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Every morning for the past two weeks I have been religiously listening to the Kid Rock song, “Born Free.” I particularly like these lyrics: “You can knock me down and watch me bleed, but you can’t keep no chains on me. I was born free!”

You and I were created to live in freedom. What happens every day though is that we unconsciously choose to allow our spirits to be imprisoned by fear.  Through our fearful thoughts, we block ourselves from success and from reaching our highest potential.

Many of us live in the unbalanced and unhealthy state of being “stressed out.” In reality, when we say we are “stressed” what we’re really saying is that we’re afraid. Louise L. Hay says, “stress is a fearful reaction to life’s constant changes.” Have you ever felt anxious, worried, insecure or nervous? That’s fear.

While we all have fears, most of us are unaware that we’re afraid – it’s simply not one of those feelings society encourages us to talk about. We are taught to hide behind a mask of illusory perfection and control so that others will think highly of us. Unfortunately, in doing so, we build walls between ourselves and others. We begin to live lives that are not authentic because we don’t feel confident enough to be our true selves. We worry too much about failure, rejection, abandonment and the disapproval of others.

I remember when I was young I was “shy” (in other words, I was afraid of talking to strangers, classmates, and even teachers), yet today, as a public speaker, I constantly face both large and small groups.  How did I manage to do this after spending the first sixteen years of my life being shy?

I also grew up not being very athletic. In fact, I would be the last one picked for a team in gym class. No one wanted me on their team because I was terrible at sports. Fast forward to today and I have been a fitness instructor for over twenty-three years. How did I move beyond the fear of people making fun of me because I was uncoordinated?

The answer to these questions is that I made a decision to pursue my dreams rather than to be held hostage by fear. Choosing to overcome fear is a decision we’re confronted with many times a day. Fear is that voice that says, “I’d like to try that but what if I fail?” or “People may make fun of me so I’d better not attempt it.” or “It will never work. Why bother trying.”  Rather than stepping out of our comfort zones and risking judgement, disapproval, or failure, we often find it easier to use our fears as an excuse and coast through life clinging to the “poor me” mentality our ego promotes.

We all possess courage to dramatically change our lives through facing our fears. You have this power whether you think you do or not. As Ambrose Redmoon so eloquently said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”

Being aware of our fears is the first step in moving beyond them. Sometimes hidden fears lie behind procrastination. We put off doing things we’ve dreamed of doing because it’s easier to say we don’t have time than admit we are afraid. For example, it’s easier to complain about not liking your job than to take the risk of pursuing your dream of going back to school or starting your own business. Or it’s simpler and less painful to complain about your significant other than to look at your own flaws and confront the areas you need to work on.

So what can you do to conquer your fears? Consider writing them down.  As motivational speaker Mike Lipkin said, “You cannot master what you cannot see. When I wrote down my phantoms, I saw them for what they were. Just words on a page.”   Will you choose to live confined and stifled by words on a page or, like Kid Rock, will you belt out, “I was born free!”