Naming our Fears

I have lists of blog ideas from my unplugged sabbatical experience, but when it comes to writing, I need to describe what’s alive for me in the moment. Right now, it’s fear. The fear isn’t strong or overwhelming, but it’s present. I’ve said “yes” to work projects that stretch me in good ways. I’ve said “no” to working on nights and weekends. Both stir up fear. One is a beautiful leap (and with these leaps, excitement and fear arise). The other is a commitment to my well-being, yet it goes against the stream—the culturally-endorsed habit of being connected and available, of working harder.

I’m stretching myself with my mindfulness teaching and speaking, yet I’m cutting back my work hours. My inner-critic screams, “You’re going to fail. You should be afraid.” Interestingly, the more I practice non-doing, awareness, and compassion, the more effective my teaching and speaking. My “yes” and “no” are compatible. Still, there’s a feeling of fear.

Desmond Tutu said, “We shouldn’t think we are superwomen and supermen. To hold down emotions in a controlled environment is not wise. I would say go ahead and even shout out your sadness and pain. This can bring you back to normal. It’s locking them up and pretending that they’re not there that causes them to fester and become a wound.”

So, I’m shouting out my fear:
I fear I’ll disappoint people.
I fear that people who love and respect me might change their minds.
I fear that I might unintentionally hurt someone if I’m not paying enough attention.

Writing these down (speaking them aloud) brought me to tears. Good tears. Because I realize how much I care. And how much I cannot control the world.

I included this post on my Facebook page, inviting others to “shout out” their fears. Most people didn’t comment, choosing instead to “like” or “love” my post. But one brave reader shared: “I fear I am not worthy. I fear failure so deep that I won't even start. I fear opening myself up to the people around me.” We all can relate to these fears. It’s liberating to speak them aloud, bring them into the open. In this process, the voice of fear has less power and we feel less alone. Instead of letting fear fester, we can speak it aloud, recognize its limitations, and choose to move forward (through fear) to a more wholehearted life.

What do you fear? Please “shout it out” in the comments (or at least make space for it within yourself). I’m here and I’m listening.