There are times in our lives when we are faced with a choice. On one side, we are confronted with our own demons — fear, insecurity, imposter syndrome, old wounds from the past, you name it. On the other side, we can keep doing what’s familiar, cozy, feeling safe.
It doesn’t always seem that cut and dry, either, because when you reach that point, most people don’t look closely. They hear the call of a creative idea, maybe, and look at that path, get hit with a shot of “ooh but what if nobody likes it” and quickly duck their head back into their tried and true comfort zone.
Do you see people posting these posts on Facebook? Maybe it’s just me but I see this a lot. “I’m quitting this job I’ve been successful at for a long time, it’s time to move on, try new things, hang out with my family/travel, maybe do a passion project I’ve been thinking about for a long time…”
Everyone cheers them on, too, “Yeah! Good for you! Congratulations,” and so on.
And then, not more than a month or two later, we see another post. “Hey, I’ve been offered this amazing position, I’m going to be the new Head of Whatever at Blah Blah Douche Factory” and everyone again is like “Yay! What a great opportunity! Congratulations,” and so on.
But I’m not convinced that this is what they were looking for when they said they wanted to find some time for themselves and their passions.
I have a sneaking suspicion about what’s really going on, because I’ve been forcing myself to go through this for the last 13 months.
Really sitting down and allowing yourself to have free time to explore your passion projects or creative pursuits brings up all those demons I mentioned. It just does.
You think, maybe I’ll write that novel that’s been kicking around in my head for five years. And maybe you even start to write it. And it doesn’t just flow out like you imagined it would. Because it never does, but we always think it will, bless our romantic hearts.
It’s hard, and we get frustrated, and our demons of insecurity pop up, tell us we’re no good at this, who did we think we were, anyway? And THAT is where it really starts.
Because that negative self-talk either reminds us of a childhood wound when someone criticized us, setting off ingrained chain reactions of emotions we didn’t even know we had, or it gets us thinking about our safety and security, whether it’s being able to pay the bills, or losing face with our peers, and THAT sets off ingrained chain reactions of emotions we didn’t know we had, OR BOTH all at the same time.
I suspect most people get a glimpse of one of those demons, and that meeting with the hiring manager at the douche factory suddenly looks a lot more appealing.
I know. I’m in the thick of it. But instead of saying yes to the variety of safe but not quite right for me opportunities that have come my way, I have stubbornly sat down in this messy place to continue exploring what these demons are really trying to tell me.
Because the truth is, these feelings are actually a signal that what you’re doing is deeply important to you. Writing that novel is scary because it’s coming from a place more vulnerable inside of you. Finding your passion projects, your heart’s calling, your life purpose, your dharma, and walking that path — it’s a big fat huge scary deal.
If you fail, you think, you don’t just go get a different job. Failing at a job is safe. Failing at your life purpose … well that seems really personal, doesn’t it?
But what’s a bigger failure? Not figuring out what your life purpose is in the first place? Or worse, feeling the call, but ignoring it to keep yourself safe?
That’s the trick. Our childhoods were all about protecting ourselves from the scary things in life we weren’t yet ready to deal with. Our capacity to feel intense emotions expands as we get older and more mature.
Our job now is to untangle ourselves from our protective layers, shed the coccoon, and open our hearts to feeling all that scary stuff we couldn’t deal with when we were younger.
Because it’s only through confronting our demons can we see how actually small and insignificant they are. They’re just patterns and programming we’ve been running unconsciously, and our minds make them real. But once we sit with them and really look at them, with our newly mature expansive capacity to process these intense emotions, we see them for what they really are. And they lose their power over us.
They become simply signposts to let us know we’re on the right path. We can say “Thank you, fear of failure, I see you. Yes, this is a big deal, thank you for reminding me of my vulnerability. It’s okay though, I’ve got this.”
Or we can say, “Oh hello, fear of commitment. Nice of you to show me what’s really underlying my feeling of anxiety. Now I see that I’m playing out patterns I inherited from my parents. How cute! Thank you for showing me that I have this issue to untangle in my next therapy session.”
We can face our fears, or we can stay in our cocoons. We can live our lives, or let our lives continue to be run by our unconscious programming. That’s the choice.
The unconscious programming feels safer, and many people never leave that cocoon. But for those of us who have that insistent voice, the tugging sensation in our hearts, if we continue to ignore it, it will only get more insistent, and painful, and problematic.
We don’t have to do it alone. There are people who will happily support you. I will talk to anyone about this stuff, I love it. Join the Pathless Club on Facebook and tell us what you’re struggling with. Or find yourself a coach or therapist who specializes in whatever it is your dealing with. Take a class. Go to a meetup. Make facing down your fears your full time job. Your life quite literally depends on it.