One of the joys of minimalism is the freeing sensation of shedding that which weighs you down. At first, it’s just the physical “stuff” that carries literal weight. After a while, though, it goes deeper and becomes more meaningful: the “stuff” becomes abstract concepts that reside in the psyche, stuff whose weight seems infinite and thus unsheddable… until they’re shed and you look back and say, “Why was I letting that hold me back, again?” And then sometimes it gets meta and what you shed isn’t a single “thing” insomuch as it is the entire infrastructure of false negativity: the “Fear Of.”
Fear of Failure
Fearing failure is fearing a chance to learn. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to fail at something on purpose, but no more do I let the fear of failure prevent me from doing something I feel could be meaningful… perhaps even enjoyable. Case in point: next month I will be giving a presentation about effective altruism at BronyCon 2017. Public speaking has never been part of my usual repertoire, and it’s entirely possible that turnout to the event will be just a handful of disinterested people who will listen to me stammer and sputter as my nerves get the better of me. But what insubstantial excuses these are to not do something that may help me to grow personally and professionally, and perhaps even inspire a few new people to consider values and virtues about which I feel strongly! Nothing but learning from this experience awaits.
Fear of Rejection
And by this I don’t mean being rejected (I’ve experienced enough rejections to recognize that the world will still be turning when the sun rises the next day), but doing the rejecting. Saying “no” has always been difficult for me to do, and to be honest it still is. But no more do I fear what might happen if I say “no” to somebody: that “no” is not a way of getting out of something I simply don’t care for, but rather the result of me already having identified something to which I’ve already said “heck yes.” In that sense, rejection is a tool to remain focused, not an escape hatch to be used with a sense of guilt. Of course it is a tool that demands great consideration for others, but it is nothing worth fearing.
Fear of Imperfection
I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I’ve still got a long way to go. But time and again I see that what I consider to be unforgivable flaws in my work do not even register on others’ radars, and those aspects they do comment on are met with an entirely misplaced righteous indignation because I think they’re beautiful. Forget that. Imperfection is beauty: it’s what sparks conversation, what prompts action, what makes you unique. I stand by my favorite quote about perfection (“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) because I still feel that working toward perfection is a meaningful endeavor, but not being afraid of your own imperfections along the way makes that journey so much more pleasant.
Fear of Missing Out
I get to miss out on so many things that have no relevance in my life so I can pay attention to those things that do have relevance. Thinking otherwise is just ridiculous.
Some fears help keep me alive (I’ll probably never feel perfectly comfortable with heights), but others just hold me back. Sure, I could try to address each one in isolation, but why beat around the bush? I’ve removed the entire foundation of these false fears, and they’ve all toppled over like houses of cards. The landscape is now clear for me to do meaningful work in life.