In my 20s, one phone call sent me running up to my bedroom, nauseous with fear and tearful. Being a teacher, guide, and coach was nearly suffocated by my fear of being visible.
“Colleen, we’d like to make a documentary television feature about your life story. And film you speaking at the talk festival next month.”
I said yes, but as I put the phone down, hot tears threatened.
I was grateful to Katinka Heyns an award-winning director and her team, but my shameful secret that that even though I was inspired to teach and speak, an old emotional wound haunted me.
So, I did the only thing I knew might help: I took my terror to my ‘Wisdom Well’ to coach myself and meditate. I knew that if I didn’t find a way to reduce this fear, it would sabotage my role, my job.
What if I make a fool of myself?
I imagined standing on a stage, seeing the audience whispering, rolling their eyes and laughing cruelly at the pretentious woman on the stage.
Will they let me stand in a way that the cameras won’t see the scars on my face when they’re filming the documentary? I thought. The grip of nauseous fear twisted in my gut.
You can’t talk yourself down from this kind of fear. No positive affirmations or visualization helped.
As a 4-year-old child, a monster-making tumor the size of an egg protruded above my right eye. Two massive surgeries later, and a childhood fear of bumps and eyeballs, I’d been left with more than physical scars. Being visible was my deepest irrational fear.
I learned that body, mind, and heart each needed their own medicine. The terror in my gut didn’t respond to the medicine of the mind—logic or reasoning. My heart’s longing and emotional need didn’t respond to the medicine of the gut-felt physical sense. My mind didn’t respond to the medicine of the heart or the gut; it needed rational, clear understanding.
This is why when I coached myself, the most powerful transformation happened when all three healed. I’ve also learned that you can’t get to your wisdom from your wisdom well without first being willing to get your hands in the dirt to dig. This means getting raw and real, and being honest about how you feel. No matter how petty, or human it seems.
So, I closed my eyes and shared the gut-knife-twisting fears, my heart’s shameful longing for being invisible, and the crazy, insane thoughts that tortured.
This sent the bucket down inwards, deeper than the surface. Then I opened to clear seeing understanding, emotional wholeness, and the felt sense of peaceful wisdom. Being willing to be wrong about everything if needed.
I imagined standing on that stage with my worst nightmare a reality, then asked wisdom for the truth: How does wisdom see this moment? How does my soul meet their cruel laughter and judgment?
Then I simply noticed any changes in my heart, body, and mind.
I began to laugh a belly laugh of relief. loudly. I was laughing at myself. I saw they had every right to question me, every right to judge me, so I laughed with them.
Wisdom showed me that if we’re afraid to look stupid, we can never share wisdom, so I owned looking stupid. I made peace with failure and saw that it was okay.
Tears flowed with a smile when I saw that my deepest fear of being visible was impossible.
They can’t see me, I cried. “I am invisible. They can only see themselves, they can only see what they fear and what they admire in themselves. They can’t see me at all, they can only see their thoughts about me, they can only see their projections.”
I noticed my fear had reduced substantially but was still there. There must be something else, another layer to heal, so I asked myself: What am I still afraid of? And opened to thoughts and ideas
I’m afraid of the power of being a leader, a coach, a teacher, a guide to others—afraid of the responsibility. What if what I teach is used to harm? What if my words get twisted and cause damage? What if my presence causes suffering?
I asked wisdom for the truth about this fear and waited. I was shown that our job as teachers can be summarized in two intentions and that if we focus on only these two things, we have fulfilled our duty.
Number one, be yourself.
Number two, love them.
My mind didn’t understand that it could be so simple, but it felt true, and the truth dissolved the remaining fear.
Being yourself, which many call authenticity, is not about sharing your lacks, and insecurity. It’s not about sharing your holes, it is about sharing your wholeness, which is your authentic self.
I learned it’s impossible to love what we fear. So, I asked wisdom to show me how to not be afraid of people. Wisdom showed me how to tune in deeper than the surface of what my mind was projecting. To connect to their wholeness, to tune in deeper than personality and judgment, soul to soul. Even though my thoughts moaned that I was nuts, and imagining all of this, the felt sense of it all was dramatic. Peace replaced terror.
Many weeks later, I was able to stand in front of a packed audience facing television with love. There was still a natural flutter of fear, but nothing compared to the crippling terror that had previously robbed me of the joy of being a teacher. When my mind begged me to prepare my talk, wisdom was silent, reassuring me that I would know what to say only when I was in front of the audience.
So, I took that leap of faith, focusing on being myself and loving them. Love gave that talk
It felt like I downloaded a sense of humor. The talk flowed naturally—moments of serious pristine silence ebbed and flowed with silly hilarity.
There was no me and them. Love had melted all the walls. I was not tuned in to my thoughts about them, my imagined the movie of who they are—I felt the deeper real, that which is deeper than appearances. Wisdom knows wisdom. Water knows water. All wells draw on the same.
When the talk ended and the audience erupted in happy applause, I thanked them and left the stage with a quiet tear of gratitude, a simple recognition of my job.
Finally, I am free to do my work.
May wisdom heal whatever holds you back from being yourself and loving them.
Keep coaching with wisdom,