Last summer I got hooked on Arianna Huffingtons’ book Thrive. I wrote a personal review about it, and immediately put one of her other books on my to-read list: Fearless – in love, work, and life. Now, you should know something about me. By nature, I am a very fearful person. I’ve known this since the age of 13, and over the years have grown accustomed to living with this character trait. My fear grew bigger than me. I didn’t go outside anymore, was afraid to talk to people and felt that my life was on the verge of ending all the time. Hours of therapy might have helped me deal with it, as did growing up in general. Thus the title of this book had a special appeal on me, being fearless, feeling fearless about fear, is what I dreamt about for a long time. What a lot of people dream about I guess. So it was not without great expectations that I started reading this book.
The book, as was the case with Thrive, is full of quotes by wise men and women from different eras. That is why I feel it has more dimensions than your average self-help book. No waste of time at all to read this, since your general knowledge might also benefit. Most quotes are funny and insightful at the same time. For example:
Have you noticed that worrying [about something] doesn’t stop it from happening? And indeed, that we worry about many things that never happen? As Montaigne put it, “There have been many misfortunes in my life, but most of them never happened.” (p 43)
Apart from these quotes that appear in the chapters written by Huffington, there are small essays in between the chapters, written by interesting women. These provide a life lesson or very personal experience from a woman, on the topic of fearlessness. Diane Keaton writes:
“For too much of my life, I was too afraid, too frightened by it all. That fear is one of my biggest regrets. I wish I had put myself out there a little bit more and experienced people more instead of protecting myself.” (p 57)
Sherry Lansing writes:
“My advice on overcoming fears is to prepare for them. Talk about your fears – with your friends, your family or in therapy, which I believe in. And then confront them. You don’t have to do it fast, but once you’ve done it in your head, once you’ve visualized the worst-case scenario, it becomes easier to put one foot in the water and then the other.” (p 151-152)
These personal experienced which are woven through the book appeal to me in the sense that they offer a real insight in how people experience, and deal with, fear and fearlessness. Topics which in general are locked in personal closets to never come out in public. Ever. Because talking about fear makes you sound weak. It might uncover a flaw. It is not sexy or attractive.
That’s where I disagree, what I’ve disagreed with for all my life. Talking about my fears, not only about overcoming them but also about dealing with them, made me stronger as a person. To admit to yourself and others that there is no such thing as a definition of fearlessness that includes knowing no fear at all. This can lift a weight off your shoulders. To be strong and beautiful as a person, you don’t need to be without fear.
Fearlessness is not being withheld by fear. Knowing your fears, dealing with them. Not running away from them. And that is the main topic that runs through this book. Whether it is in work, in love, in parenting or in changing the world, the book deals with all kinds of fearlessness. And that’s what makes this book – again – a very strong one. One that I can recommend to everyone who hits a wall of fear once in a while. Don’t we all?
The only small thing that slightly put me off in this book, was the strong focus on women. I feel that many men also might like to read this kind of material, can even use it, and can be inspired by reading about fearlessness. I feel that in a society that strives for total gender equality, books like this one can be focussed on humans in general, and in that way add even more value to making fear and fearlessness topics we can openly discuss without having to fear (ha!) for our reputation.
Now that I’m expecting a child, I understand even more that Huffington wrote this book because she saw her teenage daughters struggle with fears. Fear affects all of our lives. But we want our loved ones, every human being, to be able to deal with it. And that’s why I will definitely re-read this book once my daughter is born and starts to take her first steps in this world. I want her to feel as fearless as possible for sure.
What is your take on fear and fearlessness? Would you read this book?