And learning to LOVE that part of yourself you’ve been rejecting.
If you’ve done boatloads of therapy and regularly practice mindfulness and are deeply (and daily) in connection with your life purpose, then perhaps fear isn’t quite as paralyzing for you. If that’s the case, I salute you, you highly evolved human! Go forth and prosper.
In my case, and the case of most people I talk to, fear is such a powerful force it is often the loudest voice in the room. In fact, fear is so big I’m going to start capitalizing it to convey the proper respect a force of that magnitude deserves.
And Fear is sneaky too. It wears all sorts of disguises, and is so woven into our habits of thinking and behaviour that we often call it by other names, saying things like “That’s just the way I am, I’ve always struggled with _______.”
Procrastination? Fear. People Pleasing? Fear. Perfectionism? Fear. Writer’s Block? Fear. Making the “responsible” decision when your heart is screaming at you to do something else? Fear.
Fear, Fear, Fear.
My own fears feel bottomless, endless, all consuming at times. Like a dense fog that fills the room and obscures everything else from view. Other times, like when I’m getting lots of exercise and time outside and making a lot of space to do things purely for the beauty or joy of them (often known as vacation) Fear can take more of a backseat and other forces like that of Inspiration or a sense of Meaning can float to the surface.
Fear has been such a powerful force in my life that it can be really painful to look back and examine all of the various choices I’ve made (or more often failed to make through avoidance) that were ultimately fear-based. It can be easy to judge myself (Fear) for how much I’ve let this thing control me, or to feel powerless against such an overwhelming force. It’s also tempting to get mad at my Fear voice and reject her, to lock that fearful part of myself up in a closet and pretend she’s not there, banging on the door.
But eventually that fearful self busts her way out and comes back at me with a vengeance, armed with catalog of all my various failings and embarrassments and worst of all, those times other people misunderstood or judged or rejected me. And what’s a woman to do against a lifetime’s worth of evidence that she’s better just stop everything and stay small and quiet to avoid further error?
So judging myself doesn’t work. And fighting my Fear doesn’t work either. Noted.
Where does this leave us then? In the epic battle (oops, there’s that antagonistic energy again) between our Fear and the bigger life or self that we are longing to step into?
For me, something I’m practicing is love. Yes, love, another force powerful enough to warrant capitalization. I’m working on shining a little Love on that fearful part of myself when she starts up with her endless list of concerns.
Instead of judging her or myself, or trying to fight her or shut her away in a closet, I’m giving her a moment of airtime to share her concerns, and I’m validating them like a kind parent would do, while still letting her know who’s in charge. She’s actually pretty sweet after all, this little fearful self, and she is only ever trying to protect me.
Oh, you’re worried people will think this post is stupid and not like me? I hear that. I know how scary it is for you to not be liked. I know it really hurts your feelings when that happens. But we need to write this anyway, okay?
Oh, you’re afraid that if you tell a friend you aren’t up for something they’ve suggested, they won’t like you anymore? That does sound really scary because I know how much you care about your friends. But it’s really important to be honest about our needs, because otherwise we end up feeling resentful, right?
Embarrassing? A little bit, yea. Especially sharing this inner narrative with other people.
But damn is it effective.
And my fear of looking stupid or cheesy or preachy is still present. She’s with me right now. She’s always here, any time I write anything that I intend to share. But she’s chill now because we had a little chat about it, and she totally gets that I need to share my writing anyway. She knows that if something I write helps even one single person, then I’m doing what I’m here to do, and she respects that.
It’s this new thing we’re trying on: mutual respect.
So that’s it! Nothing earth-shattering, and yet maybe it is. So give it a try if you can stand the cheesiness of it all. And if you notice something feels a little different or a bit less scary, I want to hear about it! Reply to this email and let me know.
As a final note, you’ll see from the examples above that most of my fears revolve around others not liking me. Perhaps that’s my Enneagram 2 showing up, or it’s just incredibly human to be deathly afraid of rejection. Probably a bit of both, so that theme may be worth noticing in yourself too.
Until next time, be good to yourself, and to your Fear,