You become fearless through taking three actions:
- Give up the fantasy of finding your perfect soul mate;
- Love who you are, even with that nasty streak.
- Give up the idea of a god who loves you only when you do “what’s right.”
Let’s look at each of these.
The habit of searching for your “true” soul mate is so deeply ingrained that even after we are married, we continue scanning the horizon in case that person should suddenly appear. And if they do appear, and you recognize each other, then you will risk everything, including your marriage and family, to join them in a journey into a nightmarish realm.
This person is often someone you tortured in a former lifetime and you are irresistibly attracted to them because of the need to repair, heal, and mend these misadventures. This is not unusual. The problem is that instead of healing an ancient wound, often we end up reinjuring each other.
When you are sure that you have met your dream lover, your soul mate, and every cell in your body is quivering with excitement, run away as fast as you can. Unless, of course, you are ready to sign up for another lesson in the school of emotional storms.
There are many people in our lives besides soul mates—partners and ex-partners, families, co-workers, friends, and not friends. We need to give up the dream of perfect, unconditional love with all of them—parents on forward. We never got the best parents, only the right parents for us. We never got the best spouse, only the right spouse. The sooner we recognize this the faster we will be able to move on to more interesting engagements with the world.
Loving who you are even with all your faults is tough, as you are the only one who truly knows what a screw-up you are. Be fearless as you look at yourself. You are what you are. Take a deep breath and accept that for better and for worse, you are you. No one else is going to give you this kind of unconditional approval without extracting a sky-high price.
You can spend countless hours in therapy trying to understand why you do not love yourself. But analyzing your childhood is helpful only for a little while. Then you must muster the courage and determination to get on with life—and with love, beginning with you. Start by accepting your flaws and faults, loving every new wrinkle you see in the mirror in the morning (okay, I know this is tough . . .), and holding everything that happened to you in your childhood and your life as a lesson and a gift. Then you can stop pretending to be someone you are not. You can drop the mask of perfection together with the mask of the village idiot. Both are false; they are the masquerade we adopt in order to hide from ourselves and keep the world from seeing us as we really are.
Show yourself in all your flawed beauty. You no longer hide anything from the world or from yourself. Try this: reveal to someone an embarrassing incident you have been hiding for a long time—a single incident that shows your flawed beauty. As soon as you no longer care that it is a secret, no one else will either.
Unconditioned love is a habit that must be developed. You cannot get to it by chewing on the reasons why you can’t do it. You can get to it by breaking the habit of conditioned love, which is the kind of love we learned while growing up. You break this habit by loving yourself unconditionally.
Then you will be ready for the third action in discovering fearlessness: Give up the idea of a god who loves you only when you do “what’s right.” Like many people, I was raised in a religious tradition—Roman Catholic. From a young age, I was told God loved me, but . . . there was a catch.
God was a loving father who made sure you obeyed his commandments, didn’t eat meat on Friday, obeyed your dad, did chores for your mother, and never told lies or stole cookies from the cupboard.
To transform the dream of a god who loves you conditionally, who does not accept you in all your flawed beauty, you must first experience your connection to all of creation, to the Universe, to Spirit. We are all One in Spirit. The Lakota phrase mitakuye oyasin—all my relations—conveys the power of our interconnectedness with all beings.
When you no longer need to experience love through another, when you can love the people you disagree with, and when you can celebrate yourself with all your gifts and faults, when you no longer need to barter for love and can bask in the love of Spirit, then you have unconditioned love. Then you no longer need anything to make you happy. You can be happy for no reason at all.