Browsing Tag:

fear

Doing something brave even when it scares you

doing-the-brave-thing

I’ve been feeling this pressure welling up inside of me for months. Like the gentle expansion of a balloon as air is forced into it, stretching and stretching until eventually, it bursts.

 

The stress has been pressing in on me from all sides.

I have felt trapped. Unable to move because every option seems too heavy, too messy or too complicated to pursue.

 

In all honesty, my job has been making me miserable and all this time I’ve been wrestling with this constant dissatisfaction.

 

Because serving people all day long is exhausting. Because waking up at 5am every day is grueling. Because getting told off and feeling on edge all the time is demeaning.

 

And truthfully, I believe I deserve better.

 

But I’ve been too scared to walk away. Because quitting means stepping into the unknown, a future without the security of a job, without a clear plan, without a clue what to do next.

 

Leaving means giving up a regular paycheck and my independence.

 

So I have stayed.

 

I’ve pushed through the negative thoughts and tried to focus on the positive. I’ve thought of tiny, little ways to make each day better. I’ve started going to bed early so the mornings aren’t quite as painful.

 

And yet, I still feel the pressure. I still feel the dissatisfaction. I still feel myself yearning for something more.

 

Happiness, excitement and creativity are calling out me. Begging me to do the brave thing. Quickening my heart and filling my head with dreams that I long to make come true.

 

Finally, after months of this internal battle, I decided to quit my job.

 

Now I feel sick. Now I feel free. Now I feel I am finally being true to myself.


 

There have been so many moments this year where I have felt that queasy, is-this-the-right-thing-or-a-terrible-mistake feeling.

 

So many times I’ve doubted myself, grappled with the uncertainty and clung to the familiar instead of choosing the brave thing.

 

I don’t blame myself.

 

Doing the brave thing is hard. Going out on a limb is terrifying. Stepping into the unknown takes so much courage.  

 

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We get these rare moments every now and then where we can choose to take the easy route or do the brave thing.

 

Should we date that guy? Should we take that job? Should we move to a new city? Should we go back and study?

 

To me it feels a lot like rock climbing. You don’t really know which of the oddly-shaped hand holds to grab until you let go of the last one and stretch your arm up to grab the next one.

 

For a split second you are dangling in mid-air, gripping nothing, with only your sheer focus and determination driving you forwards.

 

Sometimes you grab the wrong handhold. One of those small, knobbly ones that makes your sweaty hands slip right off.

But other times you are lucky enough to reach for one with a proper indentation, one that makes pulling yourself up easy.


 

Sometimes being brave is just about doing the next right thing. Sitting still long enough to recognize your wants and needs.

 

The brave thing might be the opposite of what everyone else says you should do. It might make you unpopular. It might take everything you’ve got.

 

But the brave thing is worth it.

 

A little over five months ago I said another scary yes and started dating a guy who’s ended up becoming my best friend.

 

Every part of me wanted to keep my tattered little heart locked up safe where no guy could ever trample on it again but instead I chose to share it with him. I chose to open up and give love another chance.

 

It turns out this was the best yes I’ve said in a long time.

 

doing-the-brave-thing

 

So here I am again doing the brave thing even though it scares me.

Reaching out for the next handhold, unsure whether it will be able to support me. Going out on a limb because I know life is full of surprises if we are willing to take a chance.

 

We can fool ourselves into believing that it is only special people who do incredible things. That only very few, lucky people are truly happy. But I think that’s wrong.

 

The truly happy people, the ones who have done and are doing amazing things are the ones who are willing to do the brave things.

 

They aren’t any different to you and me. They just pushed past the fear and said yes anyway. They just bottled away enough courage to leap forwards.

 

They just believed in themselves enough to think it might just be worth a try.

 

And that’s what you need to do today.

Believe in yourself and do the brave thing, even (especially) if it scares you.

Daring to be vulnerable and my fear of feeling joy

Behind every sun lit tree there is a lurking shadow.  

Beyond every summer breeze there lies a winter chill.   

 

No matter where I try to run, the sadness seems to chase me.  

It’s a cumulus cloud, a tenacious oppressor,  

Always on my tail.  

 

All that is good is tainted by the darkness.  

Everything sweet is shadowed by bitter.  

All that is living is fleeing from decay.

 

These shadows they haunt us,  

A reminder that everything is ephemeral.  

 

The flowers will fade.

The grass will wither.   

Our skin will become dust.  

And these shadows too shall pass.  


 

There is a feeling that rises within me every time I feel great joy. A sense of haunting sadness and a chilling panic. A cloud that sweeps across the clear blue sky and leaves goosebumps on my skin.

 

An awareness that soon the joy will pass. Without notice, the blinding happiness could be taken from me.

 

So I am quick to extinguish the joy rather than dwell on it. My mind scurries to latch the windows and draw the curtains.

 

I have this firm belief that it is better to shield myself than feel these overwhelming emotions.

 

So I smother them. The darkness and the light. The joy and the grief.

 

Brené Brown talks about this concept as a shield of armor we use to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable. She calls this sensation, foreboding joy. In those moments of absolute bliss we are exposed, laid bare and defenseless.

 

When we feel love, connection or a sense of purpose, we are vulnerable because we have something to lose.

 

So rather than taking our time and sitting in the joy, we trample over it quickly with fear and sadness.

We picture these worst case scenarios. Our partner leaves us, one of our parents passes away, we lose our jobs, our plane goes down.

 

We prepare ourselves for the worst instead of living our best.

 

We think it is safer to keep our expectations low so that we won’t have to face the awful pain of disappointment.


 

I didn’t realise how often I was doing this until I recently read Brené’s book, Daring Greatly. I thought this shield of foreboding joy was just another idiosyncrasy I possess. That for me, everything was just a little bit tainted by sadness.

 

But as it turns out, I’m not the only one who lives this way. Darting from joy and dwelling on sadness.

 

It’s just another way that we try to escape that missing-the-last-step-stomach-drop feeling that comes with vulnerability.

 

None of us are particularly fond of the delicate balancing act we must undertake in order to find connection and meaning in this life. Wearing our hearts on our sleeves, sharing our art with the world, showing up wherever we go.

 

There is so much at stake. Sometimes the risk feels like too much to ask.

 

I’d rather stay in bed than face the fear of rejection or open myself up to the judgement and criticism of others. 

 

Unfortunately, as I’ve got older I have come to realise that all the best bits in life require vulnerability.

 

Those laughing-until-you-can’t-breathe friendships. That flying feeling of sharing something you’ve created with complete strangers. The dizzy dancing rush of saying I love you for the first time. Blushing when someone compliments your cooking. Traveling some place not yet explored and losing your sentiment in translation. 

 

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I used to hide from the joy because I wasn’t brave enough to reach that depth of vulnerability.

 

But now that I recognize this problem I’m striving to have the courage to feel joy.

 

Whenever I find myself softened by happiness, instead of allowing the sinking feeling of weakness to set in,  I’m practicing the art of gratitude.

Giving thanks in that moment for the joy. Taking time to lean out onto the ledge, the uncomfortable, unknown abyss that stretches before me.

 

Observing the way it makes me want to squirm and choosing to bravely trek onwards regardless.

 

So I’ll hug my friends extra tightly. I’ll smile even wider at the words I write. I’ll unclench my fists and relax my tense shoulders.

 

This is what it means to love loudly, to live wholeheartedly.

 

We share all of ourselves with others. Every last messy, imperfect bit. We know that vulnerability is strength not weakness so we force the shadows back and allow ourselves to feel the light.


 

I know now that feeling joy is incredibly courageous. It’s so very brave to allow ourselves to dive headfirst into such a powerful and unpredictable emotion.

 

But in the end both the joy and the sadness teach us what is truly valuable in life.

 

I consider it a privilege to feel sadness and to fear loss because it means I have something worth fighting for, living for, and loving with all I have.

 

For me, daring greatly means dropping my shield and welcoming the joy even though it terrifies me. That’s the most challenging, audacious and rewarding work that can be done.

The fear and the thrill of the fall

the-fear-of-falling

I have been ice skating three or four times in my life and every time I set foot on the ice I feel the same sensation.

 

The wobbly knees. The racing heart. The sheer terror of trying to move the thin blades on the slippery ice.

 

For the first few minutes I am nearly paralyzed. I jump at every passing person’s shadow. I teeter on the edge of the rink. I breathe deeply and attempt to slide forwards but the motion is less smooth and more like a drunken stagger.  

 

If I could only quieten my noisy mind and still my anxious heart, I know I could do this.

 

But the fear of falling always slows me down.

 

The panicked feeling of losing control makes my legs stop working.

 

As I look around, I see kids who barely come up to my knees, who are careening around without a care in the world. I wonder why that is?

Is it because they have sweet, innocent minds not yet tainted by the worries of this world? Is it because they’ve fallen once and they know it’s not so bad, so the falling no longer scares them? Or perhaps, it is just because they are closer to the ground so when they fall it doesn’t hurt as much.

 

I wish I had their fervor. I wish I could skate with their gusto. I wish I too, wasn’t afraid of falling.


 

The thing about fear is that it immobilizes us. It keeps us rigid, tense and hyper-aware of our surroundings. It prevents us from having the fluidity needed to move forwards.

 

There is something known as the fear-tension-pain cycle which women often experience in childbirth. The more afraid a woman feels about giving birth, the more tense she becomes and the more tense she becomes, the more pain she feels which leads to more fear.

 

To break the cycle, she must lean into the pain. She must face the fear and reduce the tension.

 

I see life as somewhat similar to giving birth.

 

We are constantly creating something out of nothing. Painting gentle strokes onto the canvas of our lives. Making art and beauty with the words we speak out, sing in the shower and whisper under our breath.

 

And in this birthing of something new and not yet known, we have to lean into the pain of the process. If we give into the fear, if we allow ourselves to tense up or pull back, we’ll find ourselves stuck.

Our ideas will run dry, our dreams will fade in the sunlight, our creativity will crumble like dust.

 

We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain in order to create. We must push through that fear of falling and make something anyway.

 

We have to be like those little children, unhindered by the slippery ice and sharp blades. Undaunted by the chill in the air and their lack of coordination.

 

To live, we simply must fall.

 

And that is what scares me the most. The lack of control. The absence of order.

 

There isn’t a road map for following your dreams or a safety net for falling in love, it’s just you and the ice. Miles of frozen water stretch out before you. An endless, unmarred horizon.  A blank, white unknown.

 

At some point all of us are faced with a choice, will we hold ourselves back or will we wobble out onto the ice?

 

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There is a time to hold back and there is a time to leap forwards, the key is recognising which move will serve you best.

 

I’ve been foolish with this decision before and of course, I have been hurt in the process.

 

But what I have found is that most often, it is better to take the leap because the fall is never as far or us fatal as I am expecting. And somehow, I always recover after the fall. It’s as if the fall makes me stronger. I suppose that dropping down to the lowest possible place means there is nowhere to go but up.

 

Taking a risk isn’t the safe option but it’s the only one that will allow you to fly.

 

You’ll never know how it feels to glide around the rink if you don’t step out onto the ice. You’ll never find love if you keep your heart locked up. You’ll never experience an adventure if you don’t seek it out. You’ll never know your full potential if you don’t give yourself a chance.


 

Because the other thing about the fall is this…it’s exhilarating. It’s breathtaking. It’s intoxicating.  

 

The reason we come back time and time again is because the fall makes us feel alive. Fully human. Impossibly free.

 

The truth is, our broken bones will heal. Our shattered hearts will mend. Our deflated ego will be restored.  What do we really have to fear when we’ve survived every fall we’ve ever had?

 

Because the alternative is to live a despondent life. To stick to the side of the rink. To hide ourselves away from anyone and anything that could hurt us. To never know the dizzy, dancing way it feels to take a running leap.

 

I don’t want to live that way.

I don’t want to be afraid.

I don’t want my thirst for control to limit me.

 

I’d rather fall on my face a thousand times than be the kind of person who isn’t willing to try.

 

“When you get the choice to sit it out or to dance, I hope you dance.” – Lee Ann Womack

That familiar feeling of a changing season

when-everything-is-changing

 

There is no season where change is as tangible as autumn.

In autumn, change flashes in brilliant reds, oranges and browns. It cascades to the ground and swirls in the wind. Change catches your foggy breath on the cool mornings and blazes across the late afternoon sky.

All of nature sings its’ song, a maudlin melody, a solemn symphony.  

 

I have an autumnal heart. Fiery and passionate, wild and chaotic.

 

This season will always be my favourite. The cooling down from the hot, sticky summer and the gentle easing into the deep chill of winter. The feeling of wrapping up in layers and bracing yourself to be met at the door by a brisk wind. The scent of rain on the pavement and damp foliage on the driveway.  

 

In autumn, the leaves take turns changing into brilliant colours and falling slowly to carpet the ground.  

What once was bright and alive, dies off to make space for the new.

 

As I’m watching the trees glorious transition I see pieces of myself turning the same golden hues. Right here and now I am evolving, Shedding my old self and becoming something new.

 

This process requires making peace with the past.

 

That girl I was three years ago sitting in that first lecture feeling overwhelmed by the flurry of information that had just been dumped on me. The girl who shyly hid away in her dorm room all year, only making an appearance at mealtimes. That girl who was ashamed of herself, unsure of herself, afraid of herself.

 

That girl was me and still is me.

 

I hold her close to my chest. I keep her near to my heart. I love her because she reminds me that as people we evolve.

 

And we need change in order to do that. Pearls need to be rubbed around in that oyster shell. Diamonds need to be squeezed depth beneath the earth. Butterflies need to force their way out of their chrysalises.  

 

So I’m not embarrassed of the girl I was. I’m so very proud. She did the best she could with what she had. And for that I am grateful.

 

This is how I am letting go, by extending kindness to the pieces of myself that I might not be most proud of.


 

And it seems my life once again is swirling with change.

 

I hoped that by the time my graduation ceremony came around I would have clarity about my future. I thought I may have a full time job or at least an inkling of my next steps, but instead, I find myself slipping back into unemployment and uncertainty.

 

Here I am again, with a door closing behind me and nothing on the other side.

 

And it makes me wonder, do the trees know for certain that summer will return again? Are they sure that the winter will end and they will have the strength to sprout new leaves and shoots?

 

It seems to me that they just fall.

 

They just let go. They just keep moving forwards and we have to as well. Regardless of what lies ahead, that’s the only way we can trek.

 

These seasons of change, these major life transitions often catch us off guard. They can make us feel as though the rug has been ripped out from under us. And it is these moments more than ever that we find our faith being tested.

 

This is the place where the rubber meets the road.

 

It’s foreign and yet somehow familiar. I’ve been here before. I know the signs of a changing season. I’m still afraid. 

 

But what I’ve learnt is that there is wonder in the waiting. That lonely place of unknown is beautiful because it places us dependent on God to meet all of our needs. It strengthens and grows a faith that actually means something.

 

A faith based on real events rather than flaky opinions and secondhand beliefs.

 

That’s the kind of faith I want. Deeply rooted in truth. Completely receptive to change.

 

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So this time around I’m taking my cues from the deciduous trees. I’m flinging myself headfirst into the unknown. I’m leaping forwards because it’s all I know to do.

 

This is how I am moving on.

 

I won’t be wallowing, moping or feeling sorry for myself. You will not catch me succumbing to the crippling anxiety again.  

 

This time I’m just going to fall.


 

Because I know now that clarity requires movement. We can’t just sit around hoping for writing in the sky or neon signs to flash the answer. We have to just start walking, and as we do, we find out where we are going.

 

It’s one of those crazy upside kingdom rules. We step out first and then the faith comes. We jump and then we’ll find where to place our feet.

 

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you are standing still but looking back over your shoulder you’ll remember how you’ve been here before. You’ll see all the big ways and small ways that God was faithful to you.

 

Well I do at least. He brought summer before and I know He will do it again.

 

That’s the truth when everything is changing. You simply have to cling to the one who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Fighting the fear of missing out

fighting-the-fear-of-missing-out

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be out at the beach just as the sun was setting.

It was one of those lazy summer evenings where you are gathered around the table for hours after you’ve finished eating. Settling into the dusk and drinking in the buoyant conversation.

 

Most days the sunset is blocked by trees, hills and buildings but this particular evening we were out West with nothing but sand stretching before us. Our view was unobstructed and as we chatted away, we noticed the faint whispers of clouds suddenly flecked with sunlight.

 

We quickly raced up the hill to get a better view. But as we pulled the car into the lookout spot, the sun dipped behind clouds. We grumbled and were about to give up on the sunset but we figured we might as well stay just in case something happened.

 

The sun remained encased in clouds for a few more minutes and the coolness of the night seeped over us. But then all of a sudden, the sky was illuminated. Pink, orange, gold. Streams of blazing colour flooded the scene before us. Ocean and sky became one.

A painting streaked and blended with the utmost precision.

 

We got out our pathetic, little phone cameras and tried to capture the perfection. It didn’t seem to matter what angle I stood at or how much I decreased the exposure…the image was a poor representation of the magnificent spectacle we were witnessing.

 

As the final glow of sunlight faded into the night, I felt incredibly grateful and honored to have seen it with my own eyes.

And the overwhelming emotion I felt was relief. How lucky it was that my camera was unable to capture this perfect moment. It meant I couldn’t share it with anyone else, this experience, this brief reverie was all mine.


 

Recently, I’ve felt stretched between too many things, people and places. This need to participate in everything has drained me completely.

 

No matter where I am, I’m missing something else.  

 

If I go to one party, I have to skip another. If I talk to one friend, I don’t get to chat with another. If I say yes to one offer, another one will surely come along.

 

I want to be everywhere. I want to see everyone. I want to do it all.

 

But I can’t… and so I’m forced to make a choice. To prioritize what matters most. To be decisive for once in my life. To commit and stick with it.  And sometimes I don’t like making the choice.

 

Because sometimes duty requires me to be somewhere regardless of what my heart compels me to do. That feels especially unfair. It’s that prickling on the back of the neck I remember feeling every time my mum would ask me to help with chores. But I don’t want to…


 

If I was looking to slap a label on it, I’d say I’m suffering from the fear of missing out.

A fear that tells me that other people are having more fun.

 

I’m inadequate, my time is scarce, my friendships are insufficient. It’s a fear that breeds discontentment. Snuffing out joy and leaving an echo of emptiness. 


 

It seems to me that the cure for the fear of missing out is being fully present.

 

Soaking in the sunset, feeling the rain as it batters down on your umbrella, looking the person who you are talking to directly in the eye.

 

Because our world overlooks these things. It tells us we should always be on the search for something better. We should be selfishly seeking the next adventure and when we find it, we should post all about it.

 

We are trapped by this terrible pitfall of seeking validation and approval. Of needing to be where the party is, needing to participate in the action. Needing to obtain maximum pleasure for our greedy hearts. 

It’s such a hollow way of living. It’s superficial, flaky and unsatisfying.

 

Fighting the fear of missing out is a daily battle.

 

That need to share everything with the world. ‘Hey, look at me, look how great my life is.’  

Fight that urge.  

Be selfish with moments.  

Put down your cell phone and watch the sunset with your own eyes.  

 

It’s a beautiful thing that cameras, lenses and smartphones can’t capture some things. Rainbows, beach sunsets, birthday wishes, falling in love…because that’s the way it should be.

Some things are meant to be experienced.  To be felt rather than just seen.

 

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Fighting the fear of missing out means we have to immerse ourselves in the moment. Wherever you are, be all there.

Stop scrolling, sharing and feeling like your situation is lacking. 

 

We can’t be everywhere, but we can be right here. Right now, in this moment.

 

We have to make a choice to be fully present. Because there will always be somewhere flashier you could be. There will always be someone funnier you could be talking to. But chasing those things will only leave you feeling empty.

 

We find contentment when we recognize how precious, beautiful and fleeting the moment we are in really is.

 

Take delight in the intricate, seemingly mundane details…because my friend, this is your life. Don’t blink twice or you’ll miss it.

 

Funnily enough, the fear of missing out is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you’re so afraid of missing out that you try to do it all, see it all and be it all…missing out is exactly what you’ll do.

 

So instead, let’s live intentionally. Wherever we are, let’s be all there.