“May you stand just like a mountain in a storm along the sea and may you always find the answer, to be free.” -James Conlee
It’s been a weird time for me lately. Not good or bad, just kind of weird. I feel like I’m on the verge of a simultaneous breakdown and breakthrough. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that they are actually one in the same.
Over the course of this past year especially, I’ve slowly said a friendly “fuck off” to the 548 defense mechanisms I had available in my toolkit. They were the ones that were always ready to offer me a beer at a party or distract me with some obsession or convince me to close off in any instance where I felt any slightly uncomfortable emotion.
As I’ve said goodbye to these defense mechanisms, I’ve started to feel very exposed and vulnerable. I have nothing to grab on to, nothing to hide behind, nothing to ease my nerves. And…it feels weird and unnerving. But at the same time, it feels so right.
It’s as though the closer I get to breaking free from my self-imposed chains, the scarier it feels and the more exciting it feels. I’m starting to taste what a life free from this tangled web feels like.
During this odd period of growth and transition in my life, I’ve found myself using some choice phrases to stand up for myself, to remind myself of where I want to go, to give a coy middle finger to the things trying to drag me back down.
I wanted to share one of my favorites today…
I’m not going to live the rest of my life in fear.
What this means for me is not running from fear of pain, fear of interacting with new people, fear of showing emotion, fear of certain foods, fear of not fitting in, fear of the future, fear of not being good enough.
When these voices try to reign me back in and tell me, “You can’t handle this social situation without a drink! Are you freaking joking me?!” “You can’t eat that food! Did you read the latest study on it?!” “You’re not talking enough! Talk more! Be better! Be funnier! Do more!”
When these bullying thoughts come, I just laugh at them. I mock them. I see them for what they are: made up stories trying to keep me from my happiness.
I tell them, “I’m not going to live the rest of my life in fear.” With this simple sentence I’m able to regain my footing, bring my attention back to my goals, and stand up against this annoying asshat voice that is trying to bring me down.
Sometimes the thoughts still drag me down. Let’s be real, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But the more I stand my ground, the more I look these thoughts in the eye and say “NO MORE,” the more I empower myself to live the life I want, the less power they have over me.
My friend told me a story about a 75-year-old woman acquaintance who’s struggled with self-confidence and self-worth her whole life. Recently, the woman decided she’d had enough. She took a piece of tape and wrote “I don’t give a shit” on it, and stuck it on the inside of her wrist. When she’d go into public and get those familiar feelings of insecurity, she’d look down at her wrist, repeat the words “I don’t give a shit,” and continue on with her head held a little taller.
While I think this is such an awesome story and admire that woman for addressing her insecurities despite her age, I personally don’t want to reach age 75 never having gone after what I want or lived the life I want to live because of fear.
We’ll keep reaching for the alcohol when we feel awkward in a social situations if we don’t make a change. We’ll continue to just stay home because it’s easier than meeting new people and possibly being rejected. Those mean, bullying thoughts will keep coming if we don’t do something about them.
Find a phrase that works for you. Something that empowers you. Something that reminds you that you’re not going to take it anymore. You’re going to do it! You’re going to do the thing! No matter what “the thing” is, you’re just going to do it.
We can’t overcome a fear of flying while staying on the ground. We can’t overcome social anxiety by staying inside our houses. The more you expose yourself to the scary situations, while taking an empowered stance, the less power that fear will have over you, until finally, it just withers away into nothingness.
Defeat fear by feeding it nothing. The power is in you.