Fear and I Have an Interesting Relationship.
Even as a child, if something scared me, I’d take a moment and determine whether that fear was warranted (e.g., approaching two bear cubs while hiking) or not (e.g., jumping out of an airplane while strapped to someone who’s not only extremely skilled, but also fairly interested in living through the experience).
Fear is not an automatic “no” any more than it is an automatic “yes.”
Fear is something that simply gives me pause — and generally, a great excuse to try something new.
What am I afraid of?
Recently, a friend challenged me to explore what I’m afraid of.
For weeks, I couldn’t really come up with anything… nothing… and then it hit me.
I’ve always been quite good at listening to myself — be it my mind, my body, my emotions — and taking care of whatever ails me. This works well with illnesses, environments, self-care, outlooks, etc. What I hadn’t paid much attention to was correcting toxic impressions — you know, that bad taste of something that leaves you with visceral reactions the next time you encounter it, regardless of whether or not new said-thing is good/bad/indifferent? For me, this included working situations that involve going into an office. Yeah, it was that vague. That’s how truly traumatic and noxious my last office experience was.
Now, I’ve been working since then. Choosing my clients carefully, signing up for work I can get excited about, and being proud of what I produce — these are healing endeavors. These things can right the despair and heal the dehumanizing wounds of surviving a toxic work environment. And I thought I was good. I thought I’d healed and was ok. But all I had done (which, to be fair, is a large amount of healing,) was to heal my relationship with working, not my relationship with employers << this involves other people.
I’m not generally shy about mentioning that the Universe likes to provide me with the opportunities I need, and this is no exception. I was offered a job. A good job. Doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. With one hitch: I had to work in an office. The amount of anxiety this brought up was surprising. I knew I enjoyed working for myself, but I hadn’t viewed it as avoidance… until now. I knew my last office experience was awful, but I hadn’t viewed it as emotionally damaging. If I’m being honest, though, it was. And there’s a part of that which cannot be healed on one’s own: the part where you have to replace the toxic experiences with healthy ones.
It may not seem like trust in this instance, but it is: you’re trusting other people to treat you like a professional, like an adult, to not be abusive, to be honest, to be focused on the clients and outcomes instead of their egos, and to be — in general — a safe place to work. You’re trusting perfect strangers with about 1/2 of your waking moments. I used to love going to the office and being around the other people I worked with, but I had developed a healthy mistrust — after years of abuse — and the thought of returning to that environment left me panicky. So, this opportunity I’ve been afforded is nothing short of expertly-designed. Good work, good environment, excellent people… the perfect scenario for replacing toxic emotional memories with brand new healthy ones.
As soon as I realized this job was quite possibly the best thing for me professionally, I also realized that I was in exactly the same space personally. (Weird, right?) I’ve done all the healing and repair work I can do on my own… and to do any more would require involving other people — believing in other people, that they would respect and hold dear the one thing that is most important to me: my trust.
My trust is something I’ve largely kept to myself since about 2009. It took a while to do the healing necessary to develop the ability to trust again, but I haven’t been brave enough to be that vulnerable since. I truly believe that until one has done the healing they can do on their own, they shouldn’t involve someone else — in other words: no rebounds. If I’m still a hot mess, that’s not the me I want someone to get to know. For starters, it’s not really me — it’s a damaged version of me. While I’m not ashamed of ever being hurt, that’s also not the me I want to introduce people to. The flip side of that coin is: what if they really like damaged-me? They’ll be sorely disappointed when they get to know Stands-With-Fists-Me. (Dances With Wolves, anyone?)
I’m there, though. And I’ve been there for a minute.
The easy part? Meeting people you aren’t really interested in. People who, while awesome, aren’t people who will ever knock on that door behind which you keep your trust and vulnerability — not that you’d open it for them or feel any sort of remorse for keeping it to yourself if they tried.
The hard part? Meeting someone truly amazing. As a result, realizing that you need to de-program yourself, letting go of the hard-learned conditioning that developed as a way to keep you from ever hurting like that again. Lessons you bled for, paid for many times over, survived, emerging stronger… but, much more cautious.
I’m not saying that being cautious is a bad thing — in many cases, it’s quite useful — but, when it’s become a way of life, even when you’ve decided it’s no longer needed in a certain circumstance, it can be paralyzing if you’ve not also practiced being bold. You can have a key made for that door of yours and not have any idea what to do with it next… just carrying it around in your pocket, knowing who it belongs to, but not how to give it to them.
I Am Not Fearless.
I just have an interesting relationship with fear.
I respect fear, but I also question it.
If I don’t feel that it’s warranted, I challenge fear.
I think it’s time to jump out of the airplane.
And I’m going to be just fine.