I remember being called fearless once. It was a compliment intended to applaud how vulnerable I allowed myself to be through my work, and I took it as such. But it made me laugh, too. In fact, it still does, because of all the words I’d use to describe myself, I don’t think “fearless” would ever make the cut. I mean, I still run up my basement steps because I’m half convinced that guy from “Nightmare On Elm Street” is chasing me, so you can kind of see where I’m coming from.
Growing up, I had this belief that there were some select people out there who inherently had it all together, the golden few. They were the ones who got all the big accomplishments, that wrote the best selling novels, they landed the lead roles. They were “the fearless,” seemingly predestined to take on the world; and somewhere along the way, I reluctantly accepted the fact that I just didn’t reside in that group—I wasn’t competent enough. But now, being self-aware enough to recognize that this is precisely how some people view me, I realize my prior theory was completely incorrect.
I know to the spectators in my life I probably look like the poster child for teenage entrepreneurship. Always moving, always on to the next photoshoot, always working on the next article. And to a certain degree, that’s true—I do keep myself busy. But what most people would be caught off guard to hear, is that it’s still hard for me to even raise my hand in a class of 14 people because I struggle with anxiety, or that I still have nights where I call my mom crying because I feel empty or that I still contend daily with the aftermath of years spent battling an eating disorder.
So yeah, I don’t fit the criteria for “fearless”—and there’s a lot of things I don’t do well. Most things, perhaps. But one thing I can give myself credit for, is that I keep moving forward. Always. I keep going, even if the going is slow. Even if the going is tough. Even if I don’t want to. I keep writing a book I’ve been trying to finish for two years now even though I’m almost certain it reads like a 2012 Harry Styles fan fiction. I keep forcing myself to talk in class even though my heart beats fast and my face gets red and I stumble all over my words. I keep recording all the good things that happen each day even when I feel absolutely gray inside. And what’s important isn’t if the book is good, or the attempt is embarrassing, or any number of outcomes from my endeavors; but rather the simple act of trying, the beauty of the pursuit. Because true fulfillment doesn’t come from what fruit your efforts bear anyways, but the satisfaction of knowing you gave this life your all, despite what it gave you in return. I want to look back no matter what my track record is, and at the very least be able to say, “hey, I tried.”
Whenever I do something, or put myself in a position where I know I might fail, it’s not that I disregard my audience—I’m just as susceptible to embarrassment as the next guy. But I know that ultimately, my most important audience is made up of just one person: me.
I can still see fear when I look into the mirror. And imperfection. And messiness. And a wide variety of many other hindrances that aren’t worth getting into. But I also see resilience, and at the end of the day, I think that speaks volumes about my character than anything else. I don’t have it all together, which most of you can probably pick up one by now (again, this is coming from someone who barbecued their thumb yesterday after picking up the wrong end of a flat iron). But no one is, and that’s totally okay. In fact, I think that’s really beautiful, because it means every star out there is yours to grab, too.
The key to going after your dreams and giving what you want to give to the world isn’t about not being concerned of what it thinks of you, but being more concerned of what you think of yourself. You are just as capable and deserving of achievement and happiness and success as everyone else. Sometimes it’s just about taking all the steps—baby steps—to get there. Sometimes it’s about focusing on putting one foot in front of the other because that’s all you can handle right now. Sometimes it’s taking a season to walk before you can run. Forward is forward no matter what pace. Remember that.
“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you didn’t have the strength.”
– Theodore Roosevelt