Note: On my birthday, I posted 35 lessons that I learned in 35 years. A number of you suggested that I tell the stories behind the lessons, in my posts. I thought that was an excellent idea, and this is the story behind my first lesson.
There is nothing to fear. It is all in your head. I know you don’t want to hear that right now, but it is only your mind that you wrestle with. Sit with this today. Sit with this beyond the point where you are resistant and afraid. Sit with it until you see how absurd it is.
From a letter from a friend, written to me last winter
We are afraid, because we don’t understand. We don’t see reality as it is. We misunderstand ourselves, so that we fail to see our own value, our own worthiness. Because we misunderstand, we seek validation from outside of ourselves. And when we perceive that other people possess the ability to determine whether we have any value at all, we give them tremendous power over us.
Today I am going to share some fears that I have faced, in my life. Each was large, and seemingly insurmountable. And each turned out to be nothing, but misunderstanding and misperception.
1. Fear of Trusting
I had been hurt, and it was never going to happen again. I put up walls, and cut myself off from everyone. I had that “secret garden” inside, and nobody was getting anywhere near it.
I was comfortable doubting myself, and I was comfortable holding people at arm’s length. I really felt like it was worth it, to never be close to anyone, if it meant I would never be hurt.
It was really through my writing, that I finally made the decision to tear down the walls. Through the blogging community, I met people who were so positive, so encouraging. At first, all of this positivity hurt. And the awareness of the fact that it hurt, led me to look deeper.
Being able to let people in, being able to be honest, I found that I was meeting a long-standing need that I didn’t realize I had. Trying to go it alone, I was living a mediocre life–and that life was much worse than the pain of being hurt or betrayed.
Learning to trust again was difficult, but it was infinitely worth it.
2. Fear of Who I Am
For many years, I held grudges against myself. I didn’t want to know myself, I didn’t want to understand, because I was afraid.
Because of this fear, I rushed to judgement. I was a drama queen. I was disorganized. I was immature and irresponsible. I knew these things, and I knew that they were the reason that I did what I did. I knew this, but I didn’t want to think about it. So I never looked beyond the judgement.
This judgement led to a very negative self-dialogue, and it led me to act out the perception I had of myself. It wasn’t until last winter, that I realized that every perception I had of myself was likely false. It didn’t matter where the perceptions came from–what mattered was that they were wrong.
I needed to truly look at my behaviors and tendencies; to observe and understand them. Getting rid of the labels, I was able to see why I was doing what I was doing, and what I was trying to get from it. I saw that I was only trying to meet the needs that everybody has, and that nothing I was doing was judgable.
We need to hold off on the judgement–of others and of ourselves, if we want to move forward.
3. Fear of the Unknown
My life was mediocre. But it was a familiar mediocre.
In the summer I sailed. Then I returned to a job I didn’t love. I did the same things, day after day. I didn’t love them, but I knew what each day would bring.
There were a lot of fears that kept me from leaving sooner, from following my dreams. But most of them fall into the category of “fear of the unknown.”
If I left my job, and the part of the country I had spent my entire life, I would be leaving the familiar. Who knows what I could expect? What if it was just as bad, or worse, than the life I was leaving?
What I didn’t understand was, the move would be a fresh start, with infinite possibility, if I was willing to let it be such. I made the move, and that was the big step. After that, if things did get as bad as they had been, I could handle it from there.
In the end, however, things have been better than I possibly could have imagined. My fears, that the pattern would repeat itself, were based on nothing, other than the thoughts in my head.
Nothing outside of your head can truly hurt you. It really just is you mind that you wrestle with. And it is absurd.
But it is also a part of the human condition. We all experience fear, and we all will continue to experience it as long as we are alive. There is no need for any of us to become angry or frustrated with ourselves because of it.
We will feel fear. But we need to realize that it is only in our heads, so that we can understand it, and work with it.