Did you feel that?
That intense feeling that strangles your heart and constricts your throat?
Maybe you’re not sure why but you’re afraid. Afraid of putting yourself out there because you think you’ll make a fool of yourself if you showed the world who you really are. Maybe you’re afraid of letting go of a relationship that is crushing you. Maybe you’re afraid of quitting a job or a business that is sucking your soul dry. Maybe you’re afraid that you don’t have what it takes to live the life of your dreams.
So you stay stuck.
And allow fear to rule nearly every choice and decision you make.
A Fearless Lesson From My Garden
“Beauty: The ability to be completely and absolutely and openly yourself.” ~ Deena Metzger
The other day I was out weeding my garden and I couldn’t help but notice how fearless and bold my flowers are. The crocus are brave enough to push their way through semi-frozen dirt, unafraid that it might snow again, unafraid that they might be pelted with sleet or hail as winter gives way to spring. They arise from underground, gracing the earth with bursts of sunshine yellow, vibrant violet, and luminous lavender. Sometimes the timing is off a little and winter surprises spring with a snowstorm. The crocus doesn’t fear the snow. It keeps on blooming because no one tells the crocus it can’t bloom.
The daffodils and tulips come next. They bloom side by side without comparing themselves to each other. The tulip doesn’t think, “I wish I could be as yellow as the daffodil,” and the daffodil doesn’t criticize the tulip for being a tulip.
Violas and marigolds are planted together in the same pot. They do not judge the pot; they enhance the pot. The pot, knowing it’s been empty and tucked away in the garage for the winter, is only too happy to accommodate the violas and marigolds and for good measure, the pansies and geraniums, too.
There is no fear in my garden. There’s no judgement, no blame, no apology, no comparison, no jealousy, no anger.
There is only beauty. From the first blooms of spring to the last blooms of summer, each flower is completely and absolutely and openly itself.
When I am completely and absolutely and openly myself, there is no fear. There is only beauty.
When you are completely and absolutely and openly yourself, there is no fear. There is only beauty.
Fear vs. Beauty
Fear contracts. Beauty expands.
Fear is shallow. Beauty runs deep.
Fear is a liar. Beauty radiates truth.
Fear is anxious. Beauty emanates calm, peace, and tranquility.
Fear is exhausting. Beauty knows when to rest and when to dance in the light.
When fear dictates my actions or your actions, neither of us are completely and absolutely and openly ourselves. Maybe you play small. Maybe I believe the lies when fear tells me that I’m not a good photographer or a good wife or a good mom or a good anything, so why bother.
Scaremongering fear, the false evidence that appears real, chokes your drive, strangles your ideas, berates your God given gifts, and convinces you that you’re somehow less than and don’t measure up.
The daffodil doesn’t tell the tulip “you’re too fat,” or “you’re too pink,” or “you’re not very pretty,” or “you’re too old,” or “you’re missing a leaf so you’re not perfect enough to bloom next to me.”
Journal exercise: What would happen if you questioned your fear? Especially, if after you’ve assessed the situation and determined that no, you are not being chased by a bear. Imagine interviewing your fear. What would that conversation look like?
The Two Most Common Fears Exposed
1. The Fear of Being Yourself
In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Just being ourself is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our life trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.”
I remember when I first read this in 2002 and how these words penetrated my very being. I had been living my life by another’s point of view because I was scared to death my first husband would walk out and leave me. Guess what? No matter how I accommodated and morphed myself into his point of view, he walked out anyway. My greatest fear of being rejected came true.
I was devastated.
But – as I woke up from the fog of divorce, I realized that I could no longer live in fear of being myself. I came to understand that if I was going through life not being me and the worst happened, that I may as well be myself because as long as I love me, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t. As Byron Katie would say, “it’s my job to love me, not yours.”
You see, I made a pact with my Self: I would no longer break myself for another. I decided that I would no longer dim my light for another to feel better about himself. I decided that I would no longer shrink from or dismiss my God given gifts. I decided to proclaim my own worthiness and good enough status and take my rightful place among the stars.
Journal Exercise: What would your life feel like if you proclaimed your own worthiness and took your rightful place among the stars?
2. The Fear of Criticism
One of my favorite books is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s the grand daddy of all personal success books, and yes, I highly recommend it. “The fear of criticism,” Hill writes, “robs man of his initiative, destroys his power of imagination, limits his individuality, takes away his self-reliance, and does him (or her) damage in a hundred other ways…Criticism will plant FEAR in the human heart, or resentment, but it will not build love or affection.”
Holy moly bat fans.
For most of us, our collective fear of criticism is the biggest mind fuck of all. We rob ourselves of our greatest joys and gifts by comparing ourselves to others. If you’re a beginning artist, you may compare your work to Picasso and never pick up your paint brush again. If you’re a writer, you may hide your work in a digital file that never touches the lives of others. You may lack the confidence to give birth to your great idea that may save the world. Instead, you sit on the couch and mindlessly surf through 500 channels, numbing your creativity.
We fling blame and shame around to make ourselves feel better ourselves. And to justify our own lack of initiative to take action we criticize and make fun of others. And if you’re on the receiving end of that criticism, you drop your camera, quit writing, or you turn your attention to pursuing what everyone else says you should do.
Journal Exercise: How has your fear of criticism impacted your life?
It’s Time to Wake Up
I’m not going to lie. It’s scary to wake up and decide to listen to your own inner wisdom rather than the collective white noise of fear. Some of you would rather hang onto your insecurity blanket of miserableness because you’re afraid that if you shrug it off you’ll be alone.
I was that person who clung to the miserableness I knew. I was that person who quit taking photographs when my first husband told me I wasn’t that good. Never mind that I had evidence that proved him wrong. Since 1996, when I sold my first photographic image, people had been buying my photo art. I put my camera down in 2001 and didn’t pick it back up for nearly eight years.
A few summers ago, I entered one of my photos in a photo art contest for the Hopkington State Fair. As my husband and I walked through the barns where all the art was on display, I came upon the photo I submitted and was pleasantly surprised to see a blue first place ribbon attached to the frame.
And now? I’m getting ready for my first gallery showing on June 7, 2014.
Who’s not good enough?
If I hadn’t weeded through my fear and uncovered and released this particular persistent subconscious memory, my camera would still be in a box lost in my basement.
The Persistence of Fear Based Memory
Vanquishing your fear is a process of uncovery. It’s not something you can wave a magic wand over and *poof* it’s gone. Sorry dear reader, your amygdala, where the fear factor resides deep inside your brain, is here to stay. Most of your fear, the false evidence that loves to appear real, is mostly the persistence of memory. It’s the programming you received from your parents who received it from their parents who had the same programming passed down to them from previous generations.
You’re told “no” more than “yes.” You’re told what you can’t do more than what you can do. You’re told what you should do rather than being given permission to do what you may feel called to do. Well meaning people harp on your weaknesses rather than uplift and encourage your strengths.
The fear of criticism eats away at your soul. The fear of being yourself scares the crap out of you because, oh my gosh, what will people think of you?
If you want to vanquish your fears, you must uncover the programming you’ve received since birth. Examine each line of code and determine if it is useful or still adds value to your life. This isn’t about exploring your navel day in and day out. You don’t need to find a cave and close yourself off from the world to uncover your fear. Nor do you have to spend gobs of money or hours and hours in therapy…unless, of course, you want to.
3 Tips to Practice Vanquishing Your Fear
Tip #1: Without judgment, monitor your inner dialogue, or your mind chatter. Notice the words you use about yourself and others. Ruiz writes, “misuse of the word is how we pull each other down and keep each other in a state of fear and doubt.”
Journal Exercise: Without judgment, are you using your words to blame others, complain about others, and / or to talk poorly about yourself? In what ways can you change this inner dialogue so that your words and thoughts are used to uplift and affirm others and yourself?
Tip #2: Focus on gratitude, love, and beauty. Without judgment watch your thoughts and the thoughts you attach belief to. Fear based thinking revolves around not having enough, not being enough, not doing enough, low self-worth, lack of confidence, etc. Again this goes back to monitoring your inner dialogue. What you focus your time and attention on increases and manifests in your life.
Journal Exercise: Would you rather have your life expand, increase, and completely open up in gratitude, love, and beauty or would you rather have your life decrease, contract, and be diminished by fear based thoughts. Using both scenarios, describe a typical fear based day and typical gratitude based day. Which day do you prefer?
Tip #3: Create time and space for quiet time or meditation or what I like to call “sacred silence.” If you’re like me, you have a busy schedule. Extra time is hard to come by. Even if you’re not like me, you probably still have a busy schedule and sacred silence seems like a far off dream. Finding time for sacred silence is easier than it seems but it does require you to set firm boundaries.
Directions for Sacred Silence
“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” ~ Maya Angelou
- Begin with small increments of sacred time – start with 5 minutes in the morning or in the evening.
- Declare a small space in your bedroom, office, bathroom, porch, or wherever you can shut out the rest of the world for five minutes.
- No one is allowed to enter your sacred space during your sacred silence time (this is why the firm boundaries are necessary.)
- Sit or stand comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply and roll your shoulders to your ears.
- Exhale slowly and allow your shoulders to slide down your back.
- Inhale deeply and expand your heart.
- Exhale slowly and release your jaw. Relax your face.
- Notice your thoughts without attachment. Allow them to float in and float out.
- When your thoughts are free from belief or attachment, you may, if you choose, simply ask your Inner Wisdom for guidance or direction.
- Inhale and listen.
- Exhale and listen.
- Spend as much time in sacred silence as you need. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. You may want to record the guidance you receive in your journal.
Practice Vanquishing Your Fear Every Day
As I practice vanquishing my fears and doubts, I’ve noticed some wonderful things:
–> When I faced my fear of what everyone would think of me if I quit my online coaching and podcasting business so I could pursue my passion to write and to practice my photography, I immediately felt an incredible expansive openness in my head and heart space.
–> I uncovered my own fear based money story. The origins of which had been buried deep within the bowels of my subconscious mind, dictating my money behavior without me being consciously aware of why I do money the way I do money.
Uncovering my money story = awareness = the ability to release my story and move forward with a healthier relationship with my Benjamins.
–> Because I have purposefully created time and space for my sacred silence, more time seems to open up. And as I listen to my Inner Guidance, I have an incredible sense of clarity about the direction I’m going in.
–> My life seems to have slowed down. There is no great rush to hit some imaginary or delusional goal line. I’m unfolding exactly as I should.
In my practice I monitor my inner dialogue, I watch my thoughts without attachment, and I spend time in sacred silence.
My fear vanquishing practice has thrown my snarky inner critic for a loop. She used to be front and center directing my choices and decisions. Now she has to share space with my Inner Wisdom. Ms. Snarky is not happy – in fact, she’s pacing the corridor of my mind, flinging ashes from her cigarette butt and muttering to herself that I’ve got no business writing about vanquishing fear or anything else.
My Inner Wisdom reminds me that when I am completely and absolutely and openly myself, beauty reigns supreme, not fear. She reminds me to take my rightful place among the stars; to bloom right where I am – amidst the dirt and the weeds and the doubt. My Inner Wisdom reminds me that I’m in fine company next to the fearless creatives who’ve gone before me – Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Ernest Hemingway, Ansel Adams, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, and of course, the pansies and marigolds.
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