How to Break Free of Fear and Get Back to Play

Somewhere as we aged, we left behind this idea of playing. In turn, to be healthy and active became a chore. Just another boxed task on the list of things to do. Imagination and creativity were replaced with a fear of failure and excuses. No motivation replaced a desire to be active and get outside, just for the freedom of it. Break free of the fear and remember what it feels like to play.

Flashback to that summer when you were seven years old. Seriously. Shut your eyes and go way back. Yep, keep going. Are you there? Awesome. Now, what’s your plan for a hot, summer day? Take the time and think about it. Write it down. The more detail, the better.

The freedom of childhood play

Me? I was a kid of the 80’s. Helmets were optional. My mom had to beg us to wear seat belts. Helicopter and parenting were two words that had zero association. We had to wait until 10 a.m. to knock on the neighbor’s door to ask the only question on our agenda, “Do you want to come outside and play?”

The day would be filled with riding bikes following imaginary maps, exploring the woods building camps, or clashing in the streets playing game after game of roller hockey. Our parents struggled to tear us away for a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a side of Swiss Cake Rolls. Dinners were devoured as quickly as possible so we could get back outside with our friends. Even the canned green beans eventually made it down the hatch because it meant getting back outside. And we stayed out until the streetlights turned on. Then we’d beg our parents to watch us from the porch so we could squeeze in more games of Hide and Seek, Ghosts in the Graveyard, Kick the Can, or Sardines. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Now I ask you this. What the hell happened between then and now?

The box of adulthood expectations

As adults we find ourselves put into boxes. The cubicles and offices at work. The treadmills, the calendars, the square rooms, the cars, the spreadsheets, the computers, the microwave dinners, the routines. Heck, the profile pictures of Facebook are even in boxes! We are literally in boxes! And as adults we work our way from one box to another right on up that corporate ladder and through that ubiquitous five year plan. We get entangled in the social norms and the expectations.

The expectations! What we, as adults, are supposed to be and act like. There exists some unspoken set of rules passed down generation after generation that dictates how we’re supposed to behave as adults: Don’t jump on that. Don’t say those things. Don’t even think about climbing into that tree house pretending to be a pirate.

Break free of fear

But what happens when we break free from fear and those expectations? All of a sudden we can’t fail. We can’t be embarrassed. We can’t be frowned upon by our peers. Our mind runs wild. Our body runs wild. Our creativity soars! And our face distorts into a big shit-eating grin! (Yes, I can say shit because I’m breaking free and it’s an emoji! 💩)

Your seven-year-old self didn’t hold onto fears. She tried riding a bike over and over again, because dang it, she wanted to ride a bike. She fell off more times than the scabs on her knees would reveal, but she got back in the saddle. Reading and writing? Yep, she mispronounced words and wrote letters backwards. Hell, I even had to go to a special class in Kindergarten because my speech was far from English. But did I let it keep me from talking? Nope. I just continued to eat “Paghetti” and hope to not have to visit the “hopital.” (Full Disclosure: I still struggle with the English language).

Remembering when “exercise” was play

Okay, now let’s take it a step further. How many of us workout now? Raise your hand. Yep, about 99% of you raised your hands .(I can totally see you 👀.) Now, how many of you, at the age of seven thought, “I have no motivation to work out”? Yeah, approximately none of you.

We didn’t wear Fitbits or Garmins. We didn’t track our mileage or keep a pace. Food was fuel and ingested primarily because our parent made us. We did what we loved. We did what was fun. We did whatever brought a smile to our face. AND, we did it for hours on end! (For realsies, I probably covered at least the distance of a half-marathon running around on a good weather day.) And, we thought nothing of it.

What the heck am I getting at here? Simply, remember what it feels like to play. I challenge you to start seeing the world through the eyes of your seven-year-old self. Be your own Peter Pan. Redefine adulting.

Find something active that brings you joy

Look at fitness not as a chore, but as playtime. What do you love to do? For me, it’s playing in the woods. I will run for miles just incredibly happy being outside galloping along single track trail. Instead of trying to squeeze into a fitness mold that is the latest “10 Minutes to a Bikini Booty,” do something that brings you joy. Love to roller skate? Great! Get your roll on at the rink. Tango? Go dance your pants off.

And, fail! Yes, fail! Time to break free of fear! Try something new with complete disregard to what others may say or think. Do something because you want it. Chances are you’ll find yourself along the way, discover your strengths, and grow from the experience. And, guess what, all of a sudden you’re setting your own expectations and defining your own value.

And so I leave you with this: Get outside and PLAY!

– Nicki

PS: Before you start rambling off excuses as to why you can’t or why this is impossible, ask yourself if your seven-year-old self had excuses. Nope. She didn’t. She just did. Yep, you do have adult responsibilities, but make the time before you run out.

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