SLR 079: Unmasking Our Fears About Essentialism and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootFear is deceptive. It often masquerades as something else, fooling us into believing an outright lie or otherwise thwarting our ability to make lasting positive change.

Far too many of us yearn to reboot our lives into ones of greater simplicity, but we are stopped short by fears we cannot bring ourselves to face.

Essentialism calls us to relinquish our armor of possessions and busyness. Unfortunately, such leaves us feeling vulnerable to unacceptable loss.  Bowing to fear, we hang on to the armor and forfeit what would have been a more abundant, joy filled life.


The goal of this post is to cut deeply into those noxious hidden emotional pockets. It’s only when we acknowledge our fears and contributing shortcomings,  that we can undergo the necessary surgery to heal and move forward.

Disclaimer and  Explanation

Many of the following articulations may seem overly harsh.  The list is not meant to discourage or condemn,  but rather to expose the full fear spectrum as it might relate in some degree to  us.  Also, this list is for personal reflection and application only. It is not properly imposed on others. Accordingly, the references are in the first person.  Finally, the term “stuff” is used as shorthand to comprehensively describe property, activities and overload of any nature.

So, without further ado…  fears hindering our ability to edit our “stuff”  so as to lead a simpler life include:

1.   Fear of Engagement.  Developing a genuine connection with people is costly and time-consuming. Focusing on my stuff permits me to limit my engagement with people.

2.   Fear of “Oblivion” or Lack of Significance.  Like Augustus Waters, a cancer patient in the novel “A Fault in Our Stars“,  my greatest fear is “oblivion”.  I am afraid of having no significance. My stuff is evidence that I exist and that I have an impact.

3.   Fear of  Missing Out or of Emptiness.  I cannot bear emptiness, empty space, or potentially missing out on anything. Besides, I’m sure the next thing will finally satisfy me and fill that nagging void.

4.   Fear of Being Overlooked or Underappreciated.  I crave recognition. I fear that people will lose interest in me. My stuff demonstrates my accomplishments,  skills, sophistication,  and worth to the world.  How can people appreciate who I am if I have no stuff to display?

5.   Fear of  Settling or Mediocrity.  I do not want to be like the fox in Aesop’s fable “Fox and the Grapes”  -pretending to despise “stuff” when the truth is that I deeply desire the stuff but cannot attain or maintain it.  If I “settle” for just the essentials, it will only prove that I lack ambition, work ethic and the ability to achieve.

6.   Fear of Lack of Control.  I fear letting go.  I need my old stuff to keep a connection to the past.  I need my current stuff to protect me against the uncertainties of the future.  Stated differently,  I must hang on to stuff  “just because” for my past and “just-in-case” for my future.  It’s the only part of life over which I have control.


If any of the above apply to you,  please do not  “feel the fear and do it anyway“.   Making major life edits before you have worked through significant fear is reckless.  The important takeaway is to commit to not being held captive by fear.  If you determine that living a life of greater simplicity and margin is best for you,  but are unable to act due to fear,  please consider seeking guidance from clergy or counselor. You are precious. Your life is precious.  The effort is worth it.


Do you have any suggestions?   What applicable fears did I omit or mischaracterize?  Please share in the comments section.


If you enjoyed this post,  please see  “What Are You Afraid Of ?”   and   “But What Will People Think?”


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