I think everyone deals with a certain amount of fear. Sometimes it's so deeply ingrained that it's not even recognized as fear, but just written off as a character trait. I mean that's fair, right? Personalities are different. So, how do you know if that's just the way you were put together, or if you're keeping yourself self small by some self-imposed limitations? Well, for me it's been when it's getting in the way of something I want or causing pain. Pain is always a great indicator that you're hitting the brick wall of your own resistance.
What happens to me is I outgrow a trait, but I still want to hang on, because I have absolutely no idea what's on the other side.
This is typically when I know it's time to dig a little deeper. The funny thing about fear is, as well as I think I'm hiding it, it's usually floating closer to the surface than I previously thought. Whether I'm hiding behind excuses, settling for less, or chalking it up to bad luck, people can see it. If nothing else they can feel it, sense it. Then it'll show itself and if you're anything like me, you'll ignore it. Then I'll get frustrated and it'll come up again, and maybe this time I'll be a little more ready to do something about it. Then it'll come from the outside, probably someone who loves me. In my case it came up a bunch of times, all in the best of intentions.
All of these instances give me the old cringe that make me shrivel. I mean, I know they're right, and they speak from experience, but I just don't want to right now. The thing about life is it gives you what you need, when you need it. The more you block and push back, the more you need it. A fact, I'm truly sorry about. Sorry for myself and sorry for everyone else. I feel your pain, but you'll save yourself a big headache if you drop the barriers and open the floodgates.
So, what's my fear? Well you may have guessed it, it's the fear of being seen, being vulnerable. Authenticity isn't a problem for me. I'm honest to the extent that I can see myself. I've just always labeled myself a private person, which is all good and well, some things in life are private. But what I'm talking about is an overall fear of vulnerability, if people get too close what will happen? Am I deficient in some way? When people get too close will they see that? Yeah, maybe they will, better create this buffer that keeps me at a comfortable distance between me and everything that I want. You know what this really translates to?
Hiding, basically. Thinking that when something about me is just a little bit better, I'll be able to share, because that'll be the day. When really everyday is a good time to drop your guard and let people in. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say. I'll tell you that much up front. Everyone is not for everyone, but everyone is for someone. Furthermore, everyone can make a difference for someone.
So, here I am with both feet in shallow water, hesitant to go any further. Realizing that I've valued the opinions of others more than I value what I think of myself. What I want for myself. It sounds silly when I write it all out, but we're all members of communities and families with their own uniques values and expectations. I think there's this fear that lingers, that somehow if we change or acknowledge that our values aren't the ones that were lined up for us at birth, that we'll no longer belong to that community. The truth is, maybe we won't. Maybe if we abandon everything laid out for us to believe about ourselves, maybe we won't hold the same place in our families that we once did. Even if I'm miserable, it's comfortable, addicting even, because it's familiar. The ability to hide in plain sight and continue walking on a path that I may not have been conscious of choosing.
There have actually been times in my life where I care so much what other people think that I lose touch with what my organic opinion is. It's not self-depricating and I can definitely think for myself, but there are times in life when I'm reworking things for a better fit, and just wonder what everyone around me will think, or someone else's voice rings louder in my mind than my own voice.
That's ok, for a while, natural even, but carrying it around with me as this tiny ball of anxiety in my gut, is not. It's not okay at all, because it's denying my own value based on what someone else thinks I'm worth.
So, then what about other people? We all come to a place where we have to face people who want to put others down for being different or changing. These people are likely dealing with their own deficiencies, looking to point fingers at others to say, "I'm better than the next guy and I can prove it because.." Because they're wearing the wrong thing, or that was my idea first, or they're single, of they're not as happy as they seem, or their work isn't as good as someone else's, or they're listening to the wrong kind of music, or they have the wrong belief system (I could go on) and these are the ways we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we're at least doing better than one person we know. Except it never lasts. It will never last, because it's not real. Putting out someone else's light doesn't make yours shine any brighter. It's hard to remember when your light is the one being squashed, but just try. Those people are suffering in their own way, too. You can always shift that current to a nicer place, you have that power. It takes practice. (Practice I need.)
I think it's important to have a preference to know who you are, what you believe in, what you'll stand for, and what you won't. On the turn of that same coin, you're preferences don't make you any better (or any worse) than anybody else. Feel free to like or not like as many things as you want, but falling into the falsehood that one belief system, one lifestyle, or a certain amount of money makes you more valuable is not only false, but isolating.
Acknowledging your strengths doesn't mean you're more valuable than another person, just that you bring something different to the table, a different perspective, built upon countless life experiences that all conspired to bring you here, at this point in time to make decisions to fear the unknown or to set yourself fee and embrace that you may not know how it'll unfold, but it will indeed, unfold.
While rejection obviously feels bad and acceptance feels good, compromising parts of yourself for acceptance, love, or attention will just run you down and wear you out. Whereas stepping into the parts of yourself you don't yet know, is going to be terrifying, but on the other side is freedom.
See, I've reached a point where I wonder how many people I've failed to see, because I was far too worried how they were seeing me. I could sit around and lament that I didn't have this information when I was much younger, or I can be grateful that I'm still young enough to use it. To be able to identify with people's fear instead of feeding it and making it larger. To consciously choose how and with whom I spent my time, who's opinion I value, and who is reaching out from their own insecurities. To learn to value nothing above myself, and respect that someone needs what I have to offer, and I'm not doing anyone any good by trying to be a second rate version of someone else.