We’ve known each other for a very long time. My whole life to be precise. We’ve been together through everything, the good times and yup, definitely the bad. Looking back, I wonder why you were there when I’ve been happy, why you questioned my happiness, but I guess you just didn’t want to feel left out of the party. You just wanted to keep reminding me you’re there, like a security blanket, promising to never leave my side. I am writing to you now because I think it’s a good idea for us to get to know each other more. After all, we’ve been through so much together and I know you’ll always be around. I want to get to know you more to figure out how we can work together in a way so that I am hearing in a much clearer way what you’re trying to teach me. You’re in my life, and always will be, for a reason, so let’s try and figure out why and how we can be of use to each other.
First of all, Fear, let’s be clear about who you are to me. You are the voices in my head that often caution me or tell me reasons not to do something. You are that feeling in my gut that warns me to stay away from a place, person, or a situation. You and Instinct work together on that. You are also that feeling that sits just near my heart, beneath my breastbone, that makes me think twice before I do anything that could potentially make me feel vulnerable. Even writing this letter to you, you’re there. Hovering. I feel you and I can hear you telling me not to do it, because I may get laughed at. You’re telling me this isn’t a great idea. You really are quite persistent.
You are loudest at night. When I’m lying in bed and I’m thinking about my plans, my family, my choices, my dreams. You pop up and decide now is the time for us to have a debate about it all. Actually, where you’re concerned, it never really is a debate. Not at night anyway. At night, you decide that’s the best time to hit me with your worst-case-scenarios. You do this because you know it’s at night when I’m at my weakest, most vulnerable, and susceptible to you. You are strong. I’ll give you that. You do have power and you know the exact moment when you can really pack that punch.
How you do that, I’m learning, is you have done your homework when it comes to me. You have been like a tiny little audio recorder in my head and heart listening to all the things that may have been said to me or told to me in the past. Whether it was my mother and father (albeit lovingly) telling me to “be careful”, or a culture telling me to not take too many risks, to not be too loud or daring, and that I should always be a “good girl”, never question authority and just do as I am told. Or it is the messages coming to me from movies and magazines saying I needed to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be good enough for anyone, not even myself. Or it is the friends and partners who, through their own Fears, may have said or did things (and through you, I perceived those words) that resulted in me feeling small, invisible, and unworthy. What you do Fear, and this is where you’re quite the master I have to say, is take the words, the bits that you believe fit your purpose so well, edit them together and play them back to me. Some of the words that may have been said to me by others (and that is also something we can look at at some point as to see if it really happened), some of the words I read somewhere, are taken out of context, but put together so well that it sounds so real. I think in today’s language we would call that #FakeNews. I’m not saying all of it is fake, but some of the more powerful messages, I’m thinking now are questionable.
So what is your purpose? I can accept that you are there to protect me. You are that gatekeeper to the dangers to my physical being that you can potentially foresee and I am grateful to you for that. I am grateful for your protection. Fear, that purpose of yours is great. Really. When you show up then, the Fear I feel, manifests in all my senses heightened. I am on guard. My muscles are tense and I am ready to pounce on anyone who threatens me or my family. That is when you, Fear, is being strong for me. What about when you showed up when I found out I was going to have a baby and then you really made your presence felt as soon as he was born? And you’re still here, to this day. As soon as I became a parent you became my constant companion, more so than ever before. And this time more powerful. But, if I was to really look at you another way, your being here with me makes me a more present and powerful mother. Because of your worried whispers, I will do anything and everything for my child. Anything. And. Everything. I will ask a million questions to doctors and teachers if I need to. I don’t care if they think I am being irrational or stupid. I am not afraid of their opinions. Thanks to you. Again, this is your way of making me be strong for myself and my family.
What else? Why else are you here? Why else do you show up when I want to embark on a new path, or risk changing who I am for the potential of who I could become? Why do I hear your chosen voices, that audience in my head, telling me it’s ‘too difficult’, I’m not being ‘realistic’, that’s not how things are ‘always done’, or even as far as ‘who do you think you are?’, and the people whose opinions you thought used to care about ‘will laugh at you’? What are you trying to tell me there? I’m asking because I want to keep an open mind and beating you down won’t help either of us. Neither will shutting you out or pretending you’re not there.
Let me tell you what I have learned so far when I don’t listen to you when you’re like this is that I feel exhilarated for taking a chance. I am energised for going where I haven’t gone before. That moment just before I take the leap into my potential is where you’re there with your red stop sign trying to get me stay on my very own well trodden path. You’re comfortable there because that’s where you have control, it’s where you know the lay of my emotional land. Me taking us somewhere new is scary for you, Fear. I know it. So you try to make your voice louder because you don’t want me to let go of you. But you know what Fear? Yes, I have stopped dead in my tracks when your sign is up, stopped taking the dive, jumping into the unknown. But here’s the thing, I stop and then I walk back a few steps and then run right on through, past your sign. I use your strength gripping me to push me forward. It sounds strange, almost nonsensical. But it’s true. I use that to propel me forward. I used that to help me to feel the exhilaration of jumping out of a plane to skydive, to go whitewater rafting, to jump off a boat into the open water, to swim with sharks, to dive deep into the ocean to witness its beauty, to move to new countries, to step out in front of the world and present the news, to make new friends, to open my heart, to start a blog, to love unconditionally. Those voices of yours are drowned out by the loud thumps of my beating heart, the thumps that are my own cheerleading squad telling me to just try. Just. Try. Just Try. And I know myself now just as I am knowing more about you, is that what I don’t want to feel, more than you in my head and my heart, is Regret. Fear, you come and go. But Regret, well Regret stays forever. And Regret is the most unwelcome guest because, in most cases, I can prevent Regret from coming into my home.
So my friend, and yes you are my friend because you do help me in your own way, let’s continue this conversation, ok? Let’s keep the lines of communication open. I know I am learning about myself through you and that is so valuable to me. You are valuable to me. But let’s also be civil. By all means question what I am doing and I will answer. By all means bring up your concerns and I will address them. Because, Fear, I will continue to grow, you can’t stop me from doing so. So let’s focus on upping my game.
Originally published at https://www.thecitrineroom.com on May 13, 2019.