It’s a habit. And like many other habits, it began as a response, a seemingly reasonable solution to an immediate demand on me.
I must’ve been in middle school, where the pressure to conform mounts. I began this habit of watering down my potent nature and wearing a mask. Not a real mask, like the Chewbacca Mom wore (LOL), but a veil of sorts.
You see, when I was a child, I would be the one who’d sit my younger siblings and cousins down and made them watch and/or participate in my improv variety shows. I had a big personality and dreamed BIG dreams. I was always very curious and pursued deep understandings about everything. I kept my family on their toes. My mother’s word for me: Vivacious.
I was (and still am) quite tender, also. I empathize with people who wrestle with struggles. I hurt deeply and cry easily. But I learned as I was growing up that that reaction would often communicate weakness. I had had enough moments of being the prey among my peers to encourage me to take my feelings underground.
So, I hid.
Not physically, but emotionally. That’s how the habit began.
I began writing then (back in middle school)…mostly poetry and in journals. I have boxes of notebooks full of my musings since the mid-80s. I read them now and cringe at the memories (and the grammar). It’s funny how it can feel like the events just occurred. Some moments, good and bad, are timeless.
By high school, I had mastered the expression of this hidden version of myself. I was still very outgoing and engaging but I kept my whole true self a secret…and continued this habit into my college years.
In my 20s, I made a commitment to open and authentic living. I embraced my strength and sensitivity and built a life I’m (mostly) proud of. However, it was just a couple of years ago that I began to feel the confines of not living my life fully expressed. (link) Apparently, I had traded one veil for some other ones…
Humans are complex creatures with needs that must be fulfilled. Basic ones, like food and shelter as well as psychological and self-actualization needs which support our emotional and spiritual selves. Part of our psychological need, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is a sense of belonging. Anything that appears to threaten the security of belonging tends to fuel the fire of fear in us.
I sometimes fear the dynamic, unique creation that is me. There is no one like me. No one with my voice pattern, my fingerprint, nor my eye’s iris swirls. My passions and how I choose to express them is like no other.
And that scares the “bajeebies" out of me!
Our culture speaks of celebrating the individual while nudging each person toward conformity--A classic expression of theory vs. practice.
Every entrepreneur that I speak to has a few choice items that they insist that I “should be doing” or “have to do.” Even when I know their suggestions are not right for me, I begin to doubt my resolve and consider it…for fear of missing something or alienating my colleagues. If nothing else, it makes me sensitive to the unique ideas of my clients…the ones no one gets but them.
It is out of fear that I am hesitant to embrace the big opportunities that are right for me, too. I ask myself, “What if I experience haters? What if I am rejected? What if I am found out that I don’t have it all together? Then I have to speak sternly to me and say, “Regina! What type of example are you setting for those you encourage and support? What are you modeling for them...and your own daughters?”
No pressure, right?!?!
It’s annoying how old habits of retreat, born out of fear can resurface, take on a new form (on the surface), and worm their way back into practice. I had to pull up this weed at its root. I think that was when I experienced the most recent paradigm shift in my thinking. I caught a glimpse of what could be and got excited by Possibility.
It was around that time that my husband and I were enjoying some alone time at a bookstore. (Don’t you just LOVE bookstores!) I stumbled upon a copy of Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women. This is a beautiful book of interviews with women creative entrepreneurs from around the world. It is both awe-inspiring and encouraging. The women appear statuesque yet approachable. They each speak of their journeys and share how they uncovered their own ways to embrace their leadership and break from the cultural herds.
The images of these dynamic women, doing their “thang” in their workspaces, as Masters of their Universes, resonated with me. (I am among the 65% of learners who are visual.) But what touched me deeply was the repeated reference to the importance of self-identifying your success. In other words, success equates to what you say is success. Your business reflects what you decide it should reflect. You get to be intentional about your standards and how they shape the culture of your business.
Here’s my biggest take away/action item: When I saturate my thoughts with BIG ideas for the business I have envisioned and have intentionally fashioned…you know, the business that aligns my passions and my purpose that brings something good into the marketplace…my faith ignites.
Get the imagery…I am a warrior, fully suited in armor, with my shield of faith in hand. Then the nasty, fiery darts of fear cannot influence my decision making, my reactions, nor my pursuits. So when fear comes at me with one of the same ole questions (you ever notice how fear often shows up in a question…?) like, ”What if you fail?” My answer is, "If I fail, then I learn.”
Thomas Edison put it this way when working on the lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Now that’s a picture of faith and persistence in the face of so-called “failure.”
Oh, but fear, how relentless it can be…follows up with another jab, aimed a bit deeper, “Who do you think you are?”
I’ve heard this question before…from the mouths of haters…naysayers…even friends (though they term the question differently). This question hits at the core and seeks to have me to question whether I’m reaching for too much. (link) It would like me to look in the mirror and not see the fabulous creation that I am. It also would like me to remember the past times when I have worked in concert with its limiting underlying beliefs and played it safe. (That’s Shame, y’all, another cohort of fear.)
Then I remember an excerpt from Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles…
"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, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were 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."
So, Fear, who do you think YOU are?
Until next time…