It’s taken a long time for me to embrace fear and I’m still growing.
You may be familiar with these thoughts…
“I’m not good enough”
“It might not work.”
“If it does work, I’ll have to do it again soon, because the world will be different.”
“I can give better advice to others than I can to myself.”
“I know I have something to say, but I come up empty.”
“When a project fails, I feel like a failure.”
Until recently, this has been me, unfulfilled, the perpetual student, indulging a seemingly real but irrational internal thought stream of ‘I don’t know enough, not skilled enough, not qualified enough’.
The hard emotional work of pushing through this intense struggle, throwing every resource at it, self help books, webinars and workshops, didn’t feel enough. Against my inner sceptic, I nose dived into forbidden ‘woo-woo land’ which found me on a profound mystical journey of spiritual healing and meditation in the hope that I might find a ‘cure’ for healing this dreadfully stuck ailment.
This was fundamental to my work as a freelance counsellor, representing my self through my work, and defining my identity in all it’s vulnerability. This internal resistance has held me back and prevented me from doing the purposeful work of serving my people through meaningful engagement.
“It’s going to be easy”, I told myself, “when you have the right skills”.
So I enrolled on yet another akimbo workshop, TMS, Seth Godin’s online marketing seminar.
Each time I was directed to ‘show up’, it felt noticeably uncomfortable. I felt trapped. I could feel this pulsating fear, rising up from the deepest depths of my belly, triggering alarm, as if there was danger, a distracting signal vibrating panic to the rest of my body.
What is this fear? How can I get rid of these terrible feelings?
The shortest lesson during this challenging workshop stimulated much discomfort, and prompted deep thought and insight on every personal level.
“You can learn all the marketing in the world, but until you figure out how to market yourself to yourself, you’re going to be the victim of the Resistance.”
I felt so afraid about being found out. Yet I started leaning deeper into this fear and vulnerability.
Peering cautiously into the darkest depths of my inner abyss, I discovered a shy creature, battered by past criticisms, negative judgements, years and years of other people’s abusive tactics, manipulation and control. These became self imposed expectations, which like ocean limpets stuck with me from then on, as if they were a part of me. I was hit by a thunderbolt as the poison seeds exposed the roots of my own negative self perception. Shamefully belittled by virtue of being ‘the younger sibling’, I was taken for granted, and all sense of control eluded me. Undercurrents of other people’s expectations, constantly reminding me of my position, ‘I am not on top – I am not even the middle, I am at the bottom’.
Secrets! Toxic family secrets! I cannot unsee the resentment that she held on to for all these years. Exposed in a fleeting opportune moment, it was this dramatic display of my sister’s anger that saved me, revealing to me her secret vulnerability.
And now, I see things very differently.
I saw myself hidden within this oppressive culture and how the hierarchy within my original family affected my feelings, self beliefs and decision making.
I learned to reframe my position within my family. The trapped toxic shame that lay dormant, now exposed, has nowhere to hide. In some strange way, just acquainting myself with the shame was not just liberating but also exhilarating. I have learned to pay attention to the big and small bubbles that are trying to escape from the bottom of this rotting pond. I enjoy watching this shimmering jewel travel to the top and seamlessly pop, and disintegrating into the cool, light air.
A returning, another kind of integration.
Connecting with these deeper feelings of shame liberated me from the negativity. I learned to feel comfortable with my own vulnerability. The equanimity I found deep within brought with it a peaceful self acceptance. My work and training has also made me more resilient. I found many answers in therapy, and support through supervision. I found forgiveness and acceptance through spiritual practice and meditation.
I won’t pretend it was easy to face these demons. At times it felt like scraping mussels from jagged rocks. But there was no fight, only a desperate curiosity to learn more, to uncover anything else that might be lurking underneath the mysterious dark shadows. This wonderful self reflective journey, influenced by all the people who came into my life at different stages, who held up the cloudiest of mirrors, triggering deeper self explorations, illuminating masked insecurities, and like soft sand, smoothing out the rough edges of my being. Some of these people inspired awesome wisdom, helping me to see what was right in front of me, that I couldn’t see before, reflecting the darkness within, turning discomfort into valuable treasures, long forgotten and inhumed beneath unexplored caves.
The biggest take away from this process is the realisation that the most important person to show up for, is myself.
Time invested is not wasted. What felt like slow progress every step helped me to grow and feel comfortable with being seen, heard, to recognise myself as important, talented and a capable woman and to feel worthy of engaging with the people I seek to serve.
When was the last time you took the opportunity to examine your fears? What’s stopping you?