A life lesson from the cheap seats (and also gratuitous cat pics)
I used to listen to my fears in a literal way.
It went like this:
Fear: “Don’t do that!!! You’ll feel bad!!! Hide under there instead!!!”
Me: “Thanks! I won’t! Phew!…Damn, it’s stuffy under here.”
I sat in my little sheltered bubble and stuck to the familiar…the comfortable. I chose the desk in the back and didn’t ask questions. I pretended to like the things I was supposed to like and behaved in the ways that were expected of me, all in an effort to keep myself safe from negative emotions.
Then I realized that wasn’t working.
There were things I wanted to do that fear was holding me back from. I wasn’t getting closer to the person I wanted to be. The “comfort zone” was a both a cage and a leash.
A mentor told me that to get different results, you have to do things in a drastically different way. He told me that the things I most need to do are the ones that scare me. He told me that “shoulds” were a road to misery and that judgement would do nothing but seperate me from others and disseminate that misery into the world.
I didn’t want to do that. So I tried something different. What did I have to lose? A path that wasn’t leading me where I wanted to go anyway? BFD.
Now it goes like this:
Fear: “Don’t do that!!!”
Me: “Do that??? Okay!”
Fear: “No, Dummy! I said don’t do that!”
Me: “Do it now??? I will!!!”
Fear: “You heard me. You’re going to die if you do it. And I might make you barf to get out of it.”
Me: “I guess we will see.”
It ain’t easy. The fear isn’t gone…we still chat. Don’t tell her because she likes to gloat, but I am tempted to back down every damn day. I fear criticism. I fear incompetence. I fear embarassment. I fear rejection. I fear failing. That voice is a relentless hag…one whose opinion I’m not just no longer interested in, but whom I regard as an oppo advisor.
So now daily I risk criticism, incompetance, embarassment, rejection, and failure. Interestingly, as a result I experience less of those things than I did when I used avoidance as my strategy (even though reducing negative emotions isn’t the goal). I’m able to learn from those experiences, instead of running from them.
This is key and one thing I’m trying to teach my daughters: Negative emotions dont hurt me. They make me stronger.
My life is better now. I’m closer to the person I want to be. I do things that make me feel like I’m going to throw up and I end up feeling strong and brave and competent, instead. And, I rarely actually throw up.
I am on a path to authenticity.
Fear is an excellent guide…thank god she’s such a relentless bitch.