How to Let Go of Fear to Live Passionately and Authentically

“If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve done a lot of stripping lately. It’s been liberating. I’ve been peeling away layers of the ego—all the accumulated stuff—to find who I am at the core.

It wasn’t too long ago when I noticed how quickly my life would go from an extreme high to an extreme low—how one moment could seem so perfect and wonderful, and then suddenly something would happen and it would turn into a less appealing scene.

The story went something like this: “Life is good. No it’s not. Life is good. No it’s not…” This narrative repetitiously replayed like a bad remix.

I was never fulfilled because I was always dependent on something outside of me—the praise I received that day, what the scale said, how great my workout was, or the next scheduled vacation.

I remember the first time I published a piece of my writing and I asked my husband: “Is it perfect?” Then I agonized over what kind of feedback it would get.

He smiled and quickly said, “Perfect is too many people to please, babe.”

His words resonated with me and peeled away one layer of my ego. Slowly, more layers began to peel as I became aware that I’d given my worth to other people. I’d become reliant on external feedback because I did not value what I was worth.

I was so blinded by the bling of the external that I forgot to see the unexamined interior—the attention-deprived inner world.

Now I realize how quickly we can go from an extreme low back to an extreme high.

When we commit to finding contentment within—being honest with ourselves and finding courage to explore— there is a certain peace and joy that will follow.

When we know who we are, stripped down to our true essence, we can then connect with our higher purpose and find fulfillment on our unique journey.

We will not be immune to life challenges. Our parents will still need our help, our significant other will still irritate us, our boss will still be cranky, and change will still happen suddenly and unexpectedly.

But when we ground ourselves inside, the whole external world becomes less shaky.

When we operate with our heart (our essence), instead of our head (the ego), we can more easily navigate situations with grace and clarity.

Here are 3 ways to strip away the ego and start living authentically:

1. Do less, be more.

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” ~Lao Tzu

In Conscious Living, the author, Gay Hendricks, asks the deathbed question: “What are four or five top goals for your life?” Or, in other words, fast forward to the completion of your life, when you might ask yourself, “What did you accomplish or experience that made your life a success?”

Answer this question for yourself right now. Take a few minutes to jot down the five accomplishments that you’d feel fulfilled and happy knowing you accomplished at the end of your life.

As you move through your busy days, you can tuck away these five statements in the back of your mind and consciously decide if your movements, tasks, and job reflect the life you really want to live.

What are you doing by default instead of honoring who you are authentically?

Do less of what does not serve you and be more of who you are by aligning your decisions to these intentions.

2. Plan less, live more.

Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s a scene in a romantic comedy where the man asks the control-loving woman, “Did you just plan to plan?

When I watched this scene, I recall answering the question to myself: “Yes. So? What’s wrong with that?

I’d been caught. I was guilty of this too. I have many times planned plans.

I thought that if I could road map my life—married by 25, kids by 27 (this has come and gone), millionaire by 30—life would be receptive. Instead, I found myself arm-wrestling with situations to fit them in my little box.

This was a symptom of fear.

I imagine all of us have shifted our fear to something outside of us. We grasp at plans for happiness tomorrow to relieve the fear we choose not to address.

The more we shift our fears by clinging onto something outside of us, instead of looking inside to acknowledge and dissolve it, the more we will stand in our own way.

Life is transient, there’s only so much we can plan for; but there is much more happiness to be experienced when we learn to live in the flow.

Fearing less means letting go, flowing more, and truly experiencing life in all of its wholeness.

3. Dwell less, create more.

“Begin at once to live and count each day as a separate life.” ~Seneca

The past and future are overrated. This moment is what really rocks.

Learn to continually let go of what you cannot control: stop telling the stories of the past or peering so much into the future.

Redirect all that energy to this moment and what you can create that is beautiful today.

Strip away the past and the future and find yourself in the present.

Inside presence, and at your essence, there is a gift that is waiting for each of us: an abundance of creativity.

At the core, we are all deeply creative beings. Self-expression is how we expand—so be you, express you, and create each moment authentically you.

Dwell less on the stories you keep telling yourself, and create a new beginning today.

As you choose how to expand today, remember to: do less, be more; fear less, live more; dwell less, create more.

Photo by divemasterking2000

About Cat Li Stevenson

Cat is an explorer of the human journey and a lover of well-being. She is living and practicing at an urban Zen Center in San Francisco, and working for Wisdom 2.0, an organization that strives to bring wisdom and awareness into the digital age. You can add her as a friend on FB or find her writing on Medium.

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  • Thanks for the neat post.


  • Nice post Cat. Often I think its like making our inner self as sturdy as possible so that as life spins around us, we are stable. That we can withstand all that comes and goes from us because we have a solid core which makes us steady – from the inside out

  • 1wRong

    Totally enjoyed this! thanks for sharing. today i just had this dilemma of whether i should accept a job for the interest or another for the money. and i think your post just gave me the courage to accept the job for the interest at a lower pay. thanks! 🙂

  • Figuring out how to live in the moment is the tricky part for me. I spend so much time in my head that when I look elsewhere I don’t recognize where I am. Practice, practice, practice. Lovely post! Thank you!

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Kerry~ Your comment makes me smile. Yes, I certainly can relate, as I struggle with that too; but, that self-awareness alone is huge…and is a great start. I

    I’ve found that meditation really helps with getting outside of our head and finding contentment in the present, for what that’s worth 🙂

    Best to you,


  • Cat Li Stevenson

    1wRong~ Oh wow, that’s a big decision. Sounds like your intuition is speaking to you, and I’m flattered that this post could be of some guidance.

    Good luck in the new job 🙂


  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Hi Beverly~ Yes, yes, yes => ”
    That we can withstand all that comes and goes from us because we have a solid core which makes us steady – from the inside out ”

    Cheers to grounding ourselves :)~Cat

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Srinivasan~ Thank you! Cheers 🙂

  • Wylds_spirit

    I feel the same as Kerry , Ive tried and tried to live in the moment … but have soo much negative thoughts , in my head , I cant seem to get past them , I want to start Meditation … but feel as tho .. I cant let go ..
    of all the crap* in my head …. I love your post .. I print alot of them and just keep reading them , to
    help me concentrate …. Thank you … :))

  • Anonymous

    Love this, ”

    Redirect all that energy to this moment and what you can create that is beautiful today.” Let the future be created from the addition of authentically expressed todays.

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  • Peter G Kimble

    When lifes troubles brings me to my knees, I let go and God go to work. If prayers are not answered in the way I want, then its my disirest are wrong, not the universal force of love. Love and peace to all beings. Peter G kimble

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Wylds_spirit~ It’s not always easy. The present can seem so “illusive” and conceptual.

    A consistent meditation/yoga practice, a positive social circle, uplifting words (like Tiny Buddha and other good books) may help with that. From first hand experience, I can offer that a daily positivity practice–whether that is reading or yoga or meditation– will eventually allow all those negative thoughts to dissipate.

    There will always be negativity that seeps in, but when we’re mindful of them and have built strength from within, we can more easily cast them away.

    Your self-awareness is the first step, so you’re on the right track.



  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Peter~ Very beautiful. Life is more peaceful when we believe and trust in something bigger than ourselves 🙂


  • Rachel

    This was a great post. Props to you, Cat! I hate the saying, “It’s easier said than done,” but in the end it is true. However, this is a phrase based out of a similar fear of pushing things off a little more. You really just have to get started right then and there on your goals. Thank you for the encouragement, and quote from Gay Hendricks – it makes so much sense to start at the end and create your goals based off of your ideal vision of your life. Thank you again so much! I will be looking forward to future posts.

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Rachel~ Thanks for the comment 🙂 Yes! => it makes so much sense to start at the end and create your goals based off of your ideal vision of your life.

    I found this to be such a powerful exercise that really puts our life choices in perspective. When challenged with how to spend my time, I think about these 5 future accomplishments and whether my actions align to them. Decisions are so much easier this way 🙂

    Best to you!

  • Nice to read on this wonderful morning, right after yoga, with the birds singing in my garden. Thank you

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Peter~ How lovely 🙂 Sounds wonderful. Glad you enjoyed.


  • You can not be happy tomorrow unless you are happy today. Remember that each day is the first step in the journey. That by itself is more than enough to occupy our energy.

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  • Great post.  I recently allowed myself to feel all the emotions that were coming up and rather than pulling out judgments from them I just sat there.  It was so liberating to connect with the core of who I am and know that nothing can add or take away from that.  Now the real test…. staying connected to that during the day…. 🙂 

  • Poovey1

    Very timely for me, Cat.  I look forward to the challenges ahead as I attempt to forge ahead and find my self.  Thank you. 

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  • Dr Iris

    very well said and written!  thank you 

  • Lakshmi

     Hey, Um i really like your first point about doing 5 things you really want.
    The thing is, i don’t know what i really want to do; everything i liked to do has been a fad, there’s been nothing..that fills me up; that stays continually as a passion for me…

    How do i find what i want to do? And is it ok if i don;t?

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Lakshmi~ It sounds you’re still growing, discovering and learning about who you are. When you finally do tap into that authenticity, that will not fade 🙂

    You are not a trend and when you find “you”, then you’ll find a sense of peace (be filled up, as you way).

    As for the 5 things, they don’t so much have to be about doing.

    You can back into it another way, ask yourself: “What is it that I want to stand for?” For example, perhaps you don’t know that you want a career as a Entreprenuer yet, but you do know that you will always want to be remembered as a compassionate daughter, son, brother or an empathetic friend.

    Perhaps, try to think less of activities and more of feelings that invoke happiness or joy for you.

    One of mine, for example, is “I lived a meaningful life because I savored every moment, surrendering to the present, and not rushing into the future.” 
    I hope this helps!Love to you,~Cat

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Alycia~ That peace and connection to the core is simply divine, isn’t it :)?

    It’s amazing what happens when we acknowledge what we feel versus shove them away. I fully believe that being kind to ourselves is the foundation of a happy life 🙂

    Thanks for sharing with us,

  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Poovey1~ So glad this found you at the right time.

    Best to your journey 🙂


  • Cat Li Stevenson

    Dr. Iris~ Thank you!



  • Dee

    As an anxious teenager I was once told ‘never mind, there’s light at the end of the tunnel’, I have always imagined this tiny speck of light in the distance but no matter how hard I tried, it never seemed to get any closer.

    With time, effort, patience and much more, I’m starting to understand that this light isnt only at the end, it’s all the way along this tunnel and shining brightly behind me too…oh boy do I feel grateful or what!

  • Lv2terp

    FANTASTIC article!!!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom! 🙂

  • Peter G Kimble

    Isnt it amazing that the quotes you post are ones which I contemplate. It goes to show that we we are all one, and some of us are able to recognise it. Bless you my little sister. ``

  • eric

    this is beautifully written, thank you so much.

  • Pinskylickstein

    Reminding yourself that you are in control of your own happiness and stress levels can be very liberating. Another thing I would add to your list to take little mind breaks throughout the day. 15 minutes here and there to relax and center.

  • jenni

    Thank you. This helpped my understand of living to full happiness of live.

  • Jonathan Akerele

    This was such a cool article, Cat. I think you made some strong points about staying in the moment with whatever you are doing and just appreciating and enjoying it, especially if you’re with another person. That means you are alert and aware of what is going on and you are actively creating a new memory to relish. If you have regret from the past or worry of the future in your head too much you miss the chance to take the bull by the horns in the moment and make that moment special. It’s like running to catch a bus but you are looking behind you and ram into a street light. Ouch! Easier said than done sometimes but vital for avoiding depression and anxiety in some cases. Very insightful. Keep writing. Thanks. =)