There is a crack running through the cement in our backyard.
Awhile ago, a little plant sprang up from it. Although I know this should be seen as a nuisance, as it will only cause the cement to deteriorate further, I couldn't help but feel awe and wonder over how this plant so effortlessly brought life to a place where it seems no life should be.
I looked closely at this little plant, wondering how a seed got in there in the first place. Did it fall from a bird in the exact perfect way so as to land right there? Did the wind blow it in, knowing that below this hardened surface was fertile soil? And how did the seed grow a plant right up through the crack? It's not like it had a map to the surface!
As I looked at the crack it made me think about cracks within myself. Cracks from fear, cracks from anger, cracks from disappointment.
There is an oft repeated quote by Leonard Cohen that says, "Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in".
When I saw the little plant, I realized that cracks aren't just how light gets in, but also life, seeds, the possibilities we can't see.
What I see as a personal detriment, like overwhelming fear, is really a crack waiting to show me something unexpected and beautiful. The very thing that makes me so afraid, such as a big, scary new career step, is the very place something miraculous and transformative can happen.
To never feel afraid would mean nothing new was happening. It would mean I wasn't exploring, growing and reaching for new heights. And without that growth, which leads to the cracks of fear, I would never open up to seeds that come from places beyond me.
Just as the seed in the cement came from an unknown place in order to bring the exact plant that was meant to grow there, I too can receive unknown gifts which come in ways I cannot control or plan. But it will only happen so long as I allow myself to stop trying to be shiny and perfect. I must give myself space to crack open to my inner depths.
Fear and anxiety are some of my biggest inner blocks. But I am now realizing that they aren't bottomless voids holding me back. They are showing me hidden potentials.
Within the fear is the potential for something strong to grow. Something so hardy and centered that it would not only not be dettered by cement, it would break through it, calmly and patiently planting itself deeper and deeper, growing bigger and bigger, until that which seems bigger and harder has no choice but to cede to the beautiful, life giving plant.
The cracks of fear and anger and pain are not the things holding us back in life. They are places where the seeds of our courage and strength take root and grow, showing us the true meaning of persistence and the power to change the seemingly rigid and fixed.
"As you unfold the new self, remember to move into that state of mind and body that feels invincible, powerful, absolute, inspired, and overjoyed.
Let the pictures come; see them with certainty, with a knowingness that unifies you to those events or things. Bond with your future as if it is yours, without any concern other than expectancy and celebration.
Let yourself go and begin to free-associate without concern. Become empowered by your new sense of self. With clarity, hold the image of each manifestation in your mind for a few seconds, and then let it go into the quantum to be executed by a greater mind …then go to the next one …keep going …this is your new destiny.
Allow yourself to experience that future reality in the present moment until you convince your body to emotionally believe that the event is coming to pass now. Open your heart and experience the joy of your new life before it actually manifests."
- Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
Fear is something I think about a lot.
It's also something I feel a lot. Oftentimes when I tell people this, they're surprised, because fear doesn't seem to stop me from doing the things I want to do.
But I will tell you a secret. Fear doesn't always show up as a massive blocking force, like some mountain in your path. Sometimes it shows up as an overwhelming terror that says DO NOW GO GO GO. It's the fear that tells me I'm not good enough, and I must go as fast as I can because if I stop and think about that, I'll drown in my feelings of inadequacy.
Rather than asking myself why I feel inadequate, I put all my energy into outrunning the fear and insecurity.
If you move fast enough, it all becomes a blur, and you actually don't have to feel anything. You can go so fast you convince yourself of a faux confidence, which says, I'm moving and hustling so I must be doing something right!
The thing with movement is, it's not always accelerating us in positive directions. Movement does not always equal productive outcomes. Sometimes we're just racing towards a brick wall.
If you ask me at any given time what I'm doing, I've always got half a dozen things on the stove top. I'm writing a screenplay. I'm revising another one. I'm learning calligraphy. I'm learning Spanish. I'm making a meditation. I'm making another meditation! I'm writing a blog post! I'm writing a podcast! I'm doing a 30 day challenge!!! I'm tap dancing while juggling chainsaws!!!!!!
Okay, the last one isn't real. But pump me full of enough fear, and by God, I'd do it. Which is often times the exact opposite message we are told about fear. Most conversations around fear tell us it's the thing stopping us and holding us back. But for a lot of people, it's not stopping them at all. It's the thing shoving their foot down on the gas pedal, driving them 90 miles per hour through a treacherous mountain pass.
Sometimes it causes us to become workaholics. Sometimes it causes us to try a million different things in an endlessly frantic state. Sometimes it gets us travelling all around the world, forever on the go but never addressing the inner void pushing us on.
Fear has never stopped me from doing anything. In fact, it's acted like a fuel that's launched me at breakneck pace into all kinds of adventures. This probably sounds good, but it's not.
I'm not doing these things because I love myself and I'm excited about life. I'm doing them because I'm too scared to pause and ask myself if I feel worthy when I'm doing nothing.
Could I feel worthy in a state of nothingness? At this time, no. If I had nothing on the stove top, and I had to stand before you with nothing to validate my existence, I would crumble like a sandcastle in high tide. Here's the plain truth: my ambition is more often than not an armor to my inner vulnerability.
We sometimes see people who achieve great things and think, wow, that person must really feel great about themselves! And they very well might. They very well might have healthy self-esteem. But they also might be like me, needing ever greater accomplishments to prove their worthiness.
To try and feel worthy without anything but my own self makes me feel like I'm walking around naked.
My need to overpower my fear and go faster and faster only creates deeper, more catastrophic fear. Without ever resolving the core issue, I'm just lighting the fuse to my inner TNT. I am so afraid I'm not good enough for the things I want that I leap before looking, not pausing to ask why I feel insecure, and never bothering to stop and check if there's broken glass in my path. The only thing worse than the thousand cuts I get is the inner pain of always shouting down my inner voice.
Be quiet inner voice, I'm trying to be fearless, which is only making more fear, and I need you to shut up so I can concentrate on over powering all this fear and if I stop to listen to you I'll actually feel all this fear and I can't do that!
I can even be found going at the speed of light when it comes to spirituality. I read every book I can on meditation, self-help, and divinity. And then I journal, reflect, and read more. Then I meditate for hours. I do yoga. If it sounds like it'll help me to heal, I'll do it. All of it.
Except for the part where I just stop and breathe.
My inner voice is constantly whispering to me, Please, just slow down. Just pause and breathe.
Because all my fear is basically rooted in a fear of rejection, and I am now rejecting my own voice, I only end up digging myself deeper into the fear hole. I push down on the gas harder, knowing I'm going too fast, I'm losing control, and this is making more fear, and so I just go faster, until I either run out of gas or careen off the side.
It's at this point, when I've been forced to stop and rest, that I begin "self-care". But it's not really self-care. True self-care is what we give ourselves far before we ever reach the point of burn out. Self-care and self-love administered when there's no other choice is more like crisis management. Real, heart based self-care and self-love is preventative, and not done retroactively.
It's the thing you do that says, "I am valuable and I am worthy of my own love and attention. I don't have to go a thousand miles an hour to earn this nourishment. There is nothing to earn. I am valuable just as I am."
Which isn't to say you shouldn't do self-care when you've reached burn out. We all have to start where we are. But learning to value and treat ourselves with respect before our inner world is burning down is something few have mastered.
Maybe especially me.
After all my years of meditating, studying spirituality, and reflecting on my self and my path, I have come to see I am still a beginner in it all. The facade I built that made me believe I know what I'm doing has cracked and broken wide open. I have so much to learn about myself and my inner world. I have an ocean of feelings that sometimes rise up like a tidal wave, reminding me of my own power, and what happens when I use that power in self-destructive ways.
In the past, I have done things that literally made my legs and voice shake with fear.
At the time, I felt like this was a good thing. I felt like if I didn't do this, life would pass me by. But what is life if it isn't about honoring and treating our own selves like precious cargo? Bullying myself into fighting my fear wasn't life. It was exhausting. I no longer see pushing myself so hard that I want to panic as any sort of positive quality. I just see it as fear based motivation, and nothing in my life that was fear based ever worked out in a positive way.
I now choose to take action from a place of love. If I feel myself pushing too hard, I stop. If I'm tired, I stop. If I feel insecure, I tell a trusted friend (shout out to Susan and Rachael!). I give those negative thoughts space and let them know that there's no shame in having them. They are a part of me. I don't have to juggle a thousand plates in order to distract myself from their existence.
I will get where I'm going. I will get there in my own time. I will rest as much as necessary on the way there. And when I'm there, I hopefully won't collapse from exhaustion. Rather, I will rise up higher, full of energy for whatever adventure lovingly shows up next.
Just for today, I will radiate success with my whole being. Not tomorrow, not next week, and not someday. But today.
What makes me feel successful today will change tomorrow. And each day after that it will change, as I change and evolve my idea of what success even is. I know that today I am further than I was yesterday. I'm a little wiser. A little stronger. A little more centered.
Today is the day that I won't just believe, but I will know, I am successful. It doesn't matter if I haven't achieved the thing I set out to achieve. It doesn't matter if I'm not holding the results of my dreams within my hands.
What matters is that I valued those dreams and gave them space to breathe and grow. What matters is that I dared to believe in the value of my own ideas. I am successful because I took the first shaky steps in realizing my full potential. I am successful because I am here, learning, growing, facing my fears, embracing my fears, embracing me, and becoming one with all that I am, in all ways.
What makes me successful is personal to me.
No one knows where I started. No one knows what I went through just to get to this moment. No one knows the mountains I climbed and the valleys I traversed just to show up today and say, "Here I am day. Bring it on."
Today I will celebrate my own personal idea of success. I will look back and realize that I have overcome a lot. I have achieved a lot. I have done things that shook me to my core. I have changed in ways no one will understand the impact of but me. I have even torn down my idea of self, questioning the very nature of who I am and what's possible for me, without any idea of how I would land safely on my feet.
What makes me successful is not always even success.
Sometimes I fail, and in that failure, I know I succeeded because I tried something. I dared to step outside what was familiar and known and tested the boundaries of my world. My failure is the seed from which my dreams will take root and grow.
And when I fail, I allow myself to be one with my disappointment and insecurity. I remember that success is not always about winning and being the best. Sometimes, success is about honoring where I am, nurturing my wounds, and taking time to rest before picking myself up and trying again.
No matter where I am at, or where I'm trying to go, today is the day I believe in my success.
Today, I am successful because I refuse to let other people project their fears and limiting ideas onto me. Today, I believe in my own idea of success, and I don't need anyone's approval in order to declare, "I am successful!"
Even if no one sees it but me, I will value and cherish my success. I will nourish it with my love, and I will guard it from the judgement of others.
And by the end of the day, if I no longer feel successful, if I feel down and defeated, that's okay. This is only for today, and tomorrow will be a new day, full of new opportunities, new people, new ideas, and new energy. I will wake up tomorrow and tell myself, "Yesterday I tried my best. And for that reason, I am successful."
But tomorrow isn't here. There is only now, and so for today, and only for today, I will believe fully in my success.
Awhile back, I inherited a red eared slider turtle.
The thing with turtles is, they poop way more than fish. They release a ton of waste that sinks down and settles into the rocks. As long as you didn't wait too long between water cleanings, it wasn't really noticeable. But if you did wait too long, the water would turn brown and make the turtle sick.
This, in itself, is a striking visual of what happens when we hold onto our emotional waste.
You might not see it at first. You might feel okay for awhile. But eventually, it's going to pollute your mental and emotional system. Unresolved anger, guilt, and pain, it settles down into your rocks, where it seems innocuous. But just like how the bacteria from the turtle feces slowly poisons the water, all those feelings are slowly poisoning you.
As the turtle will surely tell you, living in your own shit is the worst. It makes you fatigued. It can cause chronic pain and illness. It can make you believe you're weak and incapable. And then it can trick you, making you think there's something wrong with you, leading you to feel more shitty feelings, which also get trapped. But there is nothing wrong with you now and never was. You just need a good tank cleaning.
Knowing the shit has to go is the easy part. Getting it out? That's when things get, ahem, a little messy.
You see, in order to change the tank water you've got to pump out the old. I used a large filter/siphon combo that I would let drain out through a window. But it's not enough to just drain the water. You have to move the pump through the rocks, or the whole thing is pointless. And this is when I began to see the bigger picture of change.
Moving the pump about stirs up the rocks.
All that waste that I ignored and pretended wasn't there, it began circulating back up into the water. It would turn into a dark brown, water poop cloud. It was such a filthy mess that I would take the turtle and fish out first.
It always frustrated me that I had to first make the water dirtier in order to get it clean.
But the thing is, there's just no way to get the shit out without stirring it up. As the water would cloud up I would always think, "My God, how did they live with that!" But the same is true of me also - when I start poking at my triggers, turning my own inner world into a murky mess, I always end up thinking afterwards, "Geeze, how did I live with that for so long!"
As the water drained, I would keep moving the pump around, getting the rocks as clean as possible. I never really enjoyed this, because it looked so unappealing. But I also knew it was going to feel amazing afterwards.
Once the water was all pretty much out, it would be time to start filling the tank with fresh, clean water. Now this part felt good! Pouring in bucket after bucket of pure, straight from the tap water was so satisfying.
It's the same feeling we get when filling ourselves with love after polluting ourselves with doubt, guilt and insecurity.
After the tank was full, there would still be a little bit of sediment floating around. It would take a few hours for everything to fully settle. This I've found to be true for me also. Just when I think I'm through it all, I find there's still a little bit left to release, a little fine tuning left to do.
And then would come the best part. The tank filter would process out what was left floating around in the water. Everything would settle. And it would look so BLUE and so CLEAR that it was mesmerizing. It was practically euphoric.
Always, at this point, I would pull up a chair, sit back, and stare at the tank. The turtle and all her little fish friends would go back in. I swear I could feel the happiness and relief radiating off of her.
She loved a clean tank the same way we love a good sage smudging.
It was during these times I would enjoy the turtle the most. Sitting in my old wooden rocker, I'd watch the tank, listening to the soft burbling of the water filter. The fish would swim back and forth in excitement, checking out the changes. The turtle would lounge under her heat lamp, stretching her neck up like she's the queen of the world and she knows it.
I would sit quietly, relaxed, reflecting on my own path, my own challenges and triumphs with change. I would gently rock back and forth, totally at peace, soaking in that feeling of crystal, clear water flowing and flowing and flowing.
If you are in the midst of change, or struggling to release things yourself, I would suggest trying my Heart Healing Light meditation. It's specifically made to clear your energy, to release things you took on from others, and to fill with you love and positive energy after you've gotten all the gunk out of the way.
Just because a leap of faith is small doesn't make it any less important.
It may, in fact, be the most important thing you ever do. Your leap may be so small no one notices but you. It may be so small it seems you're only a few inches further than before.
But that's all it takes to shift your world.
All you are required to do is love and cherish your courageous leap, just as you would this little frog, who also makes small leaps. But to her, they are the grandest leaps of all, because they are hers, and she knows each small leap helps her legs grow stronger.
She must grow them now, because it will prepare her for when she's bigger. And when that time comes, she will effortlessly take the big, huge leaps that she can only now dream of.
The following is an excerpt from a book by Jane Roberts and Seth. Jane Roberts was a mystic who shared spiritual exercises, insights, and tools for self-empowerment in a series of books in the 1970's. Although she's long since passed, her teachings live on.
The exercise below is one of hers that I've had profound results from. If you're at all curious about the Universe being a product of idea construction, or a projection of inner reality, then this will especially appeal to you. It's also great for people who have tried and tried to change patterns and circumstances in their life and continually fallen flat. If you want to learn more, the book this came from is The Nature of Personal Reality.
Many people assign great power to a hypnotist, yet whenever you have the undivided attention of another, you act as a hypnotist to a large degree.
Whenever you have your own undivided attention, you act as hypnotist and subject simultaneously.
You give yourselves post-hypnotic suggestions all the time, particularly when you project present conditions into the future. I want to impress upon you the fact that all of this is simply the natural function of the mind, and to dispel any ideas that you have about the 'magical' aspects of hypnosis.
For five or ten minutes a day at the most, then, use natural hypnosis as a method of accepting desired new beliefs. During that period concentrate your attention as vividly as possible upon one simple statement.
Repeat it over and over while focusing upon it for this time. Try to feel the statement in whatever way is possible - that is, do not allow distractions, but if your mind insists upon running about then channel its images in line with your declaration.
The repetition, verbally or mentally, is important because it activates biological patterns and reflects them. Do not strain. This exercise should not be done along with the point of power exercise given earlier. (See the 657th session in Chapter Fifteen of the Nature of Personal Reality) One should not run into the other, but should be carried out on separate occasions during the day.
During the period, however, do remember that you are using the present as a moment of power to insert new beliefs, and that these will indeed be materialized.
When the exercise is finished do not dwell upon it. Put it from your mind. You will have utilized natural hypnosis in a concentrated form. You may have to experiment some for the proper wording of your message, but three days at the very least are necessary before you can tell, through results, how effective it has been. A change of wording may be in order. When you feel right about the statement, then continue it. Your attention should be completely relaxed otherwise, for time is needed. You may experience spectacular results at once. But continue the exercise even if this happens.
Inner channels must become re-patterned. There will be a feel to this that will serve as your own individual guideline. There is no need to continue the practice over ten minutes. In fact, many will find that difficult to do. Spending a longer period of time simply reinforces the idea of problems involved.
- Jane Roberts/Seth The Nature of Personal Reality
Often times, the things we want to accomplish or do seem overwhelming and even impossible in their scope.
This is usually because we are looking at the whole thing as if it all has to be done now. No one, in the history of humanity, achieved their dreams or ambitions overnight. It is a step by step process.
Sometimes, that step is to simply take rest. We often fear taking downtime because we associate that with being lazy, or worse, with the fear that if we aren't constantly going and going nothing is happening.
When I look back over some of the incredible things that showed up for me, they always worked out when I least expected it. It wasn't when I was stressed out, burning the candle at both ends. It was after I put in the effort, set my intention, and then turned my focus else where. I let it go. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
Trusting it's being worked out behind the scenes, and that powerful forces are assisting us, is crucial to not only our success, but our well-being and happiness.
Consider today what choices you make in a moment to moment basis. Are they bringing you closer to what you want, or perhaps entrenching you deeper in habits you wish to release? Your life, and your dreams, are built of those small moments.
If you find yourself in a moment of worry and exhaustion, pause, breathe and pivot your thoughts to what's going right. And if things are going right, notice how you feel, breathe into it, and expand that feeling of joy and gratitude.
What is left of the caterpillar in the butterfly?
Recently, someone shared the above quote with me.
When I read it, I had so many thoughts of what this means. I continued to sit with it, and the more I thought about it, the more meaning it had for me. I love how this question so perfectly captures the mystery and depth of change.
When we change, what is left of our former selves? We are made from it, and yet, is it a part of us? Or are we a part of it?
I hope you find some time to reflect and meditate on this question also. It brought me an unexpected feeling of comfort, while also revealing things to me I had felt, but had no words for.
This question also relates to one of my favorite mantras to meditate on, which I shared here.
I first heard the expression "You can be happy or you can be right" from Wayne Dyer. When I heard that I couldn't imagine that that could be true. All my life I have equated being right with happiness. After all, doesn't it feel yucky to be wrong? Who likes being wrong?
It never occurred to me that being right didn't make me happy - it just made me feel things like smarter, superior, on the right team, or more morally correct.
These are all ego based things, and with all things that the ego needs, they can turn into monsters that must be fed endlessly. I may have felt a momentary sense of satisfaction, but I wasn't feeling the pure, exalted happiness that comes from tuning into love and a sense of oneness.
Despite my initial resistance, I've continued to think over this phrase and try to make sense of it. I've been pondering it and coming at it from different angles for years. And don't you know, I'm starting to realize - he's right!
When I'm angry with someone what I used to want was to feel validated in my anger. I wanted to feel that I was right to feel angry. And all of that focus on what someone did that made me angry only intensified my focus on the thing that made me angry!
I can now see that if I want to be happy, I have to remove my attention from the thing I don't like. So when someone does something that upsets me I ask myself what's more important, focusing on their behavior or looking for love, compassion and joy.
Once I stop focusing on why they were wrong to do or say what they did I allow in a lot of other thoughts. I remember that when people lash out, it's a projection of inner pain. When people are judgmental, it's a projection of their own self-judgement. And a lot of times people aren't even wrong - they're just not behaving in the way I want them to behave.
In order to be happy I have to let go of the need to control, because what can I control anyways other than my own feelings?
This point really came home for me this past Sunday. I went to a recreation area that's popular for hiking and sitting by the river. On this particular day it was busier than I've ever seen it. It was flooded with people and more were continually coming. I didn't know if I should stay - it was so crowded it defeated the point of having quiet time to commune with nature.
But what the heck - I'd see if I could get a parking spot. If I found one I'd take it as a sign that I was meant to enjoy this place. As I circled through the packed lot several other parking vultures circled with me. It was looking dire and I started to leave. But then as I passed the last aisle I saw a spot.
The last spot! Waiting there, for me! It really was meant to be.
I began backing up so that I could turn into the lane and get the spot on the end. It was obvious what I was doing, and then - AND THEN - someone ZOOMED in, cut me off and cranked their wheel to dive bomb into the spot! I've never seen anything like it.
I couldn't believe it. I sat there for a moment, dumbfounded. Did that guy really just do something so brazenly rude and selfish? What the fu - okay I'll stop here, you don't need to hear the inner monologue of curse words I was hurtling his way. Needless to say, I was irritated.
This felt like one of those examples of how rude and terrible people can be. I wanted to take this in as an example of why you can't trust people, why it's normal to feel irritated with people and why sometimes I AM RIGHT DAMN IT. He was RUDE. He was wrong! Grrraaaaaahhhhhhh!
As these thoughts began piling up it hit me - this doesn't feel good. There's nothing about being right in this scenario that feels good. And so I did something I never do. I let it go. I just let it go.
I decided it wasn't worth my happiness to think about. It wasn't worth my energy to linger in this place. It was over. What did I want to think about instead? What did I want to feel instead?
Now that's a question I don't ask myself enough, especially when I'm too busy contemplating how rotten people are out there stealing my parking spots.
What do I want to feel in this moment?
As I began to think about what made me happy - the fresh air, the birds singing, the blue sky, I began to feel lighter. And then I began to think about another phrase I've heard often - everything is working out for me.
I listened to the birds, breathed calm and deep and repeated, "Everything is working out for me." I began to consider that maybe he was meant to take that parking spot. After all, it was so busy, would I have even enjoyed myself? Or would I have been annoyed with the crowds and the noise? Maybe he was actually doing me a favor. Maybe everything really was working out for me.
I thanked the man for showing me that the rec area was so crazy people were acting like ravenous parking madmen, and no, I would not have enjoyed that much insanity while trying to be peaceful and quiet by the river.
Thank you. Everything is working out for me.
I decided then to drive through the tiny little gold rush town just to see if I wanted to hang out there. As I pulled into "town", AKA a bar and an ice cream shop, the street was also flooded with cars and people. This was just not going to happen.
So I decided to drive on and enjoy the back roads. I wouldn't sit by the river, but I could enjoy the fresh air and quiet in a different way. I wasn't exactly sure which way to go, but I knew that somehow I could go a back way and connect back to the main highway.
As I drove along I began to relax and enjoy the feeling that I was right where I was supposed to be. I came down to Orange Blossom Road and suddenly everything opened up. I looked down and saw a river outlet. It looked like you could walk down there.
It looked like I could actually go down there and have what I'd yearned for all along - peaceful solitude in nature.
But I wasn't sure if this was private property. As I pulled up I saw some people walking up with fishing poles. It was then that I saw the sign and trail going down. The fact that I arrived just as they were leaving felt like serendipitous timing. I was being shown the way.
Thank you. Everything is working out for me.
I went down and felt the most glorious sense of trust and support. I felt like this was all a metaphor for life. When I let go of what wasn't meant for me I can get to the thing that is so much better. After all, you never know what's just around the corner, or in my case, just down a beautiful back road lined with blooming cheery trees.
As I sat by the water, listening to the birds sing, the wind in the reeds and the distant hum of cars I felt immense gratitude. For myself, for letting go and trusting. For God, for showing me a better way. And for Earth, for this beautiful, restorative moment.
I'm still working at this, and still catching myself in moments of "Look what they did!" But I'm reminding myself now to let go and to know that another Orange Blossom Road is always just around the corner. However, I can't see it if all I'm looking at is the guy that stole my parking spot.
This is an article I originally wrote for Tiny Buddha. It was republished with permission from tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here.
When it comes to facing fear and moving past it in order to see my dreams realized, I was always advised to power through it. Do the thing that scares you, no matter how much it makes your heart pound. Take that step that makes your stomach knot up in tight balls. Do it, and power through, or else miss out on life.
For a long time, I felt these were my only two options. I could either have moments of crippling fear as I chased what I wanted, or I could feel like life was passing me by as I let my passions die.
One of my passions is writing screenplays, and so I continually did what I thought I should do in order to become a successful screenwriter. I called people who gave me anxiety. I put my work out to places I felt I wasn’t ready for. With each step I took, I hoped and prayed I would get more comfortable.
I couldn’t live with the constant fear I was feeling, and yet no amount of powering through was making it go away. It was in fact growing, because it felt like I had no control over it. The fear was getting larger than my dreams, and I became exhausted and eventually burned out.
I had no choice then but to take time to pause and reflect. When I did, I could see the counter-productive patterns I was engaging in.
I was forcing myself to do things that brought me angst rather than joy. The advice to power through had turned me into a bully toward myself.
Because I wasn’t doing the kind of behavior I normally associate with being self-destructive, such as constantly criticizing myself, I didn’t see my actions as being hurtful. In fact, I saw them as honoring my journey because I was chasing my biggest goals.
However, when the dust settled and I stepped back, it was very clear that by powering forward, I had left behind a crucial thing: self-love. I wasn’t listening to myself.
Because our inner world is always mirrored back to us, I always had the frustrating feeling that people weren’t listening to me.
Instead of hearing my great ideas, they would hear the shake in my voice. They would hear me rambling on because I was too nervous to be clear and concise, and they would tune out, ending the call as I would slump down in my chair, knowing I’d blown it.
Compounding this is the fact that I also wasn’t treating myself as an important person. I wasn’t honoring that the fear and anxiety was taking a toll.
This too was mirrored back in the fact that people forgot me as soon as we connected. I never got any follow-up calls after my initial pitches, which only fed into my fears more. The momentum I had going was certainly powering me onward, but in the opposite direction of what I wanted.
Once I could see the patterns, the solution was obvious. The old adage “what you resist persists” repeated in my mind.
I had to first of all accept that I was living from a place of fear. I allowed myself to acknowledge that I didn’t like being afraid all the time. This swept through me in a wave of relief, and I felt free to choose what I wanted rather than what I felt I was supposed to do.
I began cultivating and prioritizing self-love. The more I slowed down, took time to ask myself if I was okay, and returned to my meditation practice, the easier things got. What began to reflect back to me were my new feelings—that I’m important and what I do is important.
As I went through this process, I was able to stop fearing fear itself. This too helped me to reverse my momentum even further, because I was open to receiving new information. I learned how fear begins in my brain and body. Once I understood how it worked, it wasn’t this huge, abstract, and uncontrollable thing.
Fear begins in a place in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala processes a situation and decides if it’s safe or if you need to get scared and run away. If it decides something’s not safe hormones are released in order to get your body moving and prepare you for fight or flight.
Attached to the amygdala is the hippocampus, which is where your memories are stored. These two things work together. The amygdala looks at old memories as a way of assessing a current situation. This process is meant to be helpful, but when we’re not aware of it, it can run amok and become hurtful.
As an example from my own life, one bad phone call with a potential agent had been stored in my memories. From that point onward, when I went to call someone with a pitch, my amygdala would access that memory and immediately label all related phone calls as bad, which steamrolled as I would get more anxious, have more bad phone calls, and dread any interaction.
This was my brain trying to protect me by ensuring I wouldn’t engage in something that might cause me harm or emotional pain.
Understanding this about my body and how I process things gave me a huge amount of self-power back.
It was reassuring first of all to know I wasn’t trying to subconsciously sabotage myself, but to instead keep myself safe. It was also reassuring to know where this started, because once I was aware of the root of it, I could begin untangling myself from it.
The more I began to see fear as something I could manage, the more I felt I could work with the fear rather than trying to power through it. It was then that I began to feel that thing I’d yearned for but felt was impossible to reach—excitement. I remembered why I’d started writing in the first place.
I felt excitement to share my stories and see them made into films. I felt excitement about contacting people who were passionate about film also. I remembered how good it was to feel excited about talking to people rather than fearful.
From this new, more self-love based place, I started contacting people again. I listened to my inner voice, and if something made me feel fear, I would stop. I would tune in, breathe, and ask myself if I was attaching old, unrelated memories, or if it really was my intuition trying to tell me something was amiss.
I’m happy to say people are requesting my scripts again, and I’m now enjoying pursuing my passions more than ever. I wake up excited rather than with dread. I take steps and go for things, as I did before, but without feeling like I’m stretching a rubber band that’s about to snap.
If you’re also paralyzing yourself with fear, see what happens when you put self-love first. When you believe that you’re worth listening to, and show up confident, without an energy of desperation, people will be far more interested in what you have to say.
And when you feel your fear creeping back in, instead of ignoring it and pushing through it, step back, breathe, and remember that your own mind and body have created it to help you.
When you realize it’s not some big, monstrous force that shows up without your consent—that you’ve created it to keep yourself safe—you can learn to let it go.
Today I went on a lovely bike ride with one of my parents.
While I was riding, I was thinking of how I hold onto past feelings from people I feel let down or hurt by. I was thinking of a specific person in relation to this - who I was also on the ride with - and the tenuous relationship we've had over the years.
I've worked out a lot of my feelings over this, but sometimes, I can still feel myself holding onto those past experiences and feelings. Even now, after this person has changed and shown considerable growth, I still see them as that overbearing, angry and critical person from my childhood and teenage years.
I realized today, it's almost as if I'm holding this person emotionally hostage.
I'm forcing them to stay in one place, and to always be that person I remember them as. In some ways, this justifies certain things I've done. Things I did because I was either emulating their behavior or projecting my inner pain outwards. I began to wonder why I want this person to stay as that vision in my mind, when I hated them when they were that person.
Wouldn't I rather see them as they are now, or at least try to be more objective in my view, so that I could let in the love? Love is so much easier to carry around than hate.
As I biked, I thought about how much I've changed, and how much it would hurt me if I wasn't allowed to grow and be different. What if someone was insisting on tethering me to my past in the same way?
It of course would not feel good, and as I biked, I realized this hurts me as much as them. I saw it like one person literally holding another hostage.
When you're the person holding another down, it appears as if the person being held hostage is the one being trapped against their will. But isn't the person doing the holding trapped also? How can they be free if they have to make sure this person stays in place?
How can I be free if all my energy is focused on tethering us to the past, just to prove something that only I can see?
By letting this person go, and by not caring who they were, or even who they are now, I allow myself to be free. I no longer have to put all my energy on holding onto something, but instead, can completely let go.
And by letting go, I can embrace and allow all of my own beautiful growth. By stubbornly sticking to only one view of this person I was short changing my own growth. I wasn't allowing myself to grow in a way that saw a bigger perspective. I wasn't even trying to see that this person too had also been wounded, disappointed, and sucker punched by life.
I had locked myself into place while holding the key that would set me free. The key to my freedom was the same as theirs. That day, I set us both free, and I never looked back.
"If you feel crappy, it's because your brain is telling you that there's a problem that's unaddressed or unresolved. In other words, negative emotions are a call to action.
When you feel them, it's because you're supposed to do something.
Many people are taught to repress their emotions for various personal, social or cultural reasons - particularly negative emotions.
Sadly, to deny one's negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person to solve problems."
- Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck