NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
Most of us have fears which could be considered irrational. We can be deathly afraid of things which really cannot hurt us. Some of these fears impact us in fairly minor ways. For example, if you’re afraid of clowns, you may avoid the circus, but this fear likely won’t impact you to any large degree. Likewise, if you are terrified of thunder but live in an area where it rarely even rains, you won’t have to face your fear on a regular basis.
Fear Makes Our Lives Smaller
Other fears really do have the effect of greatly limiting our life experience. Our lives can become dramatically smaller as a result of our fears, whether rational or irrational. Many people are horrified at the thought of public speaking. In fact, this fear often places above the fear of death in many surveys. There was a ring of truth to Jerry Seinfeld’s joke that most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral! While it’s true that we can all flub a presentation and appear foolish as a result, is this really a fate worse than death?
I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for six years and I have seen the look of abject terror on the faces of guests and new members when they have to get up and speak for the first time, even to just say their names and answer a simple opening question. Some of these people are able to overcome their speaking fears, while others let those worries stop them and we no longer see them at meetings.
I used to work with a woman who remained stuck in a dead-end job because moving to the next level would involve her giving presentations. She was so terrified at the thought of speaking in front of others that she preferred to remain in a job which gave her little joy or fulfillment.
Lying to Ourselves
We often tell ourselves that our fears aren’t that big of a deal. We lie to ourselves and say that these worries aren’t really limiting our lives. Yet if we really look within, we may realize that we are indeed avoiding situations and opportunities so that we don’t have to face that which we fear.
Facing My Irrational Fear
I recently decided to face a fear which is not only irrational; it’s so ridiculous that I am embarrassed to write about it and thus “out” myself for being so silly. Yet this blog is about healing myself and helping others to heal, so I will banish my embarrassment in service of the lesson!
As I’ve mentioned previously, I suffered from eating disorders for much of my life and was dangerously underweight on and off for a number of years. I used to be victim to the tyranny of the scale and would weigh myself on a daily basis (or even several times a day). I would allow the number revealed by this electronic device to dictate my moods and emotions and would make it mean significant things about my character. If the number was low, I was a strong, disciplined, and acceptable person. If the number was high, I was weak and disgusting by comparison.
How a Win Became a Fear
As I recovered from anorexia, I gave up weighing myself because I found it difficult not to attribute meaning to the three digit number displayed by the scale. I considered my abandonment of scales to be a great win and a powerful sign of my healing. However, over the years, I actually developed a deep fear of the scale and would steer clear of weighing myself at virtually all costs. I would even avoid going to the doctor for fear that I would be asked to step on the dreaded scale. When I absolutely needed to visit a physician, I would either ask not to be weighed or I’d weigh backwards and request that they not tell me the number.
I recently realized that I had become just as much a victim of the scale by fearing it than when I used to step on it habitually. I had again let this otherwise benign device dictate my moods and my behavior! I had let a number – or the fear of a number – mean something about my worth as a human being. Rationally, I know that I am so much more than a number, that I am a person of infinite worth, as we all are. I also know that my weight is my weight regardless of whether or not I know the number. Avoiding what’s so doesn’t make it not so…
A Powerful Decision
I decided a little over a week ago that this had to stop! I decided to face my fear and weigh myself, something I hadn’t done in close to 2.5 years… As I prepared to step on the scale last week, I found myself shaking and filled with trepidation. But you know what? Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the number, the experience wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I actually felt much better about myself for facing a fear and my life expanded a bit from the act of doing something which scared me. I know that the next time I weigh myself, it will be easier, and eventually it will hold no more fear for me than brushing my teeth!
Do That Which You Fear
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
- How much more aliveness would we experience if we heeded the words of this wise woman?
- How much bigger would our lives be if we no longer allowed our fears, rational or irrational, to stop us?
Here’s something to try… Make a list of everything that scares you. Write down the big things and the small things, the significant and the trivial. Then decide which fears you are ready to wipe out. If tackling one fear each day seems like too much, how about one per week or one per month?
By starting “The Healing Project,” I set the intention to heal myself and my life in one year. I now understand that a big part of my healing lies in facing my fears, in exercising my strength and my power. I am stronger than I think I am – we are all stronger than we think we are!
I will close this post with three powerful quotes, the first of which I’m sure you’ve seen before (but which bears repeating!):
- “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
- “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson
- “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman