Breaking the Cycle of Fear
Let Your Fears Make You
Fierce By Koya Webb
Koya Webb was a Division I track athlete. Her jam was the high jump, the shot put, and hundred-meter hurdles. She thought she’d go to the Olympics one day. Then, sophomore year, she got a stress fracture in her lower back that dead-ended her winning streak. At the suggestion of her doctor, Webb tried yoga. Her first class was rough: She couldn’t touch her toes. But when she took a deep, long breath—her first since her back injury—and exhaled, she felt an unexpected rush of energy. She recognized that feeling: She’d felt it once in church. It was a connection to her spirit—and a feeling she had forgotten.
Webb began a yoga practice, recovered from her stress fracture, rejoined the team late in the spring season, and won a few championships for Wichita State.
But there were more injuries and the pressures of her own ambitions. At age twenty-four, Webb made the choice that is like poison for the ultracompetitive: She let go of her dream. She would never race again.
But that wasn’t what changed Webb. What really changed her, on a fundamental level, was facing her fear of failure. With a reconfigured mind-set, she used principles from yoga to dismantle the blocks that had been holding her back for years. She was able to let go of her obsession to get everything right. She let go of the idea that she could never back down. She stopped working so hard to please everyone.
Webb’s book, Let Your Fears Make You Fierce, is a call to look at fear head-on and see the strengths hiding beneath the shame of failure. Here’s what works for Webb: Forget your past, forget your destiny, and start tuning in to the power you hold right now. Only then can you see the future as it should be—a blank space, waiting for you to get started.
Turning Fears into Opportunities for Growth
In every moment, you have the power to create your future. The “failures” you’ve had in the past don’t define your future or mean that you are going to “fail” again. You have the power to define who you are, what you want, and how to get there. Every day, remind yourself: I am not going to let my past define me. I am going to define me. I am going to create my future.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Change is uncomfortable, but it’s also the only constant in life. The world around us—our relationships, jobs, living situations, friends, everything—is constantly changing and influencing us. Amid all of this change, why would we expect that we would stay the same? We’re constantly changing. Honor that. The scariest time in my life was when I realized my heart’s desire had changed and I no longer wanted to run track. A lot of people feel that a change of heart is a negative thing. That it reflects a fickle nature. It doesn’t. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody. You have to find what fits for you—right now, at this time in your life.
When we don’t honor the ways in which we’ve changed, we end up sticking with something just because we don’t want to quit. We end up stressed, overworked, and miserable, holding on for dear life to a dream we don’t even want anymore. This is dangerous—but as long as you’re still breathing, as long as you’re still alive, you have the opportunity to change your situation and find a dream that’s worth the gamble. Each breath is an opportunity to change. Each breath is an opportunity to be better than we were before. With each breath, we choose our future.
Lesson: You always have the opportunity to grow if you’re willing to change.
The lessons I’ve learned on my yoga mat help me practice flexibility in my life. I was so tight in my first yoga class that I couldn’t touch my toes. The body is often naturally tight, and that’s okay. Breathe into your muscles and they will loosen. The same thing happens in life. Breathe into your fears and they will loosen their grip on you, opening you up to new opportunities. The more you breathe into your fears, the easier it gets to do so, and the more flexible you will become in trying new things.
Change is happening all around us and inside of us. If you’re flexible, you’re able to move easily with those changes and find your flow. If you’re not, you’ll get stuck, be unable to shift and adapt, and live in a way that isn’t working for you anymore.
On the yoga mat, we learn to keep moving. In life, the more flexible you are and the more you keep moving, the less likely you are to get stuck in your fears, doubts, and worries.
Lesson: Stay flexible and available for new opportunities.
Never Call It Failure
Things don’t always work out the way we want or plan. When a deal falls through, a client goes to a competitor, a job opportunity vanishes, a relationship ends, a proposal is rejected, or an experience falls short of your expectations, don’t call it a failure. Shift your mind-set. Stop asking, How did I fail? How can I stop failing? Instead, ask, How did that situation make me stronger? What can I learn from that experience?
When I’m at the gym lifting weights and I can’t lift the weight I’d set as my goal for that day, I don’t think, Oh, man, I failed. I think, That’s my limit now. Time to let my body rest and recover. Then I go back to the gym the next day and try again. It’s about mind-set.
Here again, it’s important to do a reality check. Do you want to keep pursuing this goal, or do you want to stop? Ask yourself: Is this something I want to push forward, or do I want to let it go and put my energy in another direction? Am I happy on this journey?
Lesson: You can’t fail if you don’t stop trying.
If you’re comfortable being uncomfortable, stretching yourself, and not calling fears failure, you’ll see opportunities for growth daily. Embrace growth, embrace change, and find your flow.
Koya Webb is an international yoga teacher, a holistic health and wellness coach, and a motivational speaker based in Los Angeles.