Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. Not because I feel that I need to reflect on this concept, but rather, I’ve caught myself living in it. This is a topic I visited when I first started my blog in 2009 and discussed Pema Chodron’s book The Places that Scare You in my post Facing Fear and again in 2012 with my post The Trouble With Fear Is | Working With and Growing From Fear.
It’s hard to admit, but it’s true and if there’s anything I aim to be, it’s honest.
You may be wondering what I’m so afraid of. Perhaps the birth of my baby or becoming a new parent? While those things certainly bring up a lot of emotions, I don’t find much fear there. No, that’s not it at all.
The past few months have been tough. To be honest, I’m tired of bringing it up, but when you go through something so heart wrenching, it lingers. Never one to stay down too long, I’ve finally managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps, put one foot in front of the other, and regain some ground. But there’s still a lingering fear that has brought me to a place where, at times, I feel I no longer recognize myself.
It’s scary to look in the mirror and see a version of yourself that you never imagined would show. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time allowing other people opinions of me shake me down. Instead of finding my voice and speaking with conviction, I found myself acting from a place of fear, which is never productive and not something I normally subscribe to. I wake up in the middle of the night scared of the uncertainty swirling around me. When I reflected, I found that I shrunk.
I don’t like shrinking. It’s not really my m.o., but somehow I’ve allowed my fear to keep me from doing the things that I love the most–teaching and writing.
That’s right, I’ve held back and even said “no” on occasion to opportunities that have presented themselves since I regained my health. While I’m still not 100%, there are plenty of things I can do. Why hold back? Because when I teach and write it comes from a place of authenticity, which leaves me vulnerable. Somehow I allowed myself to stay so wide open that the cuts were deep. Let’s face it, I don’t want to hurt anymore.
I’m so grateful to have a strong spiritual practice in place. While the dark side of all I’ve been living has made some days downright depressing, the light of knowledge gained over years of study and practice has aided in keeping some of those shadows at bay for long enough that the sun is starting to peer through again.
Here’s my action plan for getting away from fear and back to my Self.
1) Choose not to be afraid. I can’t take credit for this idea. A few years ago, when telling my friend Brittanie about a personal issue I was having, she looked me straight in the eye and said “what if you chose not to worry?” I’ve used it ever since.That’s right. Being afraid and worried is a choice. Certainly one should be aware if there are issues to handle, but to allow those issues to slip in to a place a fear does more harm than good.
I choose not to be afraid and trust that everything will work out.
2) Be unconcerned. This is another goodie of Sri Dharma’s. My friend has this t-shirt and I need to get it. Instead of allowing myself to get so wrapped in my expectations or the nagging fear in the back of my mind, I choose to be unconcerned. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care (because I do!), but rather that I don’t get wrapped up in matters so much that I allow them to drag me down.
I choose to be unconcerned.
3) Be assertive. While I never aim to be unkind, there’s no harm done in being assertive and standing up for yourself as long as it’s done from a place of compassion and non-violence. I think the biggest lesson we all need to learn is to be compassionate to ourselves first. If I can’t stand up for me, who can? I have a track record of allowing people to use me as a doormat and at 34 years old, I’m tired of it. My new practice involves speaking from a place of compassion and honesty, while at the same time removing the fear that has so often allowed me to become said doormat.
I am compassionate and honest with myself and others.
4) Take back my power. Somehow I’ve allowed other people, whether they mean it intentionally or not, to take away my power. With my power, I’ve become this small, weak, version of myself. This is like overusing the words “I’m sorry” (another great post, I might add) and apologizing for things that are out of my control or beating myself up for no good reason. I’ve been throwing my power away left and right because I thought I had no other choice. My friend Sarah reminded me that I do have my own unique power and it’s high time I get back in touch with it.
I will not give my power away and instead will use it stand up for myself and my beliefs.
5) Allow myself to grow. I’ve said it before, but sometimes you have to let things fall apart in order to put them back together. While I felt spiritually beat up, I realized that I needed these experiences in order to grow. Everything is constantly changing. Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of telling me it’s time to grow again.
I open myself to change and growth.
6) Stop playing small. Honestly, I’m sick of of playing small and being afraid and worried. I’m tired of feeling unlike myself. So I got knocked down, so what? It’s time to rally and get back to what I love the most. How dare I allow fear keep me from doing the things I love. If I can’t teach in a conventional way, then there’s got to be another way. Further, I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’ve been letting fear stand in my way. I tell myself “who are you to publish a book and what do you have to write about?” Well baby, you’re looking at it!
I will stop playing small and start being me. Oh and I’m going to write that book too!
So there you have it. My proclamation that I’m done with this fear thing. It’s time to move on. I don’t expect that I will always like the outcome of every situation, but I’m using my spiritual practice to guide me through the rough patches when they pop up. It’s time.
How do you handle fear? Do you name it and move on? Do you reflect on it? What steps do you take to keep fear from keeping you down? Share your thoughts in the comments below!