The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. ~Aung San Suu Kyi
Recently a friend of mine commented that I’m usually pretty positive and I’m usually talking about all the things that I’m doing that help me make progress. He then asked the very incisive question:
What are you not doing? You talk a lot about things you’re working on to progress yourself. There must be something you’re not taking action toward which bothers you. What is it? Why aren’t you doing it?
The question got me thinking. I made a list of many things that I’m not doing that bother me on some level or another. Some of the things on the list include:
- Not doing weight resistant training to help with bone density
- Not quitting my job and going for one that is more appropriate for serving what I feel is closer to my “purpose”
- Expressing as much love as I feel
One thing I noticed, is that nothing on my list is something that someone else thinks I “should” do, and I feel bad about not doing. For me, this is an improvement. A friend of mine has this issue– in that she feels that if a guy pays for her on a date, she “should” have sex with him! And feels bad if she doesn’t. To me, this seems like stinkin’ thinkin, and that’s another story.
The other thing I noticed, is that everything that is on my list of things I’m not doing and feel bad about has something in common. At the root of my list, lies fear.
Fear is sometimes a natural and rational thing to feel. Especially when in danger, as the rather famous book The Gift of Fear talks about, the first few pages detail that rather well, and you can read it in the “Search inside the book” section. This is not the kind of fear I’m talking about.
My fear seems self created because of how I’m thinking about the situation, not because the situation itself holds any real danger or harm. I’m afraid to do these things, and on the other hand I feel bad about not doing them– it’s a no-win situation!
My fear is taking a toll on my happiness. I let my fear prevent me from being healthier and more fulfilled. I let my fear block a deeper connection with loved ones.
If it were not for my friend’s tough question, I might have continued on in some kind of limbo between denial and fear, that makes moving through life feel dense. And if it weren’t for my openness to growth, I may have found his question offensive.
So what is it that I’m afraid of with each action that I am not taking?
- Not doing weight resistant training: Fear of pain/hurting my shoulder more
- Not quitting my job and going for one that is more appropriate for serving what I feel is closer to my “purpose”: Fear of responsibility and failure
- Forgiveness: Fear of what I will tell myself if it happens again
- Expressing as much love as I feel: Fear of getting hurt
If I hadn’t been asked this question, I wouldn’t be able to see some of the ways in which I’m holding myself back, because of the things I tell myself that make me afraid. Being able to examine the fear, helps me be able to respond to it, rather than react.
- Fear of pain/hurting my shoulder more: I don’t have to do the movements that cause pain; Make an appointment with a physical therapist
- Fear of responsibility and failure: Responsible is part of who I want to be; “Failure is not the falling down, but the staying down” (Mary Pickford)
- Fear of being hurt: Being hurt is a part of life, and growing my confidence and ability to take care of myself regardless of what others are doing, or the events in my life, will help be fear emotional pain less and forgiviness is good for the forgiver
- Fear of intimacy: I would regret more not giving my heart and it’s potential breakage than keeping it in a box to rot on its own
These are all things that have taking me a while to think about and work out for myself. The conclusions work for me, and may not work for others. I did not arrive at them by myself, I had help thinking and feeling myself out of my captivating fear.
This ”help” piece is important. Sometimes it is appropriate to ask for or accept outside help, and fear gets in our way of doing this– fear that we will not see ourselves the same if we ask for help, fear that others will not see us the same way, fear about what asking for help means. And while there is some merit to trying to do things on your own, there is also merit to knowing when to seek a source outside oneself– while being able to screen that information against your own sense of truth.
Had I not looked at what I was not doing and why, I would not have an opportunity to take action. The most difficult? Quitting my job and looking for a more appropriate one. I’m fortunate because my circumstances are helping my hand, and if they were not, I would help myself find a way to quit.
- What are you not doing because you are afraid?
- What does inaction cost you?
- What is one step you can take to get started?
I leave you with a quote from a friend of mine in college:
Fear is a creation that is used for control, and creating from fear, from non-reality, is what causes the world we exist in to become dense. ~Paige