Independence Day in the U.S. is the day that America declared its independence from a tyrannical government, but real independence took many longer, hard years of war. The sacrifice of tens of thousands of people was needed first, before our declaration of independence had any real effect.
And so it is with any change in our lives. We can make the declaration, “Today, I’m going to start losing weight,” or “Today, I’m going to try and reply to every cognitive distortion by examining the evidence and answering it back.” But declarations are only starting points — they represent the beginning of our journey, not the end.
But declarations serve an important purpose — they place us (and others) on notice. Something is going to change. It may not change today, it may not change tomorrow, but I’m now committing myself to this course of action.
I suggest a declaration of independence from fear this Independence Day.
Fear is such a sneaky and invasive emotion. It prevents us from taking action in our lives when action is needed. It holds us down from trying something new, usually for little good reason other than not quite knowing what will happen (usually what actually happens is enjoyment, fun, or learning something new). It is the darkness behind the door that we’re so afraid to open, we just turn and walk away.
Fear is baffling. Psychologists refer to the “fight or flight” response to fearful situations, that we’ve been conditioned through our ancestors and genetics to either fight the trouble lying ahead, or run away from it. But we’re no longer hunting within a dark cave for our family’s dinner. We’re simply trying to live our lives in peace and quiet. And how do you fight something you can’t see — insecurity, depression, anxiety, PTSD, poor self-esteem? You don’t. You just run away from it.
And run we do. We try and run away from so many things in our lives. Our terrible childhoods. Our relationships that are just too hard to commit to working on and changing. Our responsibilities to others. Our commitment to raise our children with thoughtfulness and attention. Even ourselves and what we truly want out of our own lives.
Try as we may, however, our attempts to run away often fail. Like the sullen teenager who comes back home after a few nights away, we learn that life doesn’t really care what your want if you don’t stop to face your fears. Sure, you can get a divorce or dump your relationship that seems to be going nowhere positive fast. But was the problem with the other person, or the relationship itself? Such problems simply reappear later on, in another relationship, with another person. You ran away from the first one, but it did little good because the problem remains.
Fear teaches us that it’s natural to run, it’s okay — it’s what people do. But fear is wrong. Fear is a lone siren call to our darkest emotions, and we too often willingly respond to it. Like the siren call, however, fear shows us nothing positive, teaches us nothing that will help our lives in the future. It crashes us against the empty shores of our hearts and our minds.
This Independence Day, I suggest you start the process of putting fear aside in your life. It is a process, and it will take time. You have to learn to put aside your long-standing trust and commitment to your fearful thoughts and feelings, and replace them with thoughts of all that you can accomplish in your life if you stop “What if-ing” yourself and imaging all of that bad things that could happen. This is not an easy task and will take time. But the best things in life do take time and effort, and this is easily one of the best things you can do in your life.
Living a fearless life is living a full life, open to potential, opportunity, and joy. Declare your independence today!