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Fear of putting yourself out there

The fear of putting yourself out there is real. We feel called to guide, help, coach, speak, to play a role in life that requires us to step up and to step into spaces where we are exposed to judgment, where we are very aware of how we’re seen by other people, which can cause resistance, procrastination, and fear. So, how do we get past that?

Do we pretend it’s not there? Do we just think happy thoughts and try to push through it?

When I started to get really amazing opportunities to speak, to serve, to coach, and to just be in the world in my early 30s, I had to face this.

On a Sunday, I got a phone call while my kids were playing in the background from a television producer who wanted to make a documentary film feature about my life. I remember saying “yes, thank you, that’s I really appreciate that.”

And as the yes came out of my mouth, so did that twisted knife feeling in my gut, and my heart contracted. And then what made it worse is I mentioned that I was going to do a talk in a month’s time for a small audience of about 150 people, and they said, “Wonderful, we’ll send television cameras to the talk to film the talk as part of the documentary.”

I thanked them, put the phone down, and felt ill.

Upstairs in my home, I closed the bedroom door, and had to face this nauseous terror. Thoughts were shouting inside of me, negotiations, bargaining, crazy ideas like, “maybe I can convince the film crew to only film me on my right side.”

Because I was panicked that the film would pick up my scars. I’ve got a scar from ear to ear from surgeries when I was a kid. And even though my older adult mind was saying, “That’s crazy, don’t worry about it, just you’ll be fine.”

You know, like there’s this internal struggle when you have an argument with yourself. Who are you arguing with?

 

We tend to claim one stream of thoughts as an identity and position it against another stream of thoughts. Really, are they not just parts of the self that we’ve pushed play on? Like scrolling through a device and hitting shuffle. We have thought streams rising from different bundles of contracted parts of ourselves, from different pockets inside of ourselves. And we don’t think about it and we just decide, “Okay, this is all me.”

But in moments like that, there’s clearly thoughts that produce a contracted suffering, a feeling of heaviness, tightness somatically in the body.

Fortunately, life has given me, sometimes out of desperation, a way to build what I call my Wisdom Well, which is to simply realize something deeper than these busy, noisy, frightened, angry, embarrassed thought streams.

 

Like a Well being dug in a desert. If we dig deeper than the surface mind, we find access to clear seeing that frees us.

That brings the kind of clarity that turns a contracted state into a more open, clear-seeing state. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I was tired of the self-consciousness, tired of this endless loop of saying something and then feeding it back to myself to wonder how people were seeing it, how they were interpreting it, how they were feeling, how they were seeing me.

So, I sat to meditate. The first step to dig my Wisdom Well is what I call, getting raw and real, which is being willing to put your hands in the dirt. As much as I’ve always tried to skip this part, you know, go straight for the “AHA” clear seeing wisdom, it seems like to get to the water of our wisdom, we have to be willing to dig and willing to get our hands dirty.

And what that looks like is just sharing. It’s, you making your inner world a safe place, where you close your eyes and draw your senses back. You make this a sanctuary, you make this a space where you can be honest, where you can share as if you’re sharing with a really good friend.

Because with experience, I’ve learned that this space, this true seeing, inner true self that’s deeper than the surface mind, this pure, open, aware space is unconditionally there for us. It’s the highest meaning of the word love, that you can share anything with. And, this depth of us doesn’t shrink back. It’s not punitive.

But what if you hear other thoughts that are finger-pointing or judgmental.

That’s still not this deep seeing because those thoughts create contraction, is not reflecting truth.

Any thought that produces a heavy, contracted tightness, or suffering does not speak on behalf of your true self.

That’s what I’ve come to realize.

So when these mumblings arose that particular day, like “What if people laugh at me?”

Why?

Well, my deepest fear from when I was a kid was people sniggering and pointing because at the age of four, I had a very large fibrous dysplasia tumor behind my right eye that distorted its shape and raised my eyebrow significantly. It was literally the size of an egg. It nearly killed me, it nearly blinded me, and the first surgery to remove it, I died twice.

I was also gifted with a near-death experience that showed me what it was like to be free of this contraction, this heaviness. And my little young mind called it home. I didn’t know what else to call it.

And when I went back into life, I interpreted the word home as a place that you could go to and leave. So the moment I believed that thought I lost home, lost the openness, lost the freedom, became desperately homesick and very shy. And that’s the baggage.

Now, I’m sitting in my early 30s with this opportunity facing the panic of a tumor that’s no longer there, but you don’t need a tumor, right, to have these parts of ourselves that want to hide, want to mask, want to show people only some things and not other things?

I know how tiring and exhausting and painful that is. And I was sharing this with my deep wisdom, with the soul of clear seeing being, and I was letting myself be a good friend to myself. And facing this fear of “What if they laugh?”

I was imagining standing in front of these people, TV cameras, and them sniggering and pointing like, “Who does she think she is? And she’s got too many double chins, her eyes are skew, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.”

You know, all those cruel, violent thoughts that we have towards ourselves. But it’s important not to stop there and to go deeper and to not believe those thoughts, to honor them but not to buy them, not to swallow them whole. To know that there is a deeper, clearer seeing and to be willing to find that.

And so what that looks like is setting an intention to send that bucket deeper. And it means slowing down, because I’ve noticed that the surface mind is very busy. And it doesn’t mean stopping thoughts, it doesn’t mean trying to force your thoughts to go away, none of that works, if you haven’t noticed.

It’s simply to say, “I’m switching attention. Yes, thanks, torturous torture chamber mind. Honouring that, and just seeking something deeper. Resting, calling the ambassador of attention home until there is a little shift of even more spaciousness. And with that shift, it’s like the bucket has hit the water,

It’s then that it helps to ask, “What is the deeper truth? How does wisdom see this?”

So, I asked, “How does wisdom see people laughing at me? How does wisdom see people judging me, people pointing and sniggering?”

And then I felt for it, like feeling and listening to music and waiting to notice how the music lands in your body. It’s a waiting; it’s a being willing. And then, truly, the most honest response from this openness was laughing. Was laughing with.

There’s more openness.

I felt, “Oh, but it is funny. It’s okay that they laugh. I can laugh with them!”

There was this 360° change. One moment, laughing at me was the most painful thing; next with clear seeing and being, there was a smile that felt like, “It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s so okay that I can laugh with them.”

So, I thought about the talk again, about the TV cameras, hoping, but there was still some fear.

It’s like peeling an onion; there’s sometimes more layers of fear to unpack.

I looked for what this fear was saying, and it said, “I’m afraid to speak, and they use my words as weapons. My intention is to give something valuable, and what if it gets twisted, gets used, gets abused, and gets turned into dogma? I’m afraid of the power of being a teacher, of being a coach, of being a leader, of being a guide.”

This was very surprising because I didn’t think of myself as any of those things. I was just shy, Col trying to get by, you know, trying to be a mom to my little kids, and here was this fear, this surprising fear.

This fear of power, of responsibility. This landed hard. So I shared this new fear with wisdom.

What’s the truth of this? How does wisdom see this fear of power?

And then the simple words came through, this translation of the open, clear seeing. And it’s what I would like to share with you today. And feel this with me.

The words were simply, “Be yourself and love them. Be yourself and love them.”

I remember this and feel such gratitude for my young self, like, “Wow, my young Col.”

And in that new seeing, my job was simple, to be myself and love them.

Be yourself and love them.

All the, “I need to try and impress people, I need to try, try, try, try, try,” trying is a clue. Trying is a clue that there’s a polarity, there’s a push-pull dynamic. Trying not to be something and trying to be something else is duality. It’s the way our minds split things apart; it’s the way our hearts mask, push one thing forward, pull another thing back, and how our gut resists.

All that just dissolved because this new seeing felt true: be myself and love them. There was a relaxing and openness. What I did is I sat with this and I let it saturate my being. I invited it in and I said, “This truth, this way of seeing, I claim it.”

I was teaching the student inside of me, teaching my mind, teaching my heart, teaching my gut—not just the words because the words are never “it!”

It’s the seeing and the being. It’s your true seeing and your true being that I call wisdom. It’s giving that the opportunity to alchemize the contraction. “Be yourself and love them.”

Now, it turned out that this was harder than it sounded, right? Because being yourself means challenging all the masks.

The word authenticity is used a lot in the world, and I think there’s authenticity from openness, and there’s authenticity that is a mask, authenticity trying to be authentic versus the resting authenticity, which is natural. It arises from wholeness. Be myself.

And of course, figuring out that the self is not a personality, not a ‘someone.’ The self is openness, pure awareness.

And love them.

The thing is, we can’t love that which we’re scared of.

 

And I was scared of people. I was so afraid of people that I was beating them to it, judging them before they could judge me, pushing them away before they could push me away, imagining their hostile thoughts before they could be voiced.

Whereas loving means being prepared to tune in deeper than their surface, their personality, their noisy surface mind, heart, and gut.

And then the water of wisdom recognizes water, wisdom recognizes wisdom, true seeing recognizes true seeing, true being recognizes true being.

 And this gives us a way to connect to each other in a way that makes it feel okay to be here on this little beautiful blue planet full of its intense challenges and suffering.

In the hour or two that I spent meditating and building my Wisdom Well, I did a lot of crying and had the whole puffy eye thing afterward. Then went back downstairs and rested.

Weeks passed, and the day of my talk arrived. This had so fundamentally changed inside of me that I was driving to the talk, reminding myself what the topic was, “Oh, what is it I’m supposed to talk about again?”

Fishing in my handbag to find the program, glancing quickly at the topic, going, “Oh yes.”

I arrived at the venue, it was a festival with lots of people, so I found my way to the hall.

Now, it’s not to say there was no fear; don’t mistake me. My heart started beating faster; my mouth got dry. There was a normal physiological response.

I could hear thoughts rising from that nervousness, but I kept staying close to this rested openness, trusting it. Went into the hall, stood on the stage, and then the TV cameras arrived, and the crew. And of course, because there were TV cameras, everyone wanted to see what were the TV cameras coming to film.

Soon, the hall was packed, a giant TV camera and boom, pointed at me on stage.

And when my thoughts panicked, “What am I going to say? I haven’t prepared anything!”

The deeper reply was, “You will only know what to say when you’re not in front of them.”

This was a bungee jumping, crazy brave extreme sport version of trusting.

I remembered, “Be myself and love them,” and set my intention to feel deeper than their personalities, deeper than the moving surface of them, for this underneath, where we meet each other.

And from that, the words began to flow, and for the first time in my life, humor showed up. The talk would just move from serious and clear to quirky humor, and at some point, it felt so natural just to be quiet, and there was a long silent pause.

Here I was in front of a hall full of strangers who, a month before, were the most terrifying things: eyeballs. And now all I could feel was love.

And everyone was still, everyone was quiet. There was no boundary, there was no “them” and “me,” no trying. There was just this. It was the most precious, simple, ordinary seeing, and the talk finished on its own, on time, without me looking at my watch.

And as I walked out, there was warmth with the deepest thought, “That’s my job, that’s what I love doing and being.”

My beautiful. You know stories are a double-edged sword. I tell my story. But please don’t let your surface mind compare, right? Because that’s what the mind does? “Oh, but Col, am I supposed to do that?”

You don’t know yet.

If you be yourself in love – then start letting more of this wisdom, this clear seeing and being heal the mind and the heart and the gut, whatever wants to be sung into the world, whatever wants to express, an apple tree makes apples, your apples, that is the expression of your being that can be liberated.

And all the resistance to putting yourself out there that may come up again and again and again, absolutely.

Just meet it with this love. Meet it with this love.