The Art of Living with Fear

My eyes closed as the wheels began to move the plane backward. I focused on my breath. “What are you afraid of?” I said to myself, “You have been to more dangerous countries. Not to mention, people have made this same trek to lands unknown without your giant travel guide! Chill, darling.”

This was the scariest thing I’d ever done: travel around Central America… by myself. Despite my road-well-travelled pep talk, fear kept bubbling. In fact, throughout that flight to Guatemala, along creaky, school bus rides through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and pretty much every day until I returned to my English-speaking country, I felt fear.

Those three months of 24/7 uncertainty also contained more fearless moments than the rest of my life combined. This is why I love the title of Shirley’s blog – The Art of Fearless Living. Living fearlessly has to be an art because reasoning with fear only makes it increase.

On the flight to Guaté and throughout my journey, I didn’t experience mortal-danger fear (except when I climbed inside volcanoes or night scuba-dived). I experienced the culture-shocking type of fear. Not only was I baffled by indigenous ways of living; I was shocked by my personal shift in awareness to absorb it all.

At the ripe age of 22, I was having every assumption of what I thought life was supposed to be challenged. All alone, on a plane to a foreign land, without plans or people to rely on, with nothing but a guidebook and my backpack, everything was drastically out of my comfort zone.

In order to make this trek, I had to undergo a transformation of consciousness. I had to break down my traditional ways of dealing with fear in order to break through to an expanded way of viewing the world.

It’s well-known that most, if not all of our growth occurs outside of our comfort zone. The art of fearless living is determined by your response to this uncertainty. How do you react when growth requires leaving your cozy comforts: do you dive into the abyss or do you stay rooted? Do you shoot for those big, juicy dreams of travel, love, fame, and fortune, or do you shy away because of the risks involved?

There are scarier experiences than a solo-backpacking trip through Central America. For you, moving to a new city, breaking up with a partner, or leaving a comfortable job could be scarier. Actually, those things scare me too. Instead of fighting darkness and fear, you can augment light so that you can see what fear is truly signalling: an opportunity to thrive.

Fearless living isn’t something you obtain, like a new blouse or a bike. It’s an experience that emerges from a new way of being.

In that moment on the plane to Guaté, my fear felt as real as any other. I was making a drastic headfirst leap out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless I decided the universe was for me, not against me. I would see fear as a sign that if an experience was outside of my comfort zone, I would still take part. By shifting my habitual response to fear, by trusting in the universe, I opened myself to new ways of being.

It’s not that I completely transformed in that second or adopted Honduran cultural practices. Rather, I stopped tensing and retreating at the presence of perceived “otherness” in new cultures, experiences, and ideas.

I didn’t fret at a late train or a flat tire. Instead, I trusted that the universe brought me these challenges to strengthen my fearless living artistic skills. My consciousness expanded to see that with infinite ways of being, my concept of “normalcy” was an illusion. Since ways of being are no better or worse than another, the only truth in fearless living is how you define it.

Love and glow,


Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post from Saren Stiegel, a coach, speaker and founder of The Glow Effect. She helps people get back glow on, wake-up excited to take on the world, and empower them to create success on their terms.

Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

  • mihrank
    October 6, 2014

    wow – such beautiful post!

    • shirleymaya
      October 7, 2014

      Thanks. I am sure Saren will be happy to know that you liked the post.

  • Ranting Crow
    October 6, 2014

    Now this is a good post.
    Stop being scared and embrace change. Or something like that

    • shirleymaya
      October 7, 2014

      Only this post is good? LOL I am glad you get it 😉

  • Arlen Shahverdyan
    October 9, 2014

    Interesting post, Shirley! 🙂

    • shirleymaya
      October 10, 2014

      So nice to see you here, Arlen. Thank you for your incredible support and friendship! 🙂