So… Yesterday, I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take me to write about dealing with fears, and had to run to meet with my friend for my last night in Berkeley.
This is where I left off:
I was starting to worry for a while there. I still have a lingering attachment to my non-friend, but I’m no longer letting fears of “not-good-enoughness” stop me from moving along.
What? You thought I didn’t get those? It happens to all of us.
The issue is not whether or not you get them, but how you deal with them. No, it’s not a matter of feeling the fear and barreling past it anyway.
Your fear is there to help you.
I know it doesn’t quite feel that way, but trust me on this. Your fear is trying to protect you.
But I have to run to meet my friend for our last night in Berkeley, so I’ll continue this in my next post.
You might be wondering,…
How in the world would my fear help me with anything??
As I mentioned yesterday, our fear is trying to protect us. By sending a signal that we should avoid something, our fear’s goal is for us to not get hurt. In terms of our interpersonal relationships, the function our fear attempts to serve is to make sure that we don’t feel lonely and unloved.
But many times, acting out of this fear will result in the very same thing it’s trying to protect us from. We become isolated and start feeling down on ourselves.
How does this work?
Well, when it comes to our interpersonal relationships, we often erect walls out of fear. We keep our guard up, plan what we will say and what we won’t.
We play games of strategy to get other people to like us.
We think this will bring us relief from our loneliness, that if we can get people to love and appreciate us, we won’t feel so alone.
But what happens when people respond positively to this person we’ve created? Do we feel better? Sure. A little. But…
The loneliness doesn’t go away…
The sadness lingers…
That nagging feeling that there’s something missing is still there.
Why is that??
All that effort to show our best side to others, to suppress all those bad thoughts and impulses, to always be on our best behavior.. And that annoying, cloying feeling is still there?
It certainly doesn’t help when we think we are doing our best, and it still doesn’t work. We beat ourselves further down. What’s wrong with us? Why can’t we just get it right??
The reason why this defense mechanism doesn’t quite work is simple:
Could you feel truly loved when the person people are responding to is only half of you?
Of course not! You would feel people don’t really know all of you, and they only love the person you pretend to be so that they like you.
Keeping all those thoughts, feelings, personality traits that we deem unacceptable hidden takes a huge toll. It takes a lot of energy. A lot of worry about what other people might think.
I used to portray myself as someone who always had everything under control. I didn’t need any help, and was super confident. As far as everyone else was concerned, I was someone who knew where she was going and never doubted herself.
I was also a total people-pleaser, and always put others’ needs before mine because I wanted them to like me. I would postpone fulfilling my own needs and goals, just so I could hear people say what a nice, helpful, unselfish person I was.
But I didn’t believe them anyway.
If they only knew! If they could hear my thoughts, they would all realize how unsure I am, how I really don’t feel like helping them but only do it so they like me. They would see what a farce I am and leave me.
I kept pretending. But despite all the nice comments and praise, I still wasn’t happy. I still felt lonely and unloved.
And I would complain that no one really cared about me. They never asked me how I was doing, or offered to help me or keep me company. Also, as much as I honestly enjoyed helping others, I would be mad at myself for not devoting enough time to achieving my own goals.
I felt trapped.
If I spoke up, asked for help, or stopped putting everyone else before me, they would all realize what a selfish mess I am. No one would love me.
I couldn’t do that. But I also couldn’t keep beating myself down.
As you can see, my fear was well-intentioned and wanted to make sure I felt loved. And it was operating under the assumption that hiding all my imperfections and insecurities was the way to achieve that.
I sometimes still slip back into this way of life, like I did these past couple of weeks.
Hey! Don’t judge! No one is perfect!
And that’s exactly the point.
I am a work in progress, perfect in my imperfections, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What point would there be to life, if it wasn’t to learn to be better? And how could I learn to be better if there was no room for improvement?
Once I came to this realization, I was able to accept both my fear and my so-called “weaknesses.” I was able to see my fear for what it was, and make somewhat of a deal with it.
I told it I understood what it was trying to do, and that I really truly appreciated the attempt to help. I just wanted to try a new approach. I felt it might be good for me to show my whole self to others, the bad bits as well as the good ones. If I could learn to love all of me, then others should be able to do the same. Maybe not everyone, but the right people would.
I asked my fear to trust me, and promised it that I would take good care of myself and make sure I didn’t get hurt. And if it didn’t work out, we could always go back to the way things were before.
Our fears are a part of us. Ignoring them is like ignoring ourselves.
It’s sending ourselves a message that there is something within us that doesn’t deserve to be loved and appreciated. This sets the stage for more insecurities and more fears. A downward spiral.
Our fear isn’t our enemy. There’s no need to attack it. Fighting it is fighting ourselves.
Instead of ignoring our fears and trudging on (or, as they say, “feel the fear and do it anyway”), this method of acknowledging our fear and examining the underlying reasons for it allows us to address our blocks in a very accepting and loving way.
This reverses the downward spiral, and in trusting ourselves to open up, we take the second step towards a more loving relationship with ourselves.
Lastly, it is only when we love and show ourselves fully that our relationships with others will be truly satisfying.
That’s when that nagging feeling, all of a sudden, disappears.