What Does Fearlessness Look Like?

I will never forget the day that I took this photo.  This young boy was standing up at the top of the waterfall, clearly terrified, but doing it anyway.  He stood up there for a long while, mustering up the courage to jump, while his dad shouted encouragement from the water below.  After several minutes and what appeared to be a voilent internal struggle, he finally jumped.  I found the whole scene to be deeply disturbing.  

Was that kid really fearless?  Is that all there is to it, just having the guts to jump?  I don't think so.  I think that sometimes, its a far more fearless act to admit that we're afraid.  I wish that kid had said to his dad:  'I don't want to jump.  I'm not ready yet.'  Sometimes real fearlessness means that we have to acknowledge our own limitations, even if it means letting other people down.  Sometimes, forging blindly ahead, not acknowledging our own nature and our own preferences, is easier than being true to ourselves.  

I have found this to be a very delicate balance in my life.  At what point does my desire to face my fears become no more than me trying to prove to myself over and over again that I am enough?  When do I say to myself:  I am ok whether or not I do this thing that I am afraid of.  If I don't do it, I am still ok.  If I can't do it, I am still ok.  And when do I push my limits and face my fears head on?  I've come to recognize recurring themes of fear in my life that I'm starting to think are not just fears, but real limitations.  Everyone has limitations and it's hard fact to accept.  W.H. Auden explains it well:

"Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity." 

It's a tough balance, finding that place where you're challenging yourself while still acknowledging your nature and being true to who you are.  But that's where the magic happens.  I'm finding that balance in my life a little more each day.  I am done being fearless just for the sake of it.  If I don't want to jump, I don't have to.  But when it feels right, I'm all in.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

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