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.