“What’s freedom to me? No fear!” – Nina Simone
If you’re anything like me, you are afraid of something, and that fear keeps you from going after what you want. It may even stop you from leading the life you dream of. These fears are usually socially constructed, but realizing and knowing that doesn’t necessarily make them go away. We may have a fear that we’re not good enough, or we may believe that the things that we want are silly. We could be a little ashamed to admit the things we want, or we could be afraid of being judged for wanting those things. Or, we could not understand how something works and be too afraid to ask.
It’s important to understand why we are afraid, but furthermore, it is crucial to try and get past this feeling because, although we are all unique in our own ways, we do have things in common with other people as well. Maybe we just haven’t found those commonalities yet. As we discuss here in the blog, finding those connections with other people is one of the most important things we can do.
My therapist used to tell me all the time: “How is that ‘uncomfortable zone’ working out for you?” What she was trying to put in my head was that the so-called “comfort zone” that I was so afraid to leave was actually pretty uncomfortable. I was only staying there because that was the misery I knew. Life has its ups and downs, things we like and things we want to improve, but sometimes we just stay in the same place because we are afraid. It’s as though we are living in a cage with open doors: instead of just leaving the cage, we decorate it.
If we were able to leave all of our fears behind, who would we turn out to be? I’m not sure if it’s possible to be completely unafraid, but we can try to reduce our level of fear. I left my country three years ago and I’m now living in my sixth country and thirteenth city. I was also married twice and am now trying my third profession. On one hand, it might look like I don’t really know what I want — sometimes, I really don’t. On the other hand, I also feel like I’m taking small steps to try and figure it out who it is I’m supposed to be.
I have to say that this process has not been so easy. I’ve been confronted with many of my fears, and I still feel like I have a long way to go. I compare myself to other people who seem more “together,” who are more financially successful, or who have longer marriages than I did. Sometimes I feel old, and that makes things even harder. That happens every time I start to compare myself to others: I have to remind myself that we all have different lives, different upbringings and experiences, and we all make different choices and want different things.
I always wanted to have an interesting life, but I was stuck in a marriage where I wasn’t happy. I thought I stayed out of love, but really it was out of fear. I didn’t know if I could make it on my own in a different country without my family and friends. I didn’t know if my health would be stable enough, or if my anxiety problems would pull me down. I still don’t have all the answers: I still struggle to get the life that I want. I still feel very lonely and sometimes I miss that comfort zone. I know this is all about my fears, but still, it is not easy and I have to remind myself every day why I chose this life, and more importantly, why I keep choosing it every day.
“What’s freedom to me? No fear!” This quote by Nina Simone is one that I say to myself every time I feel like everything is too much or I feel like giving up. I’m able to repeat this and continue on because most of the time, I’m happy with my choices. I look at my life now and how it was two years ago, and I’m glad I made the choices I did. It’s not about everything being easy all the time, it’s about feeling and knowing that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s about being afraid, but doing something anyway until you’re not afraid anymore.
It takes time and patience. More times than not, I feel it’s taking too long, or that I’m still afraid of many things, or that I should be braver. So I try to tell myself that this is a process, and I look for ways of making it a bit easier. Here are some thoughts on how to go through this process:
Write down your choices. When we’re not in our “uncomfortable zone,” it might be difficult to keep our heads up and not give up. So I write down again and again what is it that I want.
Write down the good things in your life. Maybe we’re not living the lives we want; that can make us sad and make us doubt our resolve. What I do is I write down everything I already achieved and appreciate all the good things that I already have.
Write down where you were last year and where you are now. Comparing ourselves with others can be very frustrating. We’re always going to find someone who’s more successful, younger, prettier… so it might be best to just compare you with you. How was your life last year, six months ago, a month ago? Are you moving forward or are you stuck? This is a good way of keeping yourself in check and not allowing yourself to get back in that “uncomfortable zone.”
Write down where and who you want to be. It’s important to have goals. It doesn’t matter if they change over time because we ourselves are changing all the time — so we might as well adjust our goals too. But it’s important to have them and to know what they are. The path is as important as the destination, but if you don’t have any idea of where you want to go, how will you appreciate the walk?
Meditate. Always meditate. It doesn’t have to be an hour every day; consistency is more important than quantity. And in any case, when we start to realize how much better things become after we get the hang of the practice, the tendency will be to practice longer. Meditation helps us to be present, to observe our emotions and reactions. It helps us with our anxiety, to keep us calm and soften our fears. We realize things will always change, and our fear starts to decrease.
We are all a work in progress, so I invite you to write your experiences in the comments below. Your experience can help someone, or just talking and writing about it can help you. What are your fears? What do you do to deal with them?