For most of my life, I have worried about what other people will think of me, and much of the time without me being conscious of it. How horrifying it feels to even contemplate someone not liking me! Living in the fear of not living up to others’ approval is a heavy and underhanded master. It sucks away your time, your energy, your thoughts and your freedom; it sucks away your soul.
It’s tempting to convince myself that I’m doing everything right when I perceive that I’ve pleased the masses. I’ve had a permanent smile glued to my face for most of my life, and the glue is beginning to fester. Sometimes I see so clearly that I paint a rosy picture of myself so others will like or admire me, and it’s an empty feeling.
The funny thing is, I know that any form of pretending or sugar coating really just puts up walls that keep me from genuinely connecting to others. The fear of not connecting is chasing connection away!
It’s easy to fall back in my comfort zone, to say I am doing great things, but underneath I feel like I’m an impostor, just drumming up the good stuff, and hiding the hard stuff. In his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution,
Baron Baptiste describes a comfort zone as a place we can go to coast in life and not have to face the challenges that arise.
I’m in an amazing yoga teacher training with Zeek Vincent, and it’s gotten me way outside my comfort zone. One day my pride took a big hit, and it took me a few days of digging deep to understand why I was feeling so off. And it was perfect. Pride is what Zeek calls a “holdback” something that keeps you from really shining.
Pride for me is sneaky. It is trying to be the best, not my best, just better than people around me. Ugh. It is staying busy to trick myself that I’m getting stuff done. It is pasting a smile on my face while busily thinking of how I can respond so I will be liked or looked upon with respect. It’s silly, I know, and I’m tired of it! But becoming aware of this habit is so powerful! I see it now. And that is half the battle Baptiste states that “by escaping into a comfort zone, we render ourselves vulnerable to all kinds of sabotaging behavior, addiction, and stagnation.” YES! I see the ways in which I self sabotage.
What I’m really afraid of is if I put my true self out there, that I will have to be responsible finally, that I will have to grow up and be an adult, not just a kid pretending. What if I let others know of my imperfections? Maybe they will connect with me more and love me just the way I am for being honestly me.
But as soon as I think that I’ve finally arrived and I don’t have more growing to do, that is precisely when more growing opportunities show up. I am becoming aware of this pride pattern. I can see it, take a step back, and look at where I steered off course. And if I learn something from any difficulty, then really, I was on the right course anyway.
I see how my weakness of pride is also an incredible teacher, and in that way it is making me stronger, if I am willing to peel away the layers. I see that it doesn’t need to be a huge shift, just a subtle one: a shift in my intent when I share, a shift in my heart behind my words and actions. A shift toward authenticity and honesty. Baptiste states that, “Often, stepping out of our comfort zone has more to do with the simplicity of forgiveness and self-honesty than it does with a grandiose breaking out of some box.” Amen.
The comfort zone of sitting fearfully behind the mask is getting less and less comfortable. To be fair to myself, I have taken the mask off in so many ways in the last few years. I stepped out of the dark “comfort zone” of years of self inflicted unhappiness, out of limited beliefs passed to me from many good people just doing the best they knew how. I am on a healing journey. I have looked a lot of my old stuff straight in the face. I’ve cried, screamed, pleaded, thanked, breathed, and let so, so much go.
My new comfort zone is gradually becoming a space of forgiveness, simplicity and self-honesty. It is a lifelong process, not conquered in a day or a week or a year or a decade. And I am grateful for the journey.
Am I the sum of my shiny experiences? Am I the mask I present to the world? Of course not. But then, who am I really? That can be a frightening question, to step off the cliff and trust that I already have the wings to fly. I am seeing more and more that the greatest form of humility is being honest with myself. Trusting myself.
Who are we really hiding from behind the mask? Ourselves. What are we so afraid of? We are afraid of our greatness, afraid of success, afraid of our light and soul driven power. I’m beginning to see the correlation between being vulnerable to true authentic power. What if my mask came off and I was really just ME? I’m pretty sure I would grow and progress and connect faster and better and with more love than ever before.
I’m grateful for the tools, friends, ideas, and practices that allow me to excavate and uncover my bright light. I am facing my fears, opening up to new ideas and ways of being. I am letting go of so much. The way is not always pretty. And it’s not a race.