Lesson #1: Fear Exists Only in Your Head

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

And then move forward.

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12 thoughts on “Lesson #1: Fear Exists Only in Your Head

  1. My life was mediocre. But it was a familiar mediocre.

    I really relate to those lines, Bethany, and all you wrote about fear just being in our heads. I’m glad we have it when there are possibly dangerous situations to avoid, but it is a heck of a thing to have running around in your head. Every person is different, but I too believe we all have fears. It’s so worth it to tackle them, and thank you for sharing your stories of how you are doing just that!

  2. I only have a very small circle of people I trust with my fears and challenges because, like you, that trust has been abused in the past. But I am finding myself able to let more and more into that circle as I learn to trust myself.

  3. Uh, I recognize this. I have made so many decisions because they were what I “thought” I should be doing, rather than what my heart actually wanted. I’m not even really sure why I was so worried of scared of the judgment. I guess it’s that innate thing to not want to be different? It makes me happy and encouraged to hear your story of “breaking free”.
    Katie

  4. I like that you are going down the list of your 35 life lessons. Fear is a big one for most of us. You are learning the lessons a lot sooner in life than I did. No matter how many times you tackle fear, it keeps creeping back in to challenge us again and again. Self judgment is my biggest one. I can beat myself up better than a madman on a rampage. I can tell others to be kind to themselves, but rarely take the advice. We are a funny lot, us humans. Good writing. Looking forward to the next meal. (food for thought)

    • You had to make the food reference, when I’m so hungry!

      I still struggle with not beating up on myself. It’s so destructive! I look at my reasons for doing what I did, and realize that I did the best I could with what I had at the time. It seems to help a lot.

      • I’m always hungry. Why else would I have to lose 50 pounds over and over. I’m done beating myself up though. Done,done,done. Little steps. I don’t fall over with little steps. You are doing so well for someone so young.:)

        • I totally agree with you. We as women are constantly judging ourselves. Fortunately for me anyway this stopped when I started getting older. I love the fact that Bethany is getting this at 35, I wish all women could. I’m constantly listening to my friends and how their so old and out of shape. Of course I think people should work out and eat right but if you don’t want to do that at least accept your body and yourself. I am a vegan and I do work out 5 days a week, however, I am getting older just like everyone else and I am on this regimen to be strong and healthy. I seem to accept the aging process a lot better than my friends do. I always tell them to enjoy their life and their bodies and don’t worry about a number on a scale. Be happy and be healthy. Unfortunately even though my friends are all in their mid 50s, most of my friends haven’t gotten this yet.

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