Fear was like this three-headed monster that hung over me for most of my life. When I look back at my youth and my early (and even into mid-) adulthood, most of the memories that I do have (I’m missing many) feel heavy. As an empath, I felt everything and I had no language to understand it. I didn’t know that it was Mary’s anger, or the cashier’s pain, or my friend’s frustration that I was feeling, I just knew that I was feeling crushed by a need to take care of everyone and an overwhelming fear that I would never be able to do so and that I would somehow be hurt in the process.
The fear grew and grew until it encompassed just about every area of my life. I was a straight-A student afraid of failing, an all-star athlete afraid of not making a goal or hitting a handspring on the vault. When I discovered alcohol and drugs in high school, the pressure finally felt relieved. I felt like I could say, “Fuck it!” without caring as much what that really meant. I began hiding behind a wall while simultaneously building it higher and higher. I still performed well, but even that just became bricks and mortar for the sealing of my self-imposed limitations.
I was terrified of putting myself out into the world in a real way, of being vulnerable, of feeling more than I already felt. I was so, so scared to feel. It was too much and the thought of failing in anything that was a true expression of who I was felt too scary to even attempt. I stayed small, safe, hidden. I deflected, projected, and pushed.
I had many mini-turning points towards becoming courageous, beginning with sobriety. Committing to not drinking or drugging on a day-to-day basis was huge and it gave me a glimpse of a different possibility, one in which I could actually be awake in my own life. Lots of energy healing helped me to start peeling away the layers of self-deprecation that I had layered on over the years and gave me a glimpse of my potential. It also helped me to shift patterns around past trauma that were contributing to my fear.
After a workshop with Jennifer Pastiloff, I decided to do one thing every day that scared me regardless of whether that one thing was to open a piece of mail, accept a phone call, or tell someone I loved them. Every time I felt scared, I asked myself if I could do it anyway, despite the fear. Almost always the answer was yes. Sometimes I had to put a thing or two on a back burner and do something a little less frightening that day instead. And eventually – though honestly it was relatively very quickly – things just didn’t have the same hold over me anymore. What happened was that I built a faith muscle that showed me over and over again that no matter what came to pass, I was okay.
This shift in perception allowed me to move fully onto my path as a healer and coach, and it was what now allows me to help others to do the same. I have had to say “yes” over and over again. Sometimes it is still hard. Sometimes I need a friend or a colleague to see the fear in my eyes and remind me that I am ready and that I can do it before I can jump. And sometimes I take things really slowly because it just feels better to do so.
Originally, the meaning of the word courage was, “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” I love this. When I tell my heart, I feel good despite the fear that may have been there. And when I tell my heart by expressing the most authentic me that I can out in the world, my heart expands and fills with even more love that can be shared.
Finding our path and shifting onto it is an act of courage and perseverance. It asks us to open ourselves up fully and completely in a way that allows us to express our gifts in the world without fear of judgment or failure. It demands that we be vulnerable and trust.
I have found my edge. My comfort zone has space for discomfort now and is ever-widening. I am myself on the other side of fear – not without it, but not within it either. It no longer defines me and it no longer tells me what I can or cannot do. It has become a guidepost and when it pops up, I know that I have to step up. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.