Arianna Huffington and her daughters, Christina and Isabella, sit down for a chat about their fears, and the importance of spreading an epidemic of fearlessness.
CHRISTINA: One of the things people ask me is, Isn't your mother afraid of anything? And I always say, Of course she is! Being fearless doesn't mean turning into Wonder Woman or some kind of superhero.
ARIANNA: Exactly. I always tell people that fearlessness is not the absence of fear, it's the mastery of fear. Fearlessness is about getting up one more time than we fall down -- or are tripped by our critics!
One of the big messages I want women to take away from the book is that being fearless doesn't mean they are living a life devoid of fear but rather that they are living a life in which they don't allow their fears to hold them back and stop them from having what they want in their personal lives, in their work, and even in creating the world that we want to live in.
ISABELLA: But isn't that easier said than done?
ARIANNA: Well, fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me. The first time we take that first fearless step, we begin to change our lives. And the more we act on our dreams and our desires, the more fearless we become and the easier it is the next time.
Being fearless has been the foundation of any success I have enjoyed -- both personally and professionally. It's what's allowed me to persevere through the hard times -- and as you know there have been plenty of those -- and come out on the other side stronger and ready for the next challenge
CHRISTINA: This is a different kind of book for you -- less political, more personal. How did fearlessness play into the writing of it?
ARIANNA: It didn't make sense to write this kind of book without being willing to be vulnerable about my own battles with fear -- and with some of the issues we've dealt with as a family. The personal aspect is one of the things that most appealed to me.
One of the things I've learned from my new life as a blogger is that there is nothing that people respond to more than writing that is raw, intimate, and unfiltered. So that is the approach I took with this book. It was challenging at first, but ultimately very freeing. What's more, this approach ended up changing the way that I wrote the book. I actually posted parts of the book on the Huffington Post as I was working on them -- and the feedback I got from people (often very personal and moving) proved invaluable. It shaped what I was writing and helped make the book what it eventually became.
Okay, my turn. I know I asked you before I did it, but when all was said and done, how did you feel about seeing aspects of your lives in the book?
ISABELLA: What made it all okay was that we saw your first draft and could change anything we wanted so that it reflected how we felt about those moments in our lives.
CHRISTINA: One of my favorite parts of the book is where you talk about how if we could TiVo our innermost thoughts we would see that not even our worst enemies talk about us the way we talk about ourselves. Do you still hear that inner critic?
ARIANNA: Look, it's on ongoing battle, and some days the inner critic -- what I call the obnoxious roommate in our head -- gets the upper hand. But by and large I have learned to turn down the volume and not listen. I've given my critical roomie an eviction notice... and when she does show up, I have learned that I can just walk out of the room.
CHRISTINA: What if she tries to follow you?
ARIANNA: Oh, she will... believe me! You just have to train yourself to stand up to her. And you do this by repetition. It's back to the idea that fearlessness is like a muscle. The more we refuse to buy into our inner critics -- and our external ones too -- the easier it will get to have confidence in our choices, and to feel comfortable with who we are.
ISABELLA: I know you've joked that your biggest fear is me getting my driver's license... but what would you say is really your biggest fear?
ARIANNA: My biggest fears revolve around the two of you -- fear for your well-being, fear that I might be doing the wrong thing or making the wrong decision. There is nothing like becoming a mom to fill you with fear. I often think that when the doctors help take the baby out, they replace it with a combination of fear and guilt.
CHRISTINA: You make motherhood sound so appealing!
ARIANNA: I'm getting to the good part... At the same time, there is nothing that can bring you closer to fearlessness about everything else in the world than being a parent -- because everyday fears like not being approved of pale by comparison to the fears you have about your children.
What about you? What would say your biggest fears are?
CHRISTINA: My biggest fears come from the bad things in my head, but I know that when I say or think something bad about myself I have the power to put it aside and not let it determine my behavior -- or even my feelings.
ISABELLA: My biggest fear is the fear of failing -- the fear of trying something new and not being able to do it or not being good at it. I also have a fear of making the wrong choices when I'm young -- which will have a negative impact later in my life.
CHRISTINA: Before, you asked us how we felt about having some of the more private parts of our lives talked about in the book... specifically some of the issues we've dealt with surrounding food. Given what you just said about your biggest fears being about us, did dealing with these kinds of things help you become more fearless or did it make you more afraid?
ARIANNA: Great question. It did both. When I saw what was going on first with Isabella and then later with you... it scared the living daylights out of me. But then, rather quickly, I got out of fear mode and into protective mother mode. I had to push the fear aside and take action. The need to help -- to do something now -- filled me with strength and a fearlessness that surprised even me.
Seeing you dealing with so many of the same fears I was burdened with made me want to figure out why this was, and what we could do to stop it. And, in the end, dealing with those issues was one of the main reasons I decided to write a book exploring fearlessness.
ISABELLA: Well, if you wrote this book for us, what is it that you'd most like Christina and me -- and the other mothers and daughters out there -- to take away from it?
ARIANNA: The single most important thing I hope you -- and everyone else -- take away is the notion that a fear-driven life is a life not fully lived. And that by living in fearlessness we can change ourselves and change the world for the better.
I'm convinced that the more fearless we are in our personal lives, the more of that spirit we'll bring to changing our world. And it desperately needs changing. And, really, what's the point of being fearless if you're not going to use it to try and achieve big things?
All right, before we wrap this up, what do you think other mothers and daughters would get out of reading On Becoming Fearless?
CHRISTINA: I think it comes down to what you say in the book about how important it is to build a "fearless tribe" -- surrounding ourselves with those people who will always be in our corner, always there for us, whether we succeed or fail. And hopefully that starts with those closest to us... mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins... and friends.
ISABELLA: I think discussing the ideas in the book will definitely help bring mothers and their daughters closer together. Seeing all the things they have in common -- both good and bad -- and figuring out together how to make the move from fear to fearlessness.