The world lost a great person when Betty Ford passed away three weeks ago at the age of 93.
Betty Ford was a courageous person who set a remarkably potent precedent for us all, especially when it comes to living a life without fear while keeping true to your core values.
The Truth is Powerful and Liberating
It’s easy to forget it in our current culture where we exchange minutia at the speed of a click, but once upon a yesteryear cancer was a topic approached only indirectly and not very often. Breast cancer was barely discussed at all.
But Betty Ford faced cancer head on and chin up, staring right into cancer’s two fish eyes full of hate. She refused to bury the truth of her condition and was fiercly outspoken about both her masectomy and the disease itself.
And Betty’s bravery bent more than society’s conventions. She also took an intrepid step forward that few people in the public eye before her ever dared to when she sought treatment for her addictions to pills and alcohol.
Beyond her rehabilitation, Betty also spoke candidly about her addiction. And while that may seem almost quaint in today’s tabloid culture, in Betty’s prime, admiting addiction to anything came with a metric ton of taboo.
Fear is a Darkroom Where Negatives Develop
It can be difficult to be open about the truth, even to ourselves. Yet once we surrender, freeing our fears into the whipping wind of self realization, we also let go of our fear of being discovered.
Hiding quickly grows to habit. And soon it becomes easy to camouflage yourself in loneliness, making it difficult if not impossible to live your best possible life. Confronting your terror forces fear to take a step back and gives you the chance to reclaim control of your destiny.
You Must Define Your Own Values
Despite being married to a President, Betty Ford tackled the tough issues she was passionate about, rather than sticking to safer, non-controversial causes. Sure, she could have kept herself covert in the thick shadows of life, but instead she looked fear in the eye and spoke loudly about what she believed.
It can seem easier to simply go with the flow and tacitly accept the beliefs and values of your friends or family. This relieves you from the sometimes crippling fear of rejection or from having to deal with confrontation. But you can only be truly happy when you’re the one choosing what to believe and which principles in your life are worth fighting for.
YOU are the only one who can truly define your values, beliefs and goals. Allowing others to do it for you might give you a thin veneer of temporary outward peace, but it’s half-life is short and will ultimately rob you of your self-confidence as well as the ability to claim what you want most from life.
Betty Ford helped countless people by being unafraid of the truth and always staying honest with herself.
Just imagine what you could accomplish if you followed her gallant example.
Sean Platt is author of the books Four Seasons and Writing Online. Follow him on Twitter.