Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.― Rumi
Recently, I was in the hot seat on a mastermind call. A “hot seat” is just like it sounds—your question or concern is the focus of others in a group who offer their collective wisdom and insight.
Such intense scrutiny is both uncomfortable and incredibly valuable.
The hot seat helped me to see something just beyond the edge of my awareness–a blind spot. I was both curious and determined to bring it out of the shadows and into the light of awareness. I began asking myself, why was I holding back? What was holding me back? Gradually, fear came to light. The fear of being judged, criticized, not accepted–the fear of rejection. That I’ve worked on this before didn’t matter. There it was, again, and once again I began to look to see where I was afraid to be who I am–afraid to be me.
I know it sounds absurd, but ask yourself, “Where are you afraid to be you?”
Risk the Fear
Many years ago one of my teachers, a gifted Cherokee-Irish healer and seer, said to me, “You still care too much about what others think of you,” and then she laughed.
Just the other day, while discussing the hot seat with my coach, Shakti, she pointed out, “You’re resisting being who you are.” She laughed.
Later, in conversation with my friend, Walt, he said, “Fear of rejection is hardwired into our DNA and tied to our survival.” Our “edge” is to risk the fear every time we step out into unfamiliar territory. And then Walt laughed too!
I was getting it from all sides, and yet knew I wasn’t alone. It’s our little secret that hides in the mind and lurks in the shadows: we care too much about what others think.
As social creatures, we thrive when we are recognized and accepted. To be loved and appreciated is part of the sweetness of life. How others see us is a reflection of how we see ourselves. Others often see what we don’t see. We learn much about who we are through our relationships and sense of connection. We want to know we belong.
When we lived in small tribal communities, it meant almost certain death to be rejected or turned out. Today, fear of rejection is usually not life-threatening. But our social conditioning and the intense mental and emotional manipulation of our culture amplifies the fear. When we don’t conform to convention or societal standards, we risk being outcast, marginalized, or diminished in some way. The negative side of social media is social anxiety and depression, especially amongst our young people.
Who You Say You Are
Caring too much about what others think isn’t a condemnation or evidence of a personality defect. The awareness gives us a moment to step back, take a deep breath and look—with a bit of detachment—to see where this might be true.
It’s an opportunity to see where we hold back.
Ask yourself: To what extent are you afraid to be fully who you are? If you think you don’t care at all what others think, think again.
How do you spend your days? Are you happy?
Are you engaged in work you love? Do you feel content?
What do you tolerate or put up with? Do you sacrifice and suffer?
Do you freely express your creativity?
How would you define the quality of your relationships? Do you feel loved and appreciated? Do you give love and appreciation?
How well do you honor your own boundaries and those of others? Are you a people pleaser?
Get quiet and ask yourself a simple question, “Who am I?” Listen for the answer from a deep place within yourself.
Write down what comes to mind, beginning each statement with, “I am…” until you have a list of “I am” statements. See, by your own hand, who you say you are.
Don’t censor yourself and don’t be shy. If it feels uncomfortable, it’s a good sign that you are out of your comfort zone.
Neale Donald Walsch, the author of Conversations with God, writes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Outside our comfort zone we discover who we are and the courage to express ourselves authentically. Who we truly are, our creativity, our dreams and visions call to us from outside our comfort zone.
There is a part of you that is unassailable and it lives at the center of your being. It’s impervious to the raucous cries of the outside world to conform. It ignores the distracting clamor of your ego for attention and self-aggrandizement. Because that part of you knows who you are with quiet certainty.
Make it a simple practice each day to connect with that part of yourself, your connection to God, the Source of your creativity and all that is uniquely you.
Love and Blessings,
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on where this essay takes you.