A Letter To My Fear

Minneapolis sunrise

This past June was a month of uncertainty for me. I had internally decided to leave my job and become an entrepreneur, but I hadn’t actually pulled the trigger. About 90% of the time I was excited for the possibilities. The other 10% of the time I felt like someone had wrapped a corset around my lungs and pulled the strings tight. I questioned the sanity of my decision to leave my safe, steady job and pursue a path that could lead to failure. After all, I hadn’t actually quit my job. I could still change my mind.

But in my heart I knew that I couldn’t change my mind. I was already on this path. I was moving ahead and fear was just going to be part of the journey.

I remembered reading a letter that Elizabeth Gilbert had written to her fear in Big Magic and I decided to do the same. I had no intention of sharing this publicly, but a colleague suggested that it might help others to manage their fear.

It’s taken me five months to get the courage to share the letter. I feel vulnerable just typing this introduction. But I also believe that vulnerability is the key to growth, so here it is:

Heather – You are becoming the person that you want to be. Stepping fully into yourself. Expressing what you have to offer to the world. You are taking the time to design life on your own terms and release the expectations you have created for yourself or others have impressed upon you over many years. Heather, you are creativity, and when you reach into that creativity and act from your heart without ego, your light is unstoppable.

 And, Heather, you know that stepping into the light can be scary. Light exposes flaws, makes it harder to hide when things go poorly, all eyes on you. But remember when this fear washes over you and you feel vulnerable to the eyes of the world – a life in the light is also warm. It is open, illuminating, and free. It embraces your beauty and also your imperfections knowing that’s what makes you real. You’ve known for a long time that perfection is unattainable – it’s now time to act on that knowledge.

But the most important thing to remember, Heather, is that a life in the light isn’t about you at all. It is the light you give to others that matters. And only by stepping into the light and bathing yourself in its radiance do you have light to give to others. Overflowing radiance. What might be possible with overflowing radiance?

So when the fear creeps in and sucks the breath from your lungs and the energy from your heart, take a deep breath and turn towards the light, towards the possibilities, inward to your creativity and outward in overflowing radiance.

I’ve read this letter countless times since I wrote it in June. Whenever I feel the fear edge in, this letter gives me the pep talk I need to move forward with confidence. The fear doesn’t disappear entirely – and I wouldn’t want it to. A little fear gives me a sense of urgency and pushes me forward – into the light, into my creativity, and outward in overflowing radiance.


Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

6 thoughts on “A Letter To My Fear

  1. Perfect. That’s your inner being just doing its job reminding you of who you really are! Harness that voice and listen to its wisdom–and you will always be moving in the right direction.

  2. Heather,

    Thanks so much for sharing! Fear is an interesting emotion. It wants to protect us, keep us safe; but as such it also wants us to stick to what we already know, stay in our comfort zone. In mid 2016 I decided to leave my steady job (one I’d had ever since becoming a Dietitian) without knowing where exactly I was going next. In my heart I knew I needed to explore other possibilities in my field and beyond.

    I was terrified to walk away from stability in order to honor that part of myself, but I walked with my fear. Now a year and a half later I’ve ‘tried on’ few different job possibilities (via volunteering and short term positions), hit my 1 yr mark at a new position, and am working to view my career less like a destination and more like a journey.

    However, my journey with fear continues. I find it’s so easy for me to want to slip back to staying within my comfort zone. And, your message is timely for me as I’ve recently made another decision that has stirred up a lot of fear and uncertainty within me. I’m about to move to a different neighborhood in my city (a relatively minor decision in the grand scheme – but involves leaving a comfort zone I’ve built for myself over the last 3 years). Reading your message is a reminder to me that just because fear shows up, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do something. That it’s important to me continue practicing walking with my fear. Lastly, that it’s okay to make some “wrong” decisions, or ones I find that I don’t like, too. It is in the “trying” of something you are called to try, in being brave enough to do so – that you walk into the light.

    Sending warmth (and light!) to you,

    1. Thank you for sharing your reflections, Charlotte! I really resonate with what you said about the presence of fear doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something. Looking back on my life, I was absolutely terrified to set out on what ended up some of my most amazing experiences. I cried the entire plane ride to Houston on my way to study abroad in Costa Rica when I was 20 and the semester was a life-changing, phenomenal experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I think that a little fear just means you care. As long as it doesn’t stop you from pursuing what you know is right, that’s just fine! And it sounds like fear is present for you, but not getting in the way of trying new things – and this is awesome! Keep walking into the light, even if it’s just one step at a time 🙂

  3. Heather,

    Thank you for sharing your heart and this. Great things will come as you step into your light and influence others to do the same.

    Very eloquent, very brave!!

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