When FEAR writes YOU a letter: how to become unstuck and move past the fear that holds you back
I have a confession to make.
I’ve been hiding.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been living beneath a heavy suit of armor.
I keep people at a distance, acting from a place of judgement and self-justification, dominating and taking control of every situation…it has been an exhausting and isolating 34 years.
After a few personal “growth spurts”, I have made a great deal of progress in this area. I understand my default, reactive behavior patterns. I can feel when the need to own or control or dominate raises the temperature in my body. And I have battled to reach a place where I ask more questions than I have the answers.
In theory, I know that vulnerability is not the same as weakness, but I still struggle every day to show up in life without my armor.
Sometimes, I even hide from myself.
I wear black. And lots of hoodies. I make excuses for my body and my strong personality. I procrastinate doing the things that I secretly feel compelled to do. I spend too much time on the urgent and forsake the important.
And all of these behaviors turn into a downward spiral of self doubt.
My inner voices become hypercritical. And I become stuck. I end up not expressing myself, and making zero progress toward my goals and delivering on my purpose in life.
FEAR seems to be the loudest of my inner voices. I know it exists for a very good reason — to keep me safe and alive, but I have been letting it steer the conversation for far too long.
On the podcast, Magic Lessons, Elizabeth Gilbert suggests an activity designed to acknowledge and move past the voice of fear.
Excerpt from Liz Gilbert:
Allow your fear to write a letter to YOU.
I do this every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly shaky and unsure of myself. I give my fear a chance to express itself, formally, in writing. I ask my fear, “What are you actually terrified about, in this situation?” And I make a effort of listening, with respect.
I thought, “I could do that!” and then I got to work. Or, rather, fear got to work writing a letter to me.
And, though it is embarrassing and revealing and a highly vulnerable move, I have a strong feeling that sharing my letter from fear will help me move past my stuck-ness…and my hope is that it might help someone else in need of doing the same.
~ A letter from the desk of fear ~
Who do you think you are? You think people give a shit about you?
Seriously? I didn’t realize you were that stupid.
People don’t want you around. They don’t care about what you do or make. They don’t want to hear what you have to say. They think you’re ugly and fat an obnoxiously pushing and overbearing.
Even when you laugh and smile — it’s so overboard. It’s just too much. Too loud. Too different. Stuck up and bitchy.
No wonder people don’t want you around or invite you to do anything.
Just blend in, will you? Wear black. Hide your body. Control yourself. Conceal yourself.
You don’t need them. You’re fine by yourself. You LIKE being by yourself.
People say they think you’re bold. A “badass.” What they mean is you’re a controlling, bossy bitch. TOO. MUCH.
Your bitchiness drives everyone away. Nobody calls you except for telemarketers. No one texts you or emails you or snapchats you or tweets you or tags you.
YOU DON’T EXIST.
You think you have so much to say but you’re terrified to share yourself so you keep getting in your own way. You like it that way. It is safe because no one can reject you.
Keep it up,
Unearthing your issues + moving beyond fear
Once you’ve written your letter (or simply listened to your fear), you can begin to unpack the underlying issues that are driving these thoughts.
Begin by acknowledging fear as a protection mechanism:
Thank you, fear, for your perspective.
I know that you are only trying to keep me safe and alive.
But I’ve got this now.
Then, you can see what’s behind all the hubbub. For me, it became clear that vulnerability and self-expression are hot button issues.
My fear gets really squirrelly at the mere thought of sharing a personal story or letting others in. As a result, I procrastinate writing.
This is a huge issue because I feel compelled to write and share my story, with the hope that it can inspire others to do the same deep work that is such a struggle and so fulfilling all at once.
And, even as I write this last sentence, my fear voice was criticizing every. single. word.
If you found this article helpful, or if you end up writing your own letter from fear, please leave me a comment or private note. I’d love to hear from you!