Lately I’ve been noticing how much I talk myself out of certain things. Sometimes it’s small stuff – taking that walk, buying that slice of pie, spending hours listening to music instead of working. Often, it’s bigger things that I really want to do, especially things that scare me a little, like submitting to a publication I want to write for.
My meditation and mindfulness practice makes me more aware of what my mind does, how quickly it reacts to a thought about something I want with “No, because…” I see more clearly how when this happens, I cut myself off from even feeling what it would be like to experience something. It’s like my inner, punitive critic butts in and starts calling the shots.
Do y’all have an inner, punitive critic? I definitely do.
Part of what bothers me so much about this habit is that it comes from a place of feeling undeserving, like somehow I haven’t “earned” the thing I want, no matter how big or small. It also keeps me from listening to my intuition about what’s possible and disconnects me from a huge part of creative inspiration – curiosity.
Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something. It’s following that desire even when we don’t know what we will discover. It’s trusting the process. Some of the things I’m most proud of accomplishing started as little ideas, a small voice inside that asked “What if?…” It’s amazing to me that even after seeing those things through, there’s still a part of me that is afraid to trust myself.
That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Fear.
Fear of making the “wrong” choice. Fear of looking like a damn fool. Fear of committing to something when I don’t know the outcome.
The list goes on.
I’m learning that the way to move past fear is to engage it. To pay attention when it comes up and not look away. To face it directly in the eyes and change our relationship to it.
Fear often comes up for me in the form of resistance. Shutting down and saying “No, this won’t work.” Not even trying. I’m learning to notice it. To recognize that when I have an idea or a desire and “No!” comes shooting up, it’s time to pay attention.
Here are some of the ways I’m working through fear:
Being mindful. Practicing meditation and mindfulness really helps me to be more aware of my mental habits. It helps me to notice what happens with my thoughts, when they go straight to the worst-case scenario, when they lead me down a shame spiral, when they pull me into a story about the past or future which isn’t even happening.
Recognizing it. I’m getting better at recognizing when I’m feeling fear, and being able to decipher it from other feelings. I’ve gotten more clear about how fear is often beneath layers of emotion, like boredom or frustration. I’m learning more about the kinds of situations which tend to trigger me, and am making an effort to focus on the actual fear itself and not get caught up in the drama of what’s happening.
Investigating. As I become more aware of what I’m afraid of, I’m asking myself why. What is it that makes me afraid of submitting my writing? Why am I afraid of telling my friend about my new creative idea? Getting to the bottom of it – understanding what specifically I’m afraid of – makes it easier to isolate the fear rather than just having a vague umbrella of fears I’m reacting to.
Mostly, I’m being kind to myself. Facing fears isn’t exactly fun. Sometimes it really sucks, especially as I see patterns and notice how it’s usually the same kinds of things that scare me, even over years. The thing about paying closer attention to them is it’s easier to notice how many there are. And I remind myself that it isn’t about not having any fears at all, it’s about moving through them as they come up.
What’s one fear you have that you can start working through?
Take the next step.
You got this.
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