready to feel those yucky sensations then let them go. Of course, this doesn’t mean I must trek the Pacific Northwest Trail solo to conquer one of the things that scares me (bear). But it does imply I should say “yes” to hikes in the forest with family and friends. I can always carry a can of bear spray if that helps me feel safe.
My paternal grandmother, Dorothy Miller, worried about everything. I believe she had lots of fears she never acknowledged. As sweet and lovely as she was, I do not want to end up like her. So now, whenever I sense the voice of fear trying to influence me, I just say, “Shut up, Dorothy.” Please know I am not being disrespectful to my grandmother’s memory. This somewhat unconventional method is merely meant to jolt my mind back to the present. And when I am in the now, my fears know they’re not welcome.
Is conquering our fears necessary?
Fear appears differently to each of us; I’m not so sure anyone is immune. Certain people are claustrophobic, while others are deathly afraid of spiders. I know a few people who abhor the idea of public speaking as well as those who would quake in their shoes if they had to ride a rollercoaster.
But there’s more to it. Our fears are not always how they present. Often there’s a hidden meaning, something deeper—beneath the surface—possibly representing a past trauma or suppressed experience. Understanding these fears, and how they show up in our life, offer the most potential for growth. If we can bravely dig deep and examine their true cause, we have an opportunity to make life-altering shifts. However, sometimes tackling significant pain and trauma can be difficult, requiring guidance from a trained professional.
But as to whether we must conquer our fears, I suppose it all boils down to impact and if we’re ready. When fear affects our peace or limits our opportunities, it may be time to pause and face this emotion head on. However, if we can co-exist with a fear without it interfering with our daily life, we might not need to resolve it … yet.
Overcoming fear does not necessarily translate to bungy jumping off a cliff if you’re terrified of heights or scuba diving to battle your dread of sharks. It can simply mean we accept what holds us back and consciously decide to choose differently in the future. Because if we hope to grow, we cannot continually raise a white flag whenever we’re uncomfortable.
When we relegate fear to the back of the car and permit our heart to sit in the driver’s seat, we begin to make decisions from a place of trust, surrender, and compassion. This is what leads us to new paths, where we no longer react, but instead respond. We begin to see fresh perspectives, occasionally softening our limiting beliefs. Suddenly, life isn’t so complicated. We recognize options … opportunities … solutions. And then, when we least expect it, we finally stop being afraid.
Looking back, it’s clear I made my worst decisions when fearful. Yet, never once has a love-based choice steered me wrong.