4 Lessons on Conquering Fear and Living the Life You Want to Live


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” ~Marianne Williamson

After lying on my apartment floor for an hour, I walked over to the mirror, leaned in, and looked into my eyes.  This was the moment I came face to face with the truth: I was afraid to stand up and be who I wanted to be in this life.

It was not the fact that I was so rock bottom that scared me. It was the belief that I am capable of so much more.

Five years ago, I was in a banking job that demanded more of me than I could give. I remember one day a customer standing at the edge of my desk, yelling at me, and all I could do was get up from my chair and run away as my first panic attack took hold of me.

It was during this time that I began my relationship with food. Every evening was the same: I would leave work, get Mexican take out, return home, turn my cell phone on silent, and watch reruns of Sex and the City.

I lived vicariously through Carrie and struggled with her through her journey. It was in these few hours that I felt connected to something. I did not have to work hard, try, or fake anything; I just observed. This ritual got me through the year of 2008.     

On New Year’s Eve, I sat waiting for my date to celebrate a new year, looking down on the pile of clothes on my floor. Not one shirt or pair of pants fit me. The last thing I wanted to do was celebrate anything as I wondered how it all added up to this one evening.

The truth was, I had let myself go and weighed the most I have ever weighed in my entire life.

The next morning, after a long evening of questioning and self-loathing, I woke up and started sifting through the pictures of myself from the evening before. Something in me wanted to fully acknowledge the truth of my reality; I lay down on my apartment floor, began accepting how far I had let myself go, and let it all out.

An hour later, I peeled myself off the floor, walked to the bathroom mirror, leaned in, and declared that I did not recognize the girl in the mirror. That moment of recognition, or a lack of recognition for that matter, was my turning point.

I had been hiding behind clothes, food, and Sex and the City reruns for far too long, and as painful as it was to face this reality, it was my awakening. This was my life, and there was no other option but to stop hiding behind food, face my fears, and move forward, fiercely. 

This is exactly what I did. I left my job as a personal banker, lost forty pounds in the first year, became a certified personal trainer, and eventually started my own company to inspire and empower others to move fiercely forward in their lives. I became a warrior!

Over the next four years, I learned four lessons that empowered me to live the life I wanted to live.

1. Moving forward is the only option.

That day, I did not know much about how I was going to change; I just knew why I needed to change.

So I started somewhere; I dusted myself off, wiped my tears, and began emptying my kitchen cupboards. Day by day, action by action, I began moving in a new direction, and it felt different. I began seeing changes, both physically and mentally, soon thereafter and felt a sense of pride in myself that I had never felt before.

It’s easy to overcomplicate the path to what you want, but it is very simple: take one small step forward each day.

2. Walk through the fear, you warrior.

When I first began my journey of moving forward in my life, I was excited, empowered, and motivated by all the positive changes that were taking place, but with this also came fear.

What I feared most was having the courage to hold my own and be the best version of me. I envisioned the woman I wanted to be; she was empowered, confident, sexy, strong, and capable of anything she set her mind to! Then suddenly the fear crept in as I wondered how I would walk in this woman’s shoes and pull it off.

Fear is an interesting thing; it can paralyze you or catapult you. If you let it paralyze you, you will continue doing what you have always done and shy away from the courage you have within you, your light. If you let it catapult you, you turn your fear into fuel and use it as a tool to conquer whatever stands in your way.

It was the day I created my personal mantra, Fierce Forward, that I came face to face with my biggest fear that first year: stepping foot in the weight room.

Walking into a room full of grunting men who have been doing this for years was extremely intimidating, but I would not allow my fear to paralyze me. I began running faster, brewing up the courage as I envisioned myself walking tall toward the weight room, stepping over the line that divides my past endeavors from my future endeavors.

I knew I had to put a fierce face on, and ten minutes later, I was lifting weights amongst the men I once feared.  Little did I know at that time that lifting would become my passion and be the activity that empowers me most. Choosing to face my fear that day paid off ten fold, as lifting inspired me to become a personal trainer.

The more experience I had with facing my fears, the more of a warrior I became.

Fear should be walked through, not around. When you walk through it, you are choosing to face what you are afraid of and overcome it. That day in the gym, I walked through my fear!

3. You hold the key.

It was in one of my favorite movies, Sucker Punch, that these words, whispered by Sweat Pea, awoke something powerful within me: “Who chains us? And who holds the key that can set us free… It’s you. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!”

These words impacted me in a way nothing has before. I had been trudging through most of my life, reacting and living like a zombie. When I heard this quote, I was four years into my journey.  Through all the trials and tribulations I faced in those four years, I realized that I had already learned this lesson; I hold the key, and I always have.

We are the only ones that can change our lives by taking responsibility for those changes. Just as I chose to take responsibility for my unhappiness, to move forward, to walk through my fears and to live the life I imagined for myself, so can you.

4. Practice loving you.

I knew that I had to believe in myself wholeheartedly to move forward in my life. I made it a mission to tell myself every day that I am beautiful, strong, confident, and powerful. Even if I did not completely believe it yet, I knew I had to “fake it until I make it,” and so I did.

It was only through practice and intention that I began learning the art of self-love. As I began reaching for the woman I wanted to be, I realized that I deserve to shine.

To this day, I focus on my self-talk and alter each negative thought with its positive scenario, I write myself love letters, lipstick “you are beautiful and fierce” on my bathroom mirror, and wear intention bracelets that give me the courage and strength I need to believe in myself.

You are here to be powerful, fierce, and uniquely you. Do not fear this power, but run to it and embrace it with open arms.

Remember, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

Go get ‘em, you warrior!

Photo by Camdiluv

About Ashley Johns

Ashley Johns is a Personal Trainer, Writer, Entrepreneur and Founder of Fierce Forward.  She created Limitless Bracelets made of African Trade Beads to empower you to set goals. Visit her on Facebook,  Twitter, Etsy, and at her website.

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  • Renia Carsillo

    So I love the message of this post, but am a little off-put by the implication that owning your greatness was tied to weight loss. In my experience, it almost never is. The weight loss happens BECAUSE we begin to own our power. It almost never comes first, because if we tie our self-worth into what we see in the mirror, it’s a never-ending uphill battle.

  • David

    Nice one. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing that. It was helpful.

  • Self-love is vital, without it fear will win eventually so it’s really important to work on it consciously each day like you say.

  • Hi Renia, thank you for your comment. I do agree with you that happiness is not tied to weight loss, it simply was part of my journey to finding my power and a part that I chose to share in this story. Thank you for reading, Ashley

  • Thank you David!

  • Leanne, I couldn’t agree more. Self love is a journey!

  • Love this, Ashley,

    Funny, I traded in my treadmill and weight machine and now practice average Joe yoga and walk whenever I can 😉

    “Day by day, action by action, I began moving in a new direction, and it felt different.”

    Once someone realizes the true power of daily baby steps they are on their way.

    “It’s easy to overcomplicate the path to what you want, but it is very simple: take one small step forward each day.”


    And FEAR is a beast, when you make friends with it and realize it will never completely go away you’re on your way.


  • krutika

    really well written loved it very motivating:)

  • DE

    I am practicing self-love after a major life event. Does self-love makes us introvert or open up opportunities life can offer?

  • Self love opens us up absolutely because you are seeing the potential you have in yourself so when that happens, life actually opens up TO us and FOR us. When you believe in yourself, you begin to see and understand that you are limitless so anything is possible. Life opens up!

  • thank you Krutika!

  • @ArtofBreakingOut:disqus thank you so much for your comment. I completely agree. ash

  • lv2terp

    Inspiring post!!!! Thank you for sharing your shift, and wonderful advice! That quote from the movie touched me also when I first heard it! 🙂 I also swear by affirmations, they have been so HUGE in my journey! 🙂 Awesome Awesome!

  • wavygravy

    WOW! So perfectly worded. I can honestly say my negative mind was conquering me and this article is the exact motivation needed to break free of the self-hating mantras. Thank you.

  • thogan

    Thank you for this post Ashley. I really related to it at the point I am in my life. I hit rock bottom recently and did the same thing looking in the mirror not recognizing myself. I am on the verge of change and my own self realization. Thanks so much for these words of encouragement and advice!

  • Madhu Makhija

    Thank you author for creating such a beautiful blog. I feel there are so many things to learn. Loving self is so important. I am really inspired reading the blog and shared it to my friends as well to read.

  • @madhu makhija thank you so much for your comment. I’m so happy to hear you found my blog to offer something of importance to you and your friends. you rock! Ashley

  • @disqus_aDhYVFPeOw:disqus I’m glad this article found you. Alot of things are timing and if you’re ready and for me, that moment took me 2 years of being not in a good place to finally see myself and realize I wanted something more. Be patient, open and ready to embrace change and move forward, fiercely! xo Ash

  • @wavygravy THANKYOU for your words and for sharing that.

  • @lv2terp:disqus such a great movie, so much meaning! Keep being fierce

  • Talya Price

    I love this, conquering fear is what changes your life for the better. There are so many people who are playing it safe, and they are the most fearful. And their lives are unfulfilling. Risk takers have more fun and rule the world. Just look at all the people who dared to be different. We still talk about them today.

  • Ashley~
    I really resonated to this piece, in particular because you spoke to how empowering it is to reconnect to our bodies. During dark times, times of doubt, fear, numbing, it is so easy to disconnect from our embodied experience. For me, yoga has been healing and empowering. It was through reengaging with my body, that new thought patterns were able to come to form and I was able to move through the world more authentically myself.

  • @jackiejoh:disqus I just started yoga up again as it’s been the yin to my yang over the years but I’ve always pushed it to the back burner. I totally agree that that time you take for yourself where you’re connected to your body, enables you to really tune into your mind. xoxo

  • @talyaprice:disqus your comment is beautiful and FIERCE. LOVE it!!! So true, take risks, take the leap, jump, move, dare, be, do, dream…..and live!

  • Tara

    Hi Ashley,

    This post was extremely motivating, empowering, and refreshing to read. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I loved how you said that fear can either paralyze us or catapult us because that statement is 100% true. I suffer from panic attacks as well, and I’ve let them paralyze me in the past. Instead of moving forward and searching for new horizons, the fear has caused me to stay in my comfort zone, where I’m ‘safe.’ But I’ve learned that safety does not equal happiness; rather, it feels exactly like having chains wrapped around me. It’s binding, and keeps me living in fear. I’ve managed my panic attacks for the most part, but they are still on my mind when I consider trying anything new. I will remember to take small steps every day and eventually, I will overcome them.

    I love your ‘fierce forward’ mantra as it is impossible to be timid and move forward. Go big or go home, right? Thank you for your motivation and I’m so happy you found your spark and your passion. I will keep this article close for inspiration when I need it.

    Thank you so much.

  • Johnson

    I’m sure these tips will encourage me more.

  • Rohini

    Loving oneself is a process. Though manier times it proves to be difficult but over a lo eriod of actually start getting into the habit.With every smile I tend to fall in love with myself..with every error I try to remember something better that I have done in past and love myself again.
    love others.

  • I too am on a similar journey. I shifted bases due to my first job. I was away from home. And I started hating my life. A couple of months back I went to my hometown and just saw the people, who loved me for the kind of positivity I used to bring about in their lives. I came back to my jobtown with a promise to make the most of it.

    Now I make it a point that I visit a new place in and around the city almost every weekend rather than munching potatoes and sleeping!

    Here’s my last voyage

  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for this post!

  • Pimpernel

    Thankyou Ashley Johns for sharing this lovely post.. it inspires and motivates and supports many people through difficult times. A lot of things you wrote I recognize and I’m sure a lot of people do. One thing that really helped me going through a lot of things and that actually CHANGED me so much is yoga.. Through this yoga I met many lovely people.. This yoga is using a whole new method that was never used before and is so amazing (in case you are interested: 🙂

    I love how you wrote: “If you let it paralyze you, you will continue doing what you have always done and shy away from the courage you have within you, your light. If you let it catapult you, you turn your fear into fuel and use it as a tool to conquer whatever stands in your way.”

    It’s just so true..
    And one last and very small remark: the beautiful intro you used (and that got me to read this post because it’s one of my favorite texts) is not from Marianne Williamson but from Nelson Mandela (1994)..
    The text is double as long and ends like this:

    ” As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Thankyou again 🙂

  • pimpernel

    beautiful! 🙂

  • you are so welcome @michelle!

  • @pimpernel YES! I know that Nelson Mandela wrote that and I loved that last part. THANK YOU for your kind words. much love to you

  • @tara yes!! You must go all in and jump, take the leap and really,dive into the uncomfortable. I always tell myself to keep being comfortable with the uncomfortable and eventually it will become more comfortable. keep moving forward tara!!

  • Dang

    “Walk through the fear, you are warrior ” i like this thought Every day i struggle with myself how i can become a person as i want. Each time i face to my fear, I simple make step by step. After each time, I feel more strong like a warrior and excited to continue my purpose

  • Thanks for sharing so openly, Ashley. Another way to break through the fear is to ignore the things others say unless they are in some way positive, uplifting or constructively focused. We instinctively know our own awesomeness when we’re born but little by little other peck away at our self-esteem until we have completely forgotten how great we are. Retraining our inner voice to be the loudest as well as the most affirming is vital to achieving happiness.

  • What a nice piece! The greatest obstacle anyone can surmount is fear , especially fear of unknown, and this fear is bridge that joins who we are and who we want o be. The moment we ae able to break loss this crippling fear, then we can begin to live our lives in full and take our lives in our hands and be who we want to be

  • jennyintheworld

    I have found myself very stuck recently. I’m in a comfortable in my job and know I am good at what I do. But maybe I can be good at something different too. Feeling a great deal of fear right now that life is passing me by if I stay where I am, but scared of reaching out and being rejected. Clearly need to work on my own inner warrior!!! Thanks for the much needed motivation.

  • You can absolutely be good at whatever it is you WANT to be good at. Start asking yourself these questions,what do you want more of? What makes you happy and gives you energy? Do more of that, NOTHING is impossible chica!

  • Thank you @Graciousstore:disqus beautifully put. Fear is definitely something that points me to my purpose….when I’m afraid, I need to do more of it! xo

  • @ProceedToHappy:disqus AND, let loose of the people that you drag behind you, the people that give you only negativity. I agree whole heartedly!

  • every day is a small step towards that and an opportunity. go dang!