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How I Stared down My Fears to Live the Life of My Dreams

The comfort zone is anything but comfortable.


Leon Macfayden

5 months ago | 4 min read

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”
— Rudyard Kipling

Until I was 17 years old, I was overweight and unfit. Even more importantly, I was scared of my own shadow.

Scared of standing up for myself.

Scared to stand out from the crowd.

Scared of failure AND success.

I felt I had no control over my life and was at the mercy of this all-consuming fear. With such a massive mountain in front of me, where do I even start?

My salvation came in the form of Karate which changed my life by giving me courage and understanding beyond my wildest dreams. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The Bad Old Days.

I suffered bullying at school from the age of 11. Everything I had tried between the ages of 11–16 (luckily, here in the UK, we escape school at 16) had failed to stall the ever-growing waves of abuse.

I had tried finding a couple of students who were even more bullied than me and befriending them to show solidarity in numbers. This failed because now, my social standing was even lower as my abusers lumped me in with these people and all of our abuse intensified as a result.

I tried buying my way into people’s hearts to make them like me. Frequently I would invite people to my house where my parents spoilt me with computers, games, and videos. This would work temporarily. My “friend” would pretend to like me up to, and during the visit, but would then turn on me the minute we were back at school.

I even tried posturing in front of the mirror, reciting all kinds of witty comebacks to imagined insults and how I was going to fight back the very next day! I crumbled in the face of pressure every single time.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized one overarching principle ran through all my problems. This was resistance to change due to fear. My fear was so great that I would rather have suffered bullying and daily abuse than confront it.

A Window of Opportunity.

I left school at 16 and started College (not to be confused with University). Here was my chance to reinvent myself in front of a whole new crowd. I could be anything I wanted.

I was devastated to learn I was still acting like the same old cowardly Leon. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because both College and School had one thing in common — me. How could I escape my problems when I was the problem?

How could College be different when I haven’t changed one bit? I am still the same old wimp. People even started harassing me again, albeit on a much smaller scale than school because at least some people had started to grow up into more responsible adults.

When most people had their lunch break, I spent the hour in the toilets, hiding because I had no friends and no confidence. This was my breaking point.

A Karate Book.

I visited the local library at least once every couple of weeks. As I was scouring through my usual true crime section, I saw a book on Karate. Fate had sent me a sign that would ultimately change my life.

I took the book home and remembered teaching myself my first block. My dad came home from work, and I eagerly asked him to try and hit me. After some convincing, he threw a half-hearted punch, and I blocked it with my new technique.

I felt like Mike Tyson.

The coincidences kept on coming. One of my English teachers at College ran a Karate club. I don’t know where I got the courage from, but the next thing I knew, I had bought a Gi and was standing in his class as a brand new white belt. I had discovered the power of saying YES when an opportunity came along. Desperation had left me little choice.

I attended three classes per week religiously and quickly advanced several belts. I was sparring and trading blows with my fellow Karateka, and even my instructor was impressed with my ability to push myself. As a result, I started walking taller, head up, and looking the world in the eye.

University and Real Change.

I dreaded going to University because it would take me away from my precious Karate club. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The University had its own Karate club. Only this club was much more brutal, with more contact sparring against harder men than my old one. This gave me a chance to confront my fear three times per week.

Back at school, I was afraid of getting hit, yet I was trading punches and kicks with absolute monsters, and they respected me! Some even liked me!

I was a University student for three years. During that time, I advanced to the coveted black belt status, and when I left University, I still made the 3 hour round trip twice a week to attend classes.

The Gift of Fear.

You may be disappointed to know that I never did banish my fear. The number one lesson of my life happened when I realized fear never goes away. Even if you master it in one area, a whole new mountain will always be waiting.

Fear is the body’s way of getting you ready to fight for your life or run for the hills. A courageous person has not eliminated fear. They do what is necessary despite it.  However, to the uninitiated, ignorance of the purpose of fear paralyzes them. This is especially true in the modern world, where fear can take many forms. Examples are a meeting with a boss, public speaking, or an upcoming operation where fight or flight is entirely inappropriate.

Once I understood fear, I needed to confront it. Each victory increased my level of self-mastery because I could trust myself to do what was right regardless of how uncomfortable I felt.

Gaining control over myself took the form of a physical odyssey. A series of beautiful coincidences, coupled with my ability to say YES at the right moments, led me to become the person of my dreams.

Your life journey may take a different form, but all the same principles apply.

No matter how scared you think you are, the person you have always dreamed of becoming is in you, and it is never too late to find it.

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Created by

Leon Macfayden


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From Depression and PTSD to a life of Health, Love, and Joy. I am passionate about sharing my experiences to help others. Open to writing gigs







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