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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Everything you want is on the other side of fear

For most of my life I’ve kept myself small.  When fear came up I’d do all I could to stop myself feeling it as it was so uncomfortable.  I’d create stories I’d tell myself about the type of person I was and what I could achieve, I’d avoid certain situations and opportunities so that I didn’t have to go through the experience of extreme discomfort and even terror. I kept myself small and limited.
Of course there were times I stepped out of my comfort zone.  One being the decision to train to teach.  Yes I loved my subject and I felt drawn to learning how to teach it and through a number of synchronistic events, much to my amazement, I found myself on a prestigious teaching programme. The joy of that achievement was swiftly replaced with extreme fear from the actual act of getting in the classroom and the daunting experience of pretending I knew what I was doing in front of a bunch of 16 ad 17 year olds.  So many times I cried on the way to the college I had my work placement in.   I lived in a constant state of fear.  So many times I was going to give up – such was the challenge of standing up, teaching content I hadn’t come across before and managing a lively class of teenagers, most of whom were not interested in the subject.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  But I pushed through and achieved my dream.
I felt I had really achieved something.  For me.  I felt empowered.
Everything I wanted was on the other side of fear.
The thing is, when you sit with the fear, when you come to realise that it’s keeping you small, you may find it’s stopping you from speaking your truth, from aligning with your heart’s desires, from taking up opportunities offered to you that could make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.    Sometimes the only thing to do is to do things differently.  Make that decision.  Take the plunge and go through the fear.     You may be very glad that you did.
‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make’  - Lewis Carroll.
If not now,  when?
Of course it doesn’t mean I’ve conquered fear.  It’s a natural human emotional response designed to protect us.   We tend to think of it in negative terms but fear can also make you feel alive, exhilarated – think scary rides!
One thing I do know is that if you can break through in the times you realise you are holding yourself back or keeping yourself small,  you will feel stronger, more capable and empowered.
Don't let fear stop you from being the person you always wanted to be.
Don't let fear stop you from living the life you have always wanted to live.
Don't let fear stop you from living your heart's desires.
Try it, feel the fear - and do it anyway - see where it takes you next.
Shirley x
'Its impossible'said pride.'Tt's risky'said experience.'It's pointless'said reason.'Give it a try'whispered the heart.(Unknown)

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The path to being seen and heard can be a long and winding road.

‘Children should be seen and not heard’….. As a child of the 1950s and 60s this view, although even then considered out dated, was still prevalent.  I certainly felt that in schools which, for me, were a fearful place to be in.   I certainly did not want to speak out and did my best to be as invisible as possible.  In that way I could protect myself and avoid trouble.

I would be the last to put up my hand in class to answer a question for fear of getting it wrong – teachers were quite aggressive and sarcastic in those days – adept at humiliation. Powerful strategies for silencing children.

There was a constant pressure to ‘be good’.  Monday to Friday in school and on Sunday there was Sunday school.  A huge amount of conditioning goes into a Christian upbringing – parental expectations were high and moral education handed over to religion. You definitely weren’t expected to express opinions, that would be frowned upon. There were many authority figures to challenge you.

The continual reinforcement of outdated attitudes and beliefs, going back generations.
Being quiet and good was expected for a girl. ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice’ – yes well, a lot to live up to. Not a lot was expected of girls in the 50s and early 60s.

The attitudes of not speaking up and being invisible do impact me still today.  I have spent the last couple of decades actively dealing with the fall out of these defensive practices and trying to push myself forward to speak up and be visible.   I have made significant inroads through countless personal and spiritual development courses and energetic healing practices but the programming is deep and sometimes persists.

The resistance that shows up from past conditioning is challenging but not impossible to overcome.
The fact that in my 40s I trained as a teacher and spent around 15 years teaching is testimony to that.
Although for most of those 15 years I felt a fraud.  I felt an imposter, I didn’t know enough, on paper my degree and teacher training showed me I was well qualified but I didn’t feel it and used every negative experience in the classroom to reinforce that attitude. It was only during my final year of teaching that I stopped comparing myself with everyone else and made peace with the fact that I had something useful to contribute to my students’ experience and that was good enough.

When I look at why I’ve continued to subdue my voice, and fear stepping forward and being known, there are several strands of thinking in the mix.

I’m afraid of getting it wrong.

As a child I did experience feeling silly, embarrassed, humiliated when at times I did get things wrong, particularly at school. Miscommunication or a child’s lack of understanding about a task – not tolerated so well years ago.  Thankfully (hopefully) today the education system is a little more tolerant. The same feelings will still show up as an adult – not all the time – but the fear hovers in the background.

If I get it wrong, the adult me knows it’s not the end of the world – but the inner child part of me fears feeling an idiot, fears rejection, fears she won’t be liked.  For her it is the end of the world and will she be brave enough to take the risk and speak up?   Speaking up means she’ll be noticed. She’ll become visible.

If I get something wrong, I’ll lose credibility and respect.  That was a big one for me as a teacher and it took a good few years for me to relax in the classroom enough to know that ‘not knowing’ was a great opportunity for whole class research to find the answer.  I taught psychology – how ABSURD to expect myself to know EVERYTHING about psychology?!

Letting the world know what I think means I’ll be judged and potentially criticised.  I might annoy or anger someone who may not be afraid of speaking out so it feels like an unsafe space to put myself in, so best stay quiet.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even me.  We all see the world through our own perceptions and experiences – why would be all think the same?

Learning to trust myself to be able to deal with the fallout and to feel confident to stand my ground if necessary – is an ongoing lesson.

As a child I learned to wait for others to speak first so I could judge what a right opinion or attitude might be.  I may not have been in alignment with their opinion but I could choose to agree so I didn’t stand out or I could simply say nothing.

My assumption was that others knew better.   Something I fall back into all too easily.
Perhaps it is not surprising I learned to be a listener instead of a speaker.

I am getting there, however, I am gradually releasing those invisible chains and am determined to open up to a bolder voice.   This comes from a deep place of knowing.   An authentic space of openness and vulnerability, of love and connection to express what is in my heart and to truly serve the best way I can.  For this to happen, I need to be visible.  People need to know where to find me – I cannot stay hidden in the shadows without a voice.

‘Children should be seen and not heard’… seems I neither wanted to be seen nor heard!  But we are not victims of our childhood, we can use our memories to inspire us to move forward. The journey home has been a long, winding road but, finally, I now have the key to the door.

Shirley x