Shot by Cathrine Westergaard in New York, New York

Shot by the late Cathrine Westergaard in New York City.

If you ask most people what they want from life, they will probably tell you they want to be happy—they want to be loved.

Success, fame and fortune might come up, too.

But I think what we ultimately yearn for is freedom.

The freedom to be ourselves, especially in a world that is constantly telling us not to. The freedom of inner peace and feeling at home, and being able to take that feeling with us everywhere we go.

For me, the one thing that gets in the way of feeling free is fear.

Fear keeps us small, and stuck in self-limiting beliefs that don’t serve us. As with most behaviors we want to change, the first step in overcoming fear is acknowledging it.

Tell yourself the truth.

A big reason it is so difficult to release fear is that we have to be brutally honest with ourselves. You have to get real, and look deep within to discover how fear has been holding you back. The key is to confront your fears, rather than ignoring them.
I literally sat down with a pen and my journal, and wrote down what scares me:

Am I pretty enough? Smart enough? Thin, toned and strong enough? Am I lovable? Have I accomplished enough? Will I make enough money this year to stay out of debt? Am I going to be able to have a child of my own?

For years my mind was ruminating these fear-based stories that I wasn’t good enough. I was constantly striving for something that doesn’t exist—perfection—and it was making me physically sick.

The stress and anxiety this story created in my life crippled me at times with meltdowns and panic attacks.

You are not your ego.

My life shifted dramatically the moment I realized that my ego is just this silly, fear-based voice in my head that feeds off of my insecurities and likes to keep me in a state of worry and disempowerment. What a jerk!

By identifying my ego for what it is (a jerk!), I am able to laugh at it, and see the absurdity in my fearful thoughts (e.g. “I’m not thin enough to date him,” or “I’m too old to book this job.”)

Saying these words out loud shows me just how ridiculous my fearful thoughts are. They literally serve no other purpose than to make me feel small and unworthy.

Witness your fear.

Once you are able to get real with yourself about what scares you, write it down and say it out loud to yourself, a friend, therapist or support group. I promise you, your fears will lose power over you.

Laugh at your fear.

By speaking my truth to a friend (and now all of you), I am able to laugh at it. The absurdity of my fear-based story is hilarious.

Your truth is your power. Your willingness to be honest with yourself, and not take these fear-based thoughts so seriously, will set you free down a much more pleasant path.

Write a new story.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Thoughts become things, choose the good ones.” ~ Mike Dooley

My new story I’ve created for myself is, “I am good enough and worthy of everything my heart desires and more.”

We can choose to see and create a new vision for ourselves rooted in peace and love. How do we do this? By literally making the conscious choice to see ourselves in a new light. We can look in the mirror and choose to see strength and beauty, or choose to see something unattractive.

Either way, there we are in the mirror. How do we want to see ourselves? Powerful or powerless? It is a choice, and our thoughts are extremely powerful in creating our reality.

I am 37 years old, size 12, and work full-time as a model all over the world. If I chose to listen to society or anyone else’s opinion besides my own (that tells me I’m too old, too big, too something to work as a model), I would not have this exciting career that pays me very well.

Release your fears, rather than gripping onto them so tightly.

I do this through meditation—twice a day, everyday. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time to meditate!” “I don’t know how to meditate.” That’s what I used to think and say, until one day I had a panic attack and could barely breathe.

I recommend not waiting until you become physically ill to make some simple changes to your life that will yield huge positive benefits. Learning through pleasure feels much better than learning from pain. Remember to laugh!

Trust.

We live in uncertain times, and if you watch the news, I can see why you’re extremely fearful.

The truth is, there really is no place completely safe from fear, except within ourselves. Try to stay focused on what you can control: your thoughts. Connect back to your own inner wisdom and intuition. This could also be what many refer to as their gut reaction.

Your fear-based ego might say, “You have to take this job, you need the money, otherwise you won’t be able to pay your bills, and you’ll be out on the street.” Yikes, that feels icky.

Your intuition, Higher Self, gut, whatever you want to call it, knows you are going to be okay if you don’t take this job that doesn’t feel right to you. Your inner wisdom knows that something much bigger and better is just around the corner, and if you stay true to yourself and your values, you will get it. You don’t need to settle.

While I have struggled for years with overcoming fearful thoughts and battling anxiety, I’ve discovered that what scared me the most (not being good enough) has been my greatest opportunity for deep healing and personal growth.

When fearful thoughts come up now, I trust that I am on the right path, and out my ego with a deep hearty laugh.

Laugh out loud, and then let it go!

Laugh out loud, and then let it go! Outtake from a photoshoot with photographer Heather Hazzan.

Story originally published on elephantjournal.com.