Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scaredy Cat

I have always admired people who are bold and unafraid and chase their dreams without fear, without holding back. I'm not one of those people and it sucks. There is not a day that go by when I don't feel fear in my gut, a fear that so far I have been unable to shake in a way that helps "Me" move forward and grow.

Right now, the fear is about going back to work. In September, my youngest will be going to school full time which will allow me to work once again. I have been home for almost 9 years now, and though I have worked from home on-and-off these last 9 years, being home with the kids was always my priority. There are a few reasons why I need to go back to work, but I find myself having stage-fright and seem unable to make any decisions about what I will do, which leaves "Me" feeling small and unable to move forward.

That's Me in my shell, afraid to stand tall and brave the world. My shell is my house and life as I know it now.
The options within my midst are full of opportunities. Though I have made peace with the idea that right now, I cannot be a birth doula regularly, I am hoping to transition to postpartum work and breastfeeding support. I would also like to start teaching Lamaze classes again, and Breastfeeding preparation classes as well. My main motivation for teaching is that, except for a very small number of classes, I find that most expectant couples do not receive a preparation for birth and postpartum that truly benefits them. I teach for an organization that only offers one-day birth preparation classes during which I can only devote 10 mn to the immediate postpartum period and 10 mn to breastfeeding. Teaching these classes in very frustrating because I can't look these couples in the eyes and tell them without a doubt that after my classes, they'll be ready for birth and parenthood. No way.

So it's not the motivation that prevents me from doing all these things, it's the execution. I always get pumped up about my ideas, but then fear rolls its ugly head and starts chipping away at my motivation. I'm afraid about having to call people and asking them for something (for exemple, asking strangers about renting space to teach classes), I'm afraid about the commitment and the responsibility of putting my ideas into execution. I'm afraid that I will let people down and that they will hate my classes, and me. I'm afraid that I'm not competent enough (I mean, who am I really to think I can do this). I'm afraid with how these decisions will affect my family (if I work evenings and week-ends, how will my kids get to their activities....we only have one working car right now). Will they resent Mom for not being there on week-nights and week-ends? I'm afraid of letting colleagues and friends down. I'm afraid they'll think I'm a quitter (because of my past maybe) or just not-committed to the cause. I'm afraid that they'll think less of me because these colleagues/friends matter a lot to me.

That's just a small sample of what goes on in my head and how fear takes over...every day. To say that I'm energized and ready to take on the world would be the biggest lie. I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting with fear. I want fear to let me go and get out of my life. I want to be bold, and brave and make my dreams happen. Instead, I continue to let fear dictate what my life is. It sucks. It hurts. It leaves me in pieces.

My therapist has encouraged me to sit with my fear, so I can better understand it. The more you fight it, she says, the more power it has over you. So I've tried. I've tried to just feel the fear, connect with it, understand it. I know what it's about. It's about confidence, it's about my history about pleasing people. Understanding it hasn't made it any less powerful at this point. There are days when I can feel the fear and, because it's a day when I feel good, I can stare it down and say "I know I'm afraid, but I have to do it anyways." Small victories are achieved on that day. Yesterday, for example, I managed to finally send an e-mail to a store owner about renting the space (it took me three weeks to work up the courage). The rest of the day, the fear had doubled in intensity because now that I done this, what would happen next? If the person said yes, now it meant that I actually had to do it and make it happen. If she said no, the fear was that now I'd have to go and talk to someone else about  renting a space. Then there are other days, when I'm not feeling good (insert tired, PMS) and then the fear cripples me to the point where I can't do anything at all to move my ideas and dream forward. Instead, I turn around in circles, check my e-mail, facebook, or favourite sites about 100 times a day, and hate myself for letting fear stop me from achieving anything.

At this point, I don't have a strategy. Breathing through the fear doesn't work. Exercising could work at giving me confidence, but lately, it has been put in the back burner (10 days of sick kids at home with no time for Me will do that). Talking myself down sometimes works but most of the time doesn't. There is something that my therapist said to me the other day that helped a little. When talking about a decision her daughter was agonizing over, she told her daughter "why worry about this right now? We're not there yet. Let's get step 1 done first. When that's done, then you'll see what your options are and which one feels right." I thought that was great advice...Her daughter is lucky that her mom is such an amazing mother who happens to be a therapist. As it relates to me, maybe I could talk down my fear if I broke my dreams into small steps and only thought about them one at a time.

Something else was revealing to me the other day. I was reading the January edition of "O" the Oprah Magazine and she was talking about creating her television network. A question in the interview was "Did you feel any fear" about creating the network, and Oprah responded: "I have never felt such fear in all my life". I was stunned. What do you mean Oprah feels fear? She is one of the most successful woman in television history and she's still scared? I know it sounds naive to think that this confident, amazing, accomplished, successful woman can be shielded from fear, but at the same time, reading that she was afraid of starting something new made me feel...normal (rather than the self-loathing "fucked up" I feel about myself sometimes).  She then talks about how she managed the anxiety. She says "There was an underlying instinct that this was a divine opportunity and I had to separate the opportunity from the fear of it (.....) For anybody who is thinking about taking a risk, you have to always come back to: What are your fundamental beliefs about yourself and your reason for doing whatever? So I thought, Well if it doesn't work (the network), that still doesn't take away the reason I wanted to do it." And I would add, it doesn't take away from anything you accomplished so far, or were trying to accomplish.

What is most frustrating to Me, is that I know I have been given a gift. I am good at what I do and it drives me crazy that I let the fear prevent me from taking the next step forward. In the end, I think the difference between Me and the people I admire is not that I have fear and they don't. Rather, it's that when they feel the fear, they don't let themselves be stopped by it. They work with it and manage to overcome it.

How do you get past fears? What is your relationship with fear? How do you cope with fear? I look forward to reading your comments about it.

Today, writing about my fears and opening up feels very good, so my Me is happy. I'm also hoping to paint my nails today, so that the colour I paint them (bold red) will inspire me to be bold too.

What will you do for your Me today?


  1. I have taken a course called the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (offered here in Ottawa through I know it sounds cliche to say, but this completely changed my life. I should be clear - it didn't change ME (I'm still slightly neurotic, anxious and somewhat passive-aggressive!) but it changed the way I relate to myself and my world. Being forced to sit in meditation for 45min every day for 2 months is a seriously eye opening process. Although I don't regularly practice meditation now, I still use the skills I learned on a daily basis, and am able to objectively look at fear in my life. (p.s. I'm looking for a good therapist! If you're able to, stop by my site and send me an email with her info)

  2. How relevant to this day and age! I just read a quote by Margaret Young this morning on Brene Brown's blog. You should check it out if you get a chance...basically, be who You truly are, do what you are meant to do, and everything else will fall in to place and then some. So true!
    Hope you have many awesome "Me" momments!