Get ready for some heavy introspection! In the past couple of years, a big change has come over me. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on how the way I interact with people and the world in general has changed for the better. I’ve been wondering what the heck sparked the welcome change, and whether I could even describe it other than “I feel better now.”
I come from a “nervous” family, and always have dealt with anxiety, which coupled with being an “extra sensitive person” could be a real hindrance to someone like me, whose goal is a relatively calm life with relatively little stress.
After decades of trying to deal with my lovely symptoms through meditation and self care, I finally got some therapy, which was very helpful and healed up some of those deeply rooted issues from childhood.
When I finally tried some medication, I noticed that the background buzz of anxiety went down just enough that I could really work on some of the other things that were holding me back, most of which were fears created by myself:
- Fear of making mistakes
- Fear of trying new, hard things
- Fear of displeasing a loved one
- Fear of rejection (the big one)
That’s a lot of fear. Those are pretty common, I know, but they sure were intrfering with that peaceful mental state I was aiming for. So, I worked on it.
What Happened Next?
I addressed each of my big fears, head on, thanks to finally having the mental bandwidth to step back and look at them. I made some new mistakes and realized that I learned a lot every time I messed up, so I could do better next time, or help others avoid similar mistakes.
Slowly at first, but then more and more, I tried new things. I’ve talked about some of that before in this blog. I learned to ride the horse until I was no longer afraid of messing up (see above!). I joined the Master Naturalist program. I volunteered for projects at work. And you know what? Nothing bad happened. In face, I experienced moments of joy once I got through the wall of fear that was holding me back.
Fear of displeasing others was huge. Thanks, Dad. All I wanted was to make you happy. I had coping mechanisms and ingrained unproductive reactions up the wazoo. I bent over backwards to please my spouse and friends.
To make this stop, I just had to practice over and over reacting differently and not expecting the worst anytime someone questioned me or criticized me. This is really hard, you know? But I am happy to say that MOST of the time I’m no longer so jumpy and over-reactive.
And as for the fear of rejection, that was my strongest-held issue, but I have to say working hard on it had amazing results. I read a bunch of the early Brene Brown books, where she repeatedly tells the reader that they are just fine the way they are. I started telling myself that. A lot.
I also practiced something that my therapist said, which is that other people are not my mirror. Their opinions of me, reactions to what I do, and ways they treat me are not all my fault. Other people have issues, problems, different perspectives, even general cluelessness that might make them be unkind or thoughtless. I practiced feeling sorry for whatever was wrong with the not-nice, rather than being hurt.
And whoa, that helped. Suddenly a lot of resentment and sadness fell away. I swear that I felt lighter when I genuinely began to FEEL the way I’d been telling myself to. One day I realized that I was no longer engaging in “negative self talk.” I found my self thinking, “I feel pretty good” rather than “no one likes me” (or whatever negative thing was programmed to pop up). I ran around telling the people close to me “I’m fixed!”
I realized only last week that I’ve completely stopped avoiding situations and people that remind me of my “failures” or poor treatment. I bravely dive in, only to find out it’s fine. I’m happily talking to people who hadn’t spoken to me for a couple of years, hanging out with a group of people that I’d felt embarrassed to be with for about five years, and volunteering with the organization where the head honchos “dissed” me and my team well over a decade ago.
I’m Free and Fearless. I am really enjoying life, the people in my life, and the things I am doing, imperfections and all. I like myself, issues bedamned. I like most people, because I think they are doing their best.
People I don’t like, I just don’t hang out with, but I can be cordial with anyone. In today’s world that’s about as good as it gets. Sure, it took me over 60 years to get here, but I’m going to enjoy my remaining fearless years!
I am really grateful that I got the help I needed to identify my fears and how to address them. Yay medicine. Yay books. Yay therapy. Yay patient friends.
How about YOU?
Are you still working on being brave? (Of course you are; I’m still working on it, too.) Are you still stuck on thinking negative thoughts about yourself and just SURE everyone else is doing so, too?
That is perfectly okay. If you know that stuff is going on, you can work towards changing your patterns. It’s the people who have no idea there are other ways of seeing themselves and the world who I feel sad for. Those of you along with me on the road to your own version of happiness, I salute you.
Let’s go! Tell me how you’re doing, if you read this novella!