I recently led a discussion over the book Siddhartha with a small group of people. I was nervous about doing this, as I've always been a participant in events and never a leader. A few days before the event, I woke up feeling the first pangs of nervous energy creeping into my body. I could feel them pulsing through me, ready to build bigger, to turn into anxiety, and then full blown panic.
As I sat with this feeling, I first felt its familiarity. Any sort of public speaking, of any size, has always caused me great amounts of anguish. I have become so accustomed to associating this kind of experience with anxiety that I have never even questioned if I could change it. I just see it as a part of my identity. A core building block in the essence of who I am.
But the longer I sat with it, the more I realized it's not a fixed part of who I am. It's just a familiar part. There's a common thing with us humans where we like to hold onto the familiar, even when we know it's not in our best interest.
It can be even harder to challenge these things when they feel like they're a part of our identity. When we isolate a part of ourselves as unhealthy or in need of change, our gut reaction might be to feel as if we're rejecting a part of ourselves. Rejection always feels painful, and so rather than look at this part and say, "I think you have to go," we hold onto it tighter. This comes from a misguided sense of self-love, from the part of our self that wants to protect us from pain.
It's as if letting this one part go will pull a thread that will unravel our entire sense of self.
And maybe it will. Maybe that's what all the fear is about. It's the fear that if we let these things go that define us that we'll somehow cease to exist.
In a way, this fear is not completely irrational. If we let go of our core, defining attributes then in a way we will cease to exist. We will no longer exist as the person we were. The old self will die and a new self will be reborn in its place.
As the book group gathering grew closer, I felt myself pressed up against this dilemma. If I didn't let go of Nervous Melissa she was going to lead the meeting, and I would experience all the things that make public speaking feel dreadful. If I did let go, I would create a new reality for myself. One that was foreign and unfamiliar, but full of potential and new possibility.
On the morning I woke up full of nerves, I began to feel into my thoughts. I remembered that my thoughts create my reality, and I was thinking thoughts that created these nervous feelings. It surprised me how unconscious I was of my own nervous thinking.
I then reminded myself of what I know of anxiety - it doesn't begin in the body, it begins in the brain. Unless I am thinking things that make me anxious, I will not be anxious.
I have tried changing these nervous thoughts before. I approached them in every way, from gentle and loving to aggressive and hostile. I've told them I love them. I've told them I hate them. I've reassured them. I've breathed into them and visualized white light in them. I did everything I could to get them to stop wreaking havoc on my nervous system.
The only thing I hadn't tried was refusing to acknowledge them. Knowing I could never change them, I went with the only other option: create new thoughts. I had to think new things and let those take over until the old thoughts died off on their own.
I began focusing in on this, breathing into my desire to create a new reality. I began asking myself what it was I wanted to create, and then repeated that over and over. I repeated it until my conviction grew and the thoughts began to flow on their own.
I choose to create feelings of confidence. I choose to see myself as capable and worth listening to. I choose to believe in myself. I choose to see I have good ideas. I choose to see myself as a leader. I choose to be self-assured. I choose to be relaxed and in the flow.
I choose to create a new reality for myself.
Throughout the day, I kept shifting my focus to this new reality. I reminded myself that as I focused on these thoughts, new pathways of neurons were being laid in my brain. I was creating a new automatic flow for my thoughts. I also reminded myself that the less I fed the old thoughts, the sooner the old pathways would dissolve.
By the end of the day, I was feeling like a new person. I felt I'd finally broken myself of the habit of fighting with my own thoughts. I felt the lightness of not spiraling down in old, exhausting patterns.
Over the next few days, I continued to do this. I also used my visualization for empowered speaking, which really helped me to take this in and become one with it. By the time the book meeting arrived, I felt confident and ready. It ended up being a great time, and I'm now looking forward to the next one.
Whatever reality you're living now, you can always create a new one.
Sometimes it's as simple as deciding to do it. I wish you much love as you go forward. And remember, change is hard. Be kind to yourself and give yourself space to change in your own way, and in your own time.