Category Archives: Breaking Free

Breaking Free! From Fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Don’t you find the above quote both inspiring and liberating?

A few years ago, when I truly began to grasp this concept, it was such a revelation to me. I began to see that I did not have to wait for the feelings of fear to subside before doing something that I felt was right. I just had to muster up enough courage to do it despite feeling afraid.

It was so empowering!

I have found that the only way to conquer fear is to face it.
Avoiding it only ingrains it further.

Fear entraps you and lies to you that you can never get free from its claws. It takes control of your thoughts until your thinking becomes irrational. It feeds on worry, anxiety and negative thinking. It wraps around you, squeezing the life out of you, until you give in to its demands.

Fear stops you from being the person you really are and tries to lock you into a place you feel safe. And even within that safe place (or comfort zone) it can take hold of your thoughts, paralysing you and trapping you to that perceived place of safety.That safe place can then actually begin to choke the life out of you because you get stuck and feel trapped, longing to break free but not knowing how.

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I just put on my husband Matt’s album ‘Heart Bowed Down’ that he wrote, recorded and released two years ago. He wrote most of the songs and did most of the work, but there are two of my songs on there which I wrote and sing and I am also singing backing tracks on many.

Until we made and released the album I did not realise quite how many fears I had, and in fact still have to overcome, related to it.

It was a bold step to invest financially in the recording equipment, for Matt to spend the time learning how to use it and then going through the exciting, yet agonising process of recording them.

It’s a roller-coaster of emotions. One minute your emotions are up and you feel the adrenaline and anticipation of what you are doing. The next moment you are full of doubt, insecurity and fear, especially when things are not sounding how you want them to.

The biggest challenge though, definitely came in releasing the album. Selling the album and giving it to other people is when the fears really take hold.

‘What are they thinking?’
‘Will anyone like it?’

It goes round and round in your head as you wonder and analyse people’s reactions. You speculate about others opinions and it eats away at your thoughts.

I would say that even now as I put on the CD in the car or listen to it on the iPod and hear my songs, my first reaction is often fear!

What?

Why on earth do I feel fear when I hear my songs?

I feel a fear and awkwardness;
That others have listened to it.
Made up their own opinions about it;
love it,
like it,
hate it,
remain indifferent.
That we dared to put it out there.
That we gave and sold it to so many people.

What did they think?
What did they say?
How did they rate it? 
How did they rate me?

I also feel fear because I can, like many of us, be self critical. I hear all the mistakes, I am not sure I even like the sound of my voice most times I hear it. I compare our songs to professionally produced music and…

To be honest it often makes me want to cower under rock and throw the album in the bin.

You don’t know how much humility it can take to ‘put yourself out there’ until you do it. Often people can mistaken this courage for pride, but actually it can also take a lot of humility.

You have to fight through the fear that holds onto you with all its might. Tying you down, paralysing you, speaking doubts and insecurities into your mind, trying to stop you moving forward.

I am thankful that we had enough courage to release that album. I know it blessed and encouraged a lot of people. I also know it was a good test in facing and overcoming personal fears. It was an exercise in getting over what people think.

If we had waited until our fears subsided we never would have taken the plunge. Even in the midst of courage fear still knocked at our hearts and minds. But we knew we had to step out – despite our fears.

Fear can keep us bound up in mediocrity because mediocrity feels safe. It’s when you try it do something different, when you take that plunge, that fear becomes more pronounced.

And yet stepping out is also so liberating!

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If you know me personally, you may well think of me as very confident around other people, an extrovert perhaps. (Although in reality I don’t feel that either the extrovert or introvert labels fully define me – I am a mix of the two in different ways). This is because one of the things that most defines my life is building relationships with others.

This means that I tend to know a lot of people.

Some people might then assume that I find it easy to meet, talk to and get to know new and different people.

But I would say that is only a half truth.

In actual fact, over the years, and on a daily basis I have trained myself to overcome my fears, break out of my comfort zone and speak to lots of different people I don’t know.

It partly comes with the territory of being church leaders. You can’t effectively lead people unless you can build relationships. We welcome new people into our church and the various activities we run on a weekly basis. Day in, day out, over the years, I have trained myself to reach out a hand of friendship and relationship to as many people as I can, from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures – regardless of their response.

Regardless of my fears about what they might be thinking.
Regardless of the potential rejection or hurt.

So I have broken through my social paralysis year by year, day by day, person by person. Deliberately placing myself in uncomfortable situations to attempt to break the power fear has over me.

Some days it’s easier than others.

Sometimes I want to stay in the shadows and not place myself again in the path of rejection or other people’s opinions. Maybe if I stay in the shadows people won’t notice me. Perhaps I won’t draw attention to myself. Maybe that would be safer and more comfortable.

And yet,

I would miss out!

If I obeyed my fears I would not have met and built friendships with so many wonderful people. If I had let my insecurities and speculation about what others thought overcome me, I would not be so rich relationally. I would not have the privilege of knowing and learning from such a diverse set of people.

It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with fear.

Far from it!

Fears connected to what other people are thinking about me daily try to get their claws into me. I actually wrote about this in my post on the insecurity of others opinions.

But I have decided not to let fear win. That fear will not control my actions. That I will choose to ‘do it afraid’ until I reach a point where I have conquered it and hold firm to that calm voice within me saying ‘do not be afraid.’

What fears bind you?
Do you really want to break free?

Fear will stop us breaking free if we let it. It pushes us into a self preservation cycle, desperate to protect ourselves from what might harm or hurt us. It can pull people into self destruction and all sorts of bad habits and addictions. It causes people to put up barriers, push others away and build a hard exterior where they look strong, yet underneath they are scared, vulnerable and angry.

The tragedy is that each day so many of us allow fear to control our actions, fill our thoughts, damage our relationships and steal our strength.

Fear is exhausting!

We miss so many opportunities because:
Fear told us we couldn’t do it.
We cared too much about what other people might think.
We rehearsed all the things that could go wrong, rather than getting excited about what might go right.

Each day I know I have to choose to break free from fear. Not allowing my fears to win and deciding that when fear tries to paralyse me:

I will refuse to obey it.

So let’s cheer one another on to – press on regardless! To break free from the if’s and but’s and instead listen to the gentle voice of wisdom and truth within us saying,

Go for it, step out, don’t be afraid!

But even if you still feel full of fear.

Don’t give up!

Dig deep for that courage.
Decide to press on regardless.

DO IT AFRAID!

It’s the only way to overcome, conquer and break free!

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

    In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous so that he can lead the people.
In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous so that he can lead the people.

This post is part of the .Breaking Free. series of blog posts. Follow this link to read the series introduction.


Breaking Free!


Do you ever feel like you want to break free?

Break free from something … even though you cannot necessarily pinpoint what it is?
Do you feel like you want to break out and discover more freedom?
Do you desire change, even though you also fear it?

What does it mean to break free?
What does freedom really look like?

There are so many things that can trap us. That keep us bound up physically, emotionally, spiritually & mentally. Things that take control of our lives and stop us being the people we desire to be and doing what we desire to do.

What do you desire to break free from?
What is keeping you bound up?

Maybe it’s:
Fear
Worry
Sickness
Pain
Other people
A relationship
Others opinions
Comparison
Jealousy
A job
Family
Your thoughts
Depression
Anxiety
Addiction
Anger
Hate
Bitterness
Grief

The list goes on…..

Each of us know that there are things that trap and hold us back, but we can’t always see how to break free.

I believe the desire for freedom is something that is inbuilt within us.
To feel free & liberated is a deep human desire.

But what does freedom actually mean and why can we often feel trapped and bound?

At the start of 2015 the brain and neck injury I sustained was debilitating. My life became so restricted as I spent 22-23 hours a day lying down and could do very little for about 3 months (followed by another month of recovery). During that time I felt trapped physically within a body that would not function as it should. I desired my body and mind to work properly, but they wouldn’t and I felt trapped by it. I desired freedom from the injury and the damage it had caused, but each day things hardly got better and they actually began to get worse.

I couldn’t shake it off.
It wouldn’t go away.
If I fought it – it got worse.
I couldn’t break free.

However.

Even though I could not break free from the physical symptoms, I decided, from the start, that the injury couldn’t and shouldn’t control everything.

I decided that I could break free and choose freedom in other areas. I was adamant that the injury wouldn’t take my psychological health as well as my physical health.

Now this was a challenge because the brain injury affected my cognitive processing. At first I couldn’t really do anything. I couldn’t:
Read.
Listen to music.
Watch TV.
Look at or use screens.
Walk outside without support.
Sit up or stand for more than about 15 mins at a time.
Have long conversations.

However, I knew I had to take back what I could control and choose to stay positive, to stay thankful, to not let fear and worry control me.

Even when I could not break free from the physical symptoms I chose to fight for freedom spiritually, physiologically and mentally.

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Some days that was easier than others.

Even when we face setbacks and discouragements, when things seem to be getting worse rather than better:

We can still fight for freedom.

We cannot control everything in our lives but we can choose to take control of our thoughts and attitudes.

The times I felt most trapped by my injury and illness were the times I allowed my mind to dwell for too long on the negatives.

On the ‘what ifs’.
On the frustrations.
On the horrible symptoms.
On the restrictions.
On how I felt.

It was then that the battle would set in, trying to drag me into an unhealthy mental state. To pull me down into negative thinking and attack my physiological stability.

In those moments I had to fight to break free. To remember all the things I could be thankful for. To choose to believe that things would get better. To focus on the positives and to push through to the inner peace that I knew was deep within my soul.

I can remember as my husband drove me to A&E for the first time, 7 days after my initial injury, I was in a bad way. I felt so dizzy & out of it. Disconnected from the world. Keeping my eyes closed because my brain couldn’t deal with the lights and movement of the car. I could hardly talk, I couldn’t walk without help or support. And on that journey I just kept saying to my husband Matt – “everything’s fine isn’t it. It’s all OK.” And he would just gently, yet confidently, say, “yes it will be fine, everything will be OK.”

I am so thankful that Matt and I share the same outlook on life. That even when things get tough we dig deep to find that inner peace. To hear the gentle calming voice within saying – ‘it will all be fine, you are OK, don’t be scared’.

Now that was day 7 after my injury. I wasn’t, of course, OK and was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome, but it wasn’t life threatening and that’s what the being ‘OK’ was about. However, by week 7 things had got worse; we took our 3rd trip to A&E and I was finally admitted and we got some answers as I was diagnosed with a Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CFS) leak. I then had to again fight to stay positive, to be patient, to trust I would recover, to choose everyday to keep on believing, trusting & pushing through and taking hold of that peace & hope within.

Even when I felt at my weakest physically, emotionally and mentally, when it felt like I was getting battered from all sorts of directions, in all sorts of ways, I had to choose to stay hopeful. To find that strength amidst weakness and to hold on to the way forward.

Breaking free is a mindset.
It is birthed in the heart and received in the mind.
You have to be determined to take hold of it.
You have to choose it.
You have to believe it.

There have been many seasons in my life as well as many daily battles when I have to push to ‘break free’.

My last two blog posts about insecurity, due to comparison and others opinions, talk about some of these daily battles.

We all have them and some of our battles will be similar. And yet because we are all individuals, many of our battles will be unique to our circumstances and personalities.

So to explore this subject of ‘breaking free’ I am going to write a series of blog posts about this subject.

As with all of my posts I will try and make them as ‘real’ as possible. Sharing stories from my own life and things that have helped me.

I am certainly not there yet. I still often have to fight to break free from the things that come against me. I still have days and moments where I feel more trapped, than free, especially in my thoughts.

But I am on the journey.
I have not arrived.
But I have left.
I have seen freedom.
I have tasted of its liberation, peace and joy.
I have lived it.
I have experienced it.

But I know there is more.
I know I can push in further still.
To grasp hold of my freedom and not let go.

And I will not give up pursuing it until I have experienced it in every area of my life and thoughts. That is a life time goal. Unattainable; perhaps, but…

What a vision for life – total freedom! For you and for me.

It’s available. We just have to reach out and take hold of it. We are not built to feel trapped & bound.

We are built to be free! 

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

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