My One Word: Fearless

How I'm Going to Be Fearless in the New Year

Desk, Laptop and Coffee

I know this post is about two weeks (okay, maybe a little more) late, but I’m finally ready to talk about what I want in 2015, so it’s right on schedule for me. You’ve probably seen it going around on social media. People picking one single word to help them shape and define their new year. One little word that helps provide them direction in every decision they make in 2015.

I had absolutely no intention of doing this.

It seemed like a cool idea, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m more of a concrete goal maker—do this thing by this date and get this reward—so something as abstract as letting a single word float around and define my year seemed a little too wishy-washy for my tastes. How am I going to keep track of my progress? Or make a plan? Or know when I’ve succeeded? I’ll pass on the whole one word trend, thankyouverymuch. Give me a good ole S.M.A.R.T. goal any day.

Yoga

But then, on New Year’s Day, I took a yoga class taught by a dear, wonderful, beautiful (in more ways than just one) friend, who is always a fantastically inspiring step or two ahead of me when it comes to personal enlightenment. During the practice, she suggested we leave behind the fear we carried with us in 2014. And with that one sentence, tears started streaming down my cheeks, and my one word appeared to me without me even wanting one—fearless.

Fearless

I don’t think I realized how much fear had been running my life until that very moment. Nearly every decision I had made in recent years had been driven by fear—and, holy crap, what a terrible way to live!

Without a doubt, 2014 was the best year of my life both personally and professionally, and I’m entering 2015 happier than I’ve ever been. I know it seems like a disconnect to say it’s a “terrible way to live” and “the best year of my life” within a heartbeat of each other, but here’s why it makes sense—the fact is, 2014 was so unbelievably wonderful because it was the first year I got up the courage to begin to leave some of my fears behind (fear of becoming a mother, fear of failing at business, etc.). And as I overcame each of those fears, I began to realize just how much joy I’ve missed out on so far in my life because I’ve been dictated by fear. Fear that is usually unfounded.

An example . . .

Desk, Laptop

I stayed in a job I loathed because of fear (fear I’d be broke, fear I wouldn’t succeed on my own, fear I could never do better, fear my parents would be disappointed in me, fear I’d let my husband down, fear my bosses at my job would be mad at me for leaving, fear my co-workers would be mad at me for leaving, fear my professors would be mad that they put so much time and energy into someone who was giving up, fear that I’d be mad at myself for leaving). I stayed in that job entirely too long. I stayed in that job way past the discomfort stage. I stayed in that job until I was crying in the bathroom stalls and throwing up before my morning commute. All because I was afraid.

And then I did it. I quit. (Notably, I didn’t ever work up the courage myself, my husband basically said, “You are quitting because you are depressed, and I want my wife back, we’ll figure it out.”) And guess what? Some of those things I was afraid of happened, but most didn’t. And the ones that did happen didn’t end up being that big of a deal. The world kept turning. And, more remarkably, when I actually did put myself out there, the opportunities that opened up for me were way more than I could have ever dreamed of.

So basically, I was keeping myself from a life that was better than I could have ever dreamed of because I was afraid of things that didn’t actually happen. How silly does that sound?

road driving stock

I lost years to fear. Years. And that’s just one example of dozens that I can think of throughout my life. Dozens and dozens of ways fear has kept me from living the life I deserve. I think being cautious and prepared for bad times is an important life skill, but I think, for the longest time, I haven’t been cautious, I’ve just been downright scared. And that’s lamesauce.

So, my 2015 is all about being fearless. There are a million ways this little word applies to my world, but here are some specific examples:

  • I refuse to parent with fear. Like most new parents, I think I spent the entire first three month’s of JuneBug’s life googling every single sound she made. I would dig deep into the recesses of parenting forums, and always find one (or two) sad stories of someone’s cousin’s friend with a baby who made that sound and had a misdiagnosed major illness. Yes, bad things happen. But I can’t live my life banking on bad luck. I’m a good mom (dare I say, even an excellent one some days), and my instincts so far have gotten me a superbly healthy and supremely happy kid. I have no reason to be so afraid.
  • I will stop accepting work out of fear. Fear that I’ll make someone mad by saying no, or fear I won’t have enough money, or fear that I’ll never get another opportunity. Yes, I gotta pay a mortgage like everyone else, but I don’t have to accept every rinky-dink gig that comes across my inbox because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. Related to this, I will also stop being afraid of asking for the kind of compensation I’m worth. It’s okay if someone says, “Nope, that’s too expensive for me.” and we don’t work together. It’s not okay to do work for less than I am worth.
  • I will no longer fear what people think of me. This applies to pretty much every arena of my life, but this, in particular, is applicable to my online presence. I have to be honest, I’m constantly worried I’ll wake up in the morning to 300 nasty comments on a blog post because I offended someone—which is absurd, because, last time I checked chia pudding isn’t really a hot button topic. I refuse to waste my energy on that fear anymore. I believe I’m a good person, with good instincts, and if you disagree with that (or, even worse, won’t allow me the space to make and make-up-for mistakes), then you are kindly invited to click the little “x” in the top corner of your browser. No hard feelings.
  • I will not be afraid to make mistakes. One thing monetizing my blog has taught me is that some of the best successes in life come after a series of failures. That’s how you learn and grow and develop. If you’re fortunate enough to be blessed with the skill to only do things once and get them right the first time every single time, you’re an (awesome) freak of nature. I am not that way. I have to massage my process to get it right—and that means I might make mistakes along the way. Nothing to be afraid of it. I’ll just own up to it, try to rectify it, and move on. No need to simmer in embarrassment over it for the next decade and a half.
  • I will not live in fear of missing out. I think this is a problem unique to digital native generations (which, I suppose, is most of us on this planet now). The fear of missing out. Fear of being the last to know that big celebrity died. Fear of missing your friend’s engagement post on Facebook. Fear of not seeing that awesome picture your sister posted of your niece. But the problem is, by fearing missing out in a digital space, I’ve been actually missing out in reality. So, I apologize if I didn’t see your blog post announcing your pregnancy, I really am thrilled for you, but I’ve been busy watching my kid learn how to crawl, listening to my husband sing along to the radio, and enjoying the beautiful birds outside my living room window. And I’m no longer afraid of offending you by not being the first person to like the Instagram pic of your engagement ring.
  • I will not be afraid to love hard. This is something I’m not sure I realized I did until I had Juniper—I hold back my love and compassion for fear of overwhelming people. I’m a loud talker. I laugh a lot (at even the stupidest of jokes). I’m a hugger. I’m generous with my time and money. I’m an excellent gift giver. I do big gestures. If I love you, I really love you. And hard. And for the longest time, I’ve been afraid of how people feel about that. Afraid of being too boisterous, too overwhelming, just too much. Afraid of embarrassing them with my love. This year, I will not hold back. The world needs more people who love with wild abandon, not people who are afraid of loving hard. If you’re uncomfortable with that kind of love, maybe you just need a little bit more of it.
  • I will not be afraid to dream big. Like I mentioned above, I think there is value in preparing for a rainy day, but I also think there is value in preparing for the sunniest, most beautiful Spring day you’ve ever seen. I’ve been really afraid of dreaming big recently, for fear of disappointment. I haven’t wanted to write down or tell anyone what I really want to accomplish with my life and career—because what if I fail? Well, I fail. And that’s cool. How can I teach my daughter that she can do anything she wants to do and dream the biggest, most outlandish dreams she’d like, if I don’t model that behavior for her myself? I want to be a big dreamer for myself and for her.

Now that I’ve been living fearlessly for a few weeks now, I can tell you, that I’m in awe of how many places fear has been running my life. Big things, like what I wrote above, but also a ton of little things that seem like they don’t make a difference, but when all added together, really dock my confidence. Like fear of answering the phone when someone calls because I’m afraid I’ll sound like an idiot (I hate talking on the phone). Or fear of starting a design project because I’m not exactly sure what the client is looking for. Or fear of calling a utility company to get an error in a bill fixed because I’m afraid of confrontation.

I’m starting to realize that a large portion of my procrastination problem (another post for another time) is because I’ve been so fear-driven. I put off things that I associate with fear. It’s not that I’m lazy or unmotivated, I’m just friggin’ afraid! See my above statement about it being a terrible way to live.

sunrise sunset stock

I’m really jazzed to have given myself permission to be fearless in 2015. I’m dreaming of big, huge, giant goals (the actual accountable, trackable kind) for this year, and I can’t wait to tackle them without fear. I have never felt this sure and confident in myself before—I hear that’s what the 30s are all about—and man, it is awesome.

To an extraordinarily happy and fearless 2015 for all of us!

What’s your one little word for 2015?

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34 Comments

Mine is “simplicity.” Quite honestly, I have not yet put it into practice. However, the simplicity I seek will free me from all the “stuff” I have, both physical belongings (I am such a hoarder with some things…pens, clothing, shoes, lip products, and others) and all the mental stuff I carry around. Last year, I had chosen “peace,” and I think I achieved more peace in my life. And the year before that, my first year to do this (and the year of my divorce and all the stuff that went along with that), I chose “enough,” which I have to admit is still a work in progress. I struggle with the knowledge that I am enough, but I feel like I am taking steps to get there!

Mine is peaceful, it’s about doing the things that give me a sense of peace. I have problems with transistion so I don’t do things even when I know what I need to do. So I’m working on that!

I love this – thanks for sharing. I hadn’t thought about the link between fear and procrastination before but now I think I need to do some serious evaluating. So helpful! And good luck living fearlessly!

What a wonderful, heartfelt post. It’s inspiring to see you make such a strong declaration against what’s been holding you back. Best wishes for an awesome, fun, productive, fearless 2015!

I am a 58 year old vegan who doesn’t cook, I’m definitely not crafty, and I have no kids – yet I read your blog every day. I LOVE the way you write! Thanks for the inspiration and now I must go out and kick some fearless a** 🙂

Thank you- this is my word for this year now, too! I am also a new mommy of an 8.5m old son and fear of doing something “wrong” had me obsessing over EVERYTHING he did. But he’s a very happy and healthy little boy. We have to be doing something right! I want to search for a job that actually pays me what I’m worth and not settling for something because it is easy and I can do it. I only recently found your blog and I’m loving it! Keep doing you and doing it fearlessly!

Excellent, excellent post. I could see myself in so many of these. I’ve come to realize that a lot of my procrastination issues are due to perfectionism which in turn is due to fear (of not being good enough), which has been a lifelong problem of mine. I really want to get a handle on it now and be a confident role model for my daughter!

This made me laugh… I personally think that chia pudding SHOULD be a hot button issue, because it’s awesome and amazing and it should be the next cupcake/kale/quinoa trendy thing! 🙂

I have no idea what my word is, but I’m going to seek it out nonetheless! 🙂

I check in with your blog from time to time, and I always love your posts, but I have never commented before. This really spoke to me and I just wanted to thank you for sharing it. I have had a lot of similar thoughts and feelings recently, but I could not have expressed it as beautifully as you did here. Good luck with your goals. You are a very inspiring lady! 🙂

Love your word so much! The “I will not be afraid to love hard” really hit home for me. There’s so much self doubt that people will be overwhelmed when I give gifts/hugs/etc, so THANK YOU for writing this. I’m still working on my word and what it fully means to me. It may be posted in January, or…there’s always February 🙂

Thank you for this! I really needed to read your words on this topic today. Have been giving this a lot of thought lately, how fear can control your life. You become a lesser version of yourself, when fear takes over. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective.

You inspire me. I am working at a job I loathe and feel sick in the morning and have now started getting pains in my stomach when I’m at work or think about how unfair the way they treat employees is. I’m 79 weeks away from retirement when I can get Medicare. I’m afraid to quit now for fear I wont be able to make ends meet. I have 2 adult kids living at home and could probably make ends meet, but I’m afraid and my financial planner and sister and brother say I should just suck it up. I know God my kids will never let me down so I am going to try fearless as my word for the year, too. Your blog is great. Keep it up.

Amazing post!! It made me think of things in a way that I never have before… and because of that reason I have decided to copy you and steal your word. 🙂 Looking forward to a Fearless 2015!

I don’t usually comment but this is such a great post I feel I have to!
I hadn’t seen it going around on social media, but I had picked a word I wanted to use to guide my year – “focused”. I’m getting married in November, and I’m a PhD student with a lot of research goals to achieve in 2015 as well. After reading your post (particularly the part about fear and procrastination) I’ve realised that I’ve been letting fear stop me from doing so many things in so many areas of my life. And really, the time to do these things is now. It has always been now, and it always will be. Thank you for this post, it’s helped me a lot. I’m going to do some more reflection on what makes me fearful and adopt two words for this year – “focused” and “fearless”!

This is beautiful, just as you are, Cassie! “Fearless” is very applicable in my life as well, especially as a freshmen in college. I often find that I underestimate myself and turn down opportunities as a result of fear. Prudence is always a good idea, but there comes a point where it turns into fear and I miss out on experiences that help me to grow as a person.
Thank you so much for this inspiration!

Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a lot of similar fears to the ones you’ve described as well. And actually, I have to say that reading your blog has been an inspiration to me towards getting over some of those fears for a while now. I’m the same age as you and reading about your experiences through pregnancy and as a new parent have given me confidence that maybe I’ll get through it too when the time comes!
Speaking of that – I wonder if you’ve ever thought about doing a post about babies and pets. It seems like your pets are super well-behaved and independent so maybe that adjustment wasn’t too difficult for you or them, but I’d love to hear about your experience. I finally have a chance to get a pet of my own now that my husband and I have our own house, but I’m hesitating because I know kids are coming in the next couple years and I’m worried about how that transition would go for the pet. I’d love to hear how it’s been going for you!

Thank you Cassie for such an amazing post, once again. My word is “pause”. I have a 61/2 month old son, and I feel like every day is rushing by me. I’m rushing to keep up with my house, my job, my relationship with my husband, my family, and trying to enjoy every moment with my son. I really need to “pause” and appreciate the little beautiful moments. I’m going to look back and just remember being stressed out about this time in my life if I don’t “pause” more. I’ve made a lot of great changes in my life to allow me more time to enjoy the special moments, and I need to remind myself more often of that. Thank you!!

Yep! it all sounds so familiar…I was in your same situation a few years ago, and when I finally broke free of fear, it was amazing. Good luck with everything, and a fearless life will take you to so many amazing places!

What a beautiful post, Cassie! I too am trying to enjoy 2015 sans fear. It’s not just the fear that we impose upon ourselves either – there also seems to be a lot of fear coming from external sources (e.g. marketing so often preys on the fundamental fears of us all). Good luck to both of us! 🙂

I have to say, I think you’ve been pretty fearless already. At least in your blogging. I imagine your posts about career paths, body acceptance, and parenting choices have gotten you some criticism along the way, but it’s so helpful and important that you put that stuff out there. Keep it up!

P.S. Does BTHR no longer instagram?

Nope, I locked down my Instagram account to be private. Because of the aforementioned criticism. 🙂 Basically, I wanted to be able to share freely what was going on in my personal life without dealing with trolls or “helpful” people. I also wanted to keep on social media channel just for me—I love Instagram, and didn’t want it to become all about business like my Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts have become.

My word for 2015 is “strengthen”, for somewhat similiar reasons as your choice of “fearless”. I’ve wasted a lot of time worrying and being scared to try things. I want to strengthen my self-confidence, my driving ability, my faith and my physical body. I love this post, thank you for sharing. Hope 2015 is an awesome year for you!

Hi Cassie! I just have to thank you for this post! I was struggling with what word was speaking to me this year, and then I read your post and I realized i had to adopt the same! I am adding the word “compassionate” to “fearless,” because I think I am often too critical of myself when I don’t do things that push my comfort zone. Anyway, once I read your post and got all excited about the word, the concept of fear seemed to come up everywhere! The most recent example was on a new podcast that I love called Invisibilia (you should listen to it if you don’t love it already). The newest hour-long episode is called…Fearless! It was a really good listen. So thanks for the inspiration, as always!

Fearless is a great word and you are completely right that far too often we let fear hold us back. Your post really resonated with me, especially the point about not starting things due to fear- that’s me to a T! My word for 2015 is Brave; which is very much along the same vein. I’m focusing on pushing myself out of my comfort zone and speaking up about my wants and needs.I hope 2015 is your best year yet!

I love this post so much! I had those experiences too, working jobs I hated and staying out of fear, even though every fiber of my being was telling me to leave. I regret every day I wasted by not leaving. Thankfully, I am now at a job I enjoy a lot more. My word of the year is commitment: I need to stick to things I start.

I like your word and all the reasons for it. It is amazing what happens when you stop worrying and just do! I don’t have a word for the year, but I do have a focus: making time for more things that I enjoy. As a working mom with two preschoolers and a husband, I spend a LOT of time doing stuff for other people. This year my goal is to reserve some time, money and energy to take care of myself too.

While I am seeing this post basically 2 years later, it is great! Fearless is my word for 2017 and some of the things you hit are spot on! From parenting to being concerned with what others think to doing things I’ve always (Secretly) wanted to do, but have not. Yay to being FEARLESS!