It is hard to live a simple and purposeful life unless we learn to challenge fear. I have allowed fear to shackle me in many ways over my 45 years.

But I am grateful for a stubbornness within me, a fire passed along from my mama I think, that has propelled me to slowly, sometimes painfully, forge ahead—which calls me to push back against status quo, through fear, into possibility.

Maybe you have been bound by fear for so long and you want to be free. Maybe it will help you to know that you are not alone.

Here are some of the messages fear has spoken to me along the way, and some of the ways I have challenged this disheartening voice:

The fear: You can’t marry him because he doesn’t speak English, and your French isn’t great, and there are some huge cultural differences between you two. Maybe he is only marrying you to stay in the country.

Or maybe he actually loves me. And I have that, knowing that he is to be my husband. And maybe none of that other stuff actually matters, and we will build a beautiful life together.

The fear: Wait to have your baby until after university when it makes more sense.

I don’t have to make decisions based on what other people think makes the most sense. We are ready to be parents.

The fear: How can you waste your university education to stay home with your kids?

I am not wasting anything. This is my primary dream; I want to be here to read to him and nurse him and take him to the park. One day I may use my formal education, or I may not. But this is not a mistake.

The fear: You need to defend yourself when people make unkind assumptions about who you are and what you stand for.

Arguing with people is a waste of my energy. Those who need my message—they hear my heart. And I need to remember to be slow to judge others, because I know how it feels.

The fear: You don’t know how to do that, so maybe you should wait.

I’m done waiting, so I’ll just step out into imperfect and keep tweaking and learning as I go. I didn’t know how to parent or be a wife, or how to budget or homeschool, and I figured out all of that as I went along.

The fear: You’ll never stop yelling/numbing/living with anxiety (etc.), so you should just give up and enjoy the wine because trying and failing hurts so much.

Instead, I keep taking baby step after baby step and celebrate the small successes along the way. I have gained freedom before and am still on the journey; I’ll get there. Take a minute and look back at how far you have come. You have healed and learned to love and laugh and rise above. Don’t quit now.

The fear: He is following in your footsteps; it’s your fault.

But this discredits all the good that is in me, too. And if he’s following in my footsteps, then he may struggle, but ultimately he will be ok. He is also wise and gifted and still young and finding his way.

The fear: Don’t let yourself feel too happy, because you don’t know what lies around the next bend in the road.

You have suffered a little and walked through loss, but you have also tasted incredible joy. Receive the gifts in your life today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

The fear: If you say yes to that thing you want, you might fail; that would be horrible.

Actually, if I say yes to that thing, there is no failure. There is only stepping through the door and enjoying the experience. Whether or not other people like what I offer is not my business. Even if there are hard parts mixed in, I will grow and learn, and it will be part of my becoming.

The fear: If you don’t do it the right way, the way all the experts say to do it, you will get left behind.

I opt out of the race. I choose slow, organic growth, and living authentically. If I have to hustle to have it, then I don’t want it.

The fear: Don’t say no to anything that comes your way, even if it makes you feel anxious and way too busy, because what if you never get another chance like that again?

Then I will happily live my quiet life, because saying yes to everything destroys my health and happiness, and fear of missing out sucks the joy out of my days.

The fear: You can’t rest, because then you’ll never catch up.

Somehow the essential stuff always gets taken care of. And besides, I get to choose who and how I want to be. I can let the laundry sit a while longer and go for a walk while the sun is shining. A little dust won’t kill anyone, so I can read that book, cuddle with her while she is asking, climb into bed early if that is what I most need.

The fear: If you tell the whole truth of who you are, they will reject you.

Yup, they might. But that is their choice. And I will survive and feel free, because I am not pretending or putting on a brave face all the time.

Open your eyes to the way that fear has been whispering to you. Challenge the voice of fear in your life.

You do not have to accept every thought that drops into your mind—mindset matters. And remember, though we are still on the journey, we can pause to notice how far we have come. To give thanks. To acknowledge that baby steps are powerful. To speak life over ourselves, over the broken and insecure places that remain.

And then we forge ahead.