Confession: For too long I let fear run my life.
Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. Fear of success and notoriety. Fear that maybe I wasn’t enough. Good enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Maybe I’m too goofy…(because if you know me then you know….. ) too outspoken. Too emotional. Too angry. Too black. Not black enough. You get the idea. . .
But I’m done with all that. No seriously. Today I make a conscious decision to reject fear. To not let those negative doubting voices stop me from expressing myself fully, and doing what I want to do.
So often we hold ourselves back from our dreams, not because we aren’t ready, but because we are afraid.
Fear is that knot in your stomach, that voice that tells you to do something else. I could write that essay, or that op-ed, but. . . what if someone thinks I’m wrong? I could apply for that program, but. . . what if I don’t get it? I could apply for that job, or ask out that man or woman, but,. . . what if I’m rejected? I could go to the gym, but what’s the use, it won’t work out anyway ?
Part of the reason fear paralyzes us is because we are attached to the outcome of our actions. I’m re-reading the Bhagavad Gita. In it, Krishna explains the importance of karma yoga, or the yoga of action. Arjuna is trying to understand, which is better? To be a man of the world, or a man who renounces the world, like a monk, only concentrating on God. Krishna explains that our actions are a necessary part of the journey, and that for most men, action is better than inaction:
Without concern for results, perform the necessary action; surrendering all attachments, accomplish life’s highest good.
Krishna emphasizes that we must act, but “without concern for results.” Often, rather than act according to what we know is true for us, we hold back, for fear the situation won’t turn out the way we want it to be. This is natural, and a perfectly human response. But yoga teaches us non-attachment. Meaning, we act because we must, because it is our duty, because it is just and right, not because we want and expect fame, or fortune, or love, or for self-aggrandizement.
My first job out of law school was at the local prosecutor’s office as an assistant prosecuting attorney. Every day, I handled cases, thirty to sixty cases, some days, but after almost a year I hadn’t had a jury trial. I was terrified for my first jury trial. But, the Charleston Stage Company decided to put on For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, a choreo-poem by Ntozake Shange. This play was the first set of poems on Broadway, and it spoke directly to my soul. So. I signed up to be in the play. And I got used to being on stage. I became comfortable speaking before a group again. I developed a persona that became a huge part of my trial lawyer schtick. . . and when I had my first jury trial, a few weeks after the play wrapped, it was like riding a bike. . . except, I was arguing the law.
I still get scared when I talk in front of groups of people. I do it anyway. God always gives me something to say. I make mistakes, as a yoga teacher, an attorney, a speaker. It’s not all been perfect. But in each of these things, I know that this is something that God wants me to do, and I need to get over myself in order to do it.
Feel the fear. . . acknowledge it. Embrace it. . . then do your thing anyway. In yoga, we believe in the concept of dharma. Dharma is your true path, your essence, your soul’s assignment on this earth. When we succumb to fear, we are rejecting our dharma. We aren’t living in our truth, and we aren’t just hurting ourselves, we are depriving others of our light. And what’s wonderful about our dharma. . . if we are living in our path, we don’t have to worry about the outcome.
It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another’s; you are safe from harm when you are doing what you should be doing.
It may not be your path to sit back and not put yourself out there. And if so, you are not just hurting yourself, you are depriving all of us of your gifts, and the wonderful unique essence you bring to the world. Don’t let fear be the thing to hold you back.
The fear . . .it’s temporary. If things don’t work out. . . at least you know. It’s all a part of the journey. . . and there are no regrets. . .So let’s do it yeah? Make the conscious decision to reject fear. Your playing small doesn’t serve anyone. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Later this week I’ll post some mantras to help you in times of fear. Meantime, how about you find one small thing you’re afraid of this week, like. . . eating asparagus, or. . . eating out alone. And do it. Just to see what happens.