On Becoming Fearless


by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels

Like any sane person, I was afraid to ride a bike through New York City. But The Husband persuaded me to venture out with him to the safe, protected, beautiful paths along the West Side Highway or through Central Park. To get there, I had to face my fear of riding through city traffic.

We left early while the city was still relatively quiet. At first, we took the smaller streets instead of the major avenues. We went together. Not only did this become routine (and thus less scary), but it also built up my confidence. I discovered why I was taking the risk: the sheer joy of a long bike ride through the parks with sunshine on my face. I wasn’t going to miss that because I was afraid of a small part of the journey.

I’ve thought a lot about fear in the past year as I lived with the consequences of decisions made because I was scared or doubted myself. Not the don’t-go-down-that-dark-alley kind of fear, but little voice inside that says, “Maybe you’re wrong” and “Really? Are you sure?” or “Is that really worth the risk?” On the one hand, it’s a good voice to listen to because it can help us see another point of view or keep us from disastrous choices. On the other hand, blindly obeying it can keep us safe—with a steady heartbeat instead of a racing one, with sunshine through the window instead of warmth on our faces, with the pulsing energy of the city somewhere out there instead of all around us.

Awesomeness awaits you after you push past the fear. I have since discovered that riding through fast, overwhelming traffic is its own kind of meditation: With all my senses attuned to staying safe, there’s no room left in my brain for other thoughts or worries. When I can weave through a long line of cars stopped at a light, I think, Suckers. It’s no longer just about the destination, but also the adventurous journey of getting there.

By the end of 2013 I understood, for the first time, the phrase “the courage of one’s convictions.” It’s hard and scary to ignore the doubts and the risks. It can be uncomfortable and awkward to step outside one’s comfort zone. But on the other side, my goal for the next year is to experience feelings of exhilaration and freedom and to know the glorious feeling of riding fast with the wind at my back. To be fearless—or at least not let fear hold me back.

Has fear ever held you back?

MayaRodalephotoMaya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is The Wicked Wallflower. Visit her online at mayarodale.com or say hello to @mayarodale on Twitter.





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7 Responses to On Becoming Fearless

  1. Donna in Delaware January 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Fear has held me back, and still does sometimes. For instance, in the past, I was never afraid of heights. Now, for some strange reason, in the last five years I have developed that fear, from whence it came I do not know. When traveling to foreign lands, and having to see and experience amazing places, I shun the experience because of heights. I have missed out on seeing places that I have always wanted to see because of fear. Getting amazing photos of and around these places have been placed on the back burner. In all fairness to myself, I have conquered some of those fears, and took the plunge in scaling castle walls, cliffs in Ireland for spectacular views, high hills and bridges in Croatia for stunning visuals of their old city, and going up a narrow mountain pass (my heart was in my throat, um, I meant skull) in Switzerland to visit friend’s vacation home, which was literally in the clouds. Of course, I survived that, but getting there was the problem. Setting that goal for myself was the hardest decision I had made in a long time. Was it worth it, you bet! It hasn’t conquered my fear, but I’m getting there. As the Nike commercial says, “Just Do It.” It isn’t that easy, as we all know, and I won’t be climbing the Himalayas anytime soon, but the possibility isn’t so far-fetched anymore!

  2. Tai January 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    I have been giving a lot of thought to fear lately. To whether I am making decisions based on my fears or my hopes. The events of my early life lead people to believe that I am brave. But it did not take bravery to survive what I felt I had no choice about. My fears are not of the normal things people fear like death, dark, spiders but of the of an understanding or lack of it of my impact on the world around me. I want to try things and do things but I have children I must protect while at the same showing them how to be brave about things they need to do. I am caught between the two.
    Thank you for sharing your story of being brave. I love those moments when focus on staying alive are absolutely required! Enjoy the sun in your face!

  3. Maya Rodale January 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Donna–I’m freaked out by heights too! I remember visiting the top of the Empire State Building and thinking “people should not be this high up.” Usually this just keeps me away from edges of tall things (not the worst thing in the world) but I can see how it could keep some one away from adventures (not the best thing in the world). Good for you for not letting it hold you back! It takes lots of little steps, methinks…

  4. Maya Rodale January 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, Tai. That’s a really interesting point about what we choose to be brave about–or what we don’t have a choice to be brave about. I’m sure you’re setting a good example for you kids, just by being aware of it all. And you too–enjoy the sunshine on your face!

  5. Donna in Delaware January 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Me thinks you are correct Maya!

  6. Texas Carol January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Great writing and timely in today’s frightening world.
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts~GOD bless!

  7. J. from NJ January 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Hello Maya-The timing on this article is uncanny . I very recently saw a short interview with a very very young Sochi Olympic bound athlete. He was a skier and snowboarder. He basically said he learned from his Dad that he shouldn’t let fear get in the way of his dreams and desires. Fear can stop you cold and as a now 55 yr old woman -who has been through some very difficult times in the past 15 years . I have gained an entirely different perspective on life. But after listening to this young athlete who has conquered his fears and pressed on, then your story and reflecting on my own successes and failures really hit home. It occurred to me that what is keeping me from registering yet again to go back to school and get the degree I want and need financially and personally was fear of failure! All the very best writers and philosophers have left behind quotes about trying, taking the first step and stopping fear from stopping you. This is my life and I must take responsibility for it, no blaming or excuses. Thank you for your article.

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