Everyone says to know your “why.” When it comes to your fears, the “why” is irrelevant. I’ll explain.
Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series exploring my fears around taking care of my 3 nephews for a long weekend.
Yep. You read that right. I, a single woman with no kids, a proud member of the #Otherhood, agreed to be the one in charge and watch my three nephews (ages 8, 6 and 1) while their parents went off to Mexico!
Now, as I sit on the Amtrak train heading down to D.C. it all seems a little crazy.
What was I even thinking when I said yes to this? I explored that, and the origination of my doubts, in Part 1.
And yes, a part of me knows that I am capable of this. So why am I so nervous? I unveiled that in Part 2.
All caught up? Great. Read on below.
I have some pretty valid reasons for my fears. They make sense, don’t they?
Why am I asking? Of course they do. And also, none of that matters.
Here’s the truth about fear and the reasons we feel fear: the reasons are irrelevant.
Reasons are stories we tell to rationalize the emotions we feel.
I know what you’re thinking: everyone says to know your “why.”
Our “why” may be relevant in some contexts, but in this context of fear, our “why” is irrelevant.
Emotions don’t need to make sense. Emotions are not rational. They are feelings.
There are only two possible outcomes to the game trying to rationalize my fears:
- I tell a story that is so convincing that I justify my fear, or
- I realize that my story sucks and then I judge my fear.
Neither one of these serves me.
If I justify my fear, then I feed it and allow it the power to paralyze me.
If I judge my fear, then I risk going into the negative spiral of self-debasement and unworthiness.
And to what end?
I can go through the reasons above and give you an alternate version of the story. I can tell you a story that rationally negates the reason for the fear.
We all do this. It’s our nature to try to rationalize what we are feeling, especially when we are feeling a “bad” or “negative” emotion like fear.
But fear isn’t rational, it’s emotional.
And just as we can feel happy and joyful without rationalizing it, we can feel fear without having a story around it.
I have learned that what serves me most in this moment is not to dive into the reasons why, nor to try to “get over it,” but rather to recognize the emotion.
What serves me most in this moment is to be with what is.
I feel nervous. I feel fear. And that’s ok.
It doesn’t matter why I feel fear. There is no need to “get over it.”
The fear arrived to tell me something. It wants to be seen and heard. And that’s my only responsibility in the face of fear: to notice it. To allow it to be present. To listen to what it wants to tell me.
That’s what I’m doing right now.
I’ve noticed it. I’m feeling where it shows up in my body.
I’m naming it. I’m calling it out. I’m acknowledging its presence.
When we try to “get over” our fear, or diffuse it by “being love” we give the fear power over us and it becomes an obstacle in our path. We must “do” something to clear that obstacle. But when we acknowledge that it’s here, and we call it out, we remove its power.
I see you, fear.
I’m allowing it. To be clear, once I’m with my nephews, the game face is on. But right here, on the train, and until I pull up to their house, I’m giving myself the space to be with it. I am surrendering to it.
I am holding space for you, fear. Come and tell me what you need.
I’m investigating it. I’m asking: what’s really going on here? I’m scanning my body to feel where the fear is showing up.
Hello, hips on my left side. Hello, lower back. Hello, heart space. What interesting sensations you are offering me right now.
What’s behind these stories I have told myself? What is it that I really am fearing? Here is where the stories can help: they can offer me a glimpse into what I really fear.
I fear that if I set boundaries, my nephews won’t think I’m fun and they won’t love me. I fear being disliked.
I fear that if I’m forced to abandon my practices it will mean that I’m not worthy of helping others. I fear being proven wrong. I fear being called out as a fraud.
I fear that if I must set rules then I will no longer be the “fun aunt.” I fear losing my identity.
I fear that if I have a moment where I lose patience or get angry it will mean that I haven’t changed, that the time and effort I put into spiritual and personal development has been wasted.
And here’s another one:
I fear that any mistakes I make in this weekend will prove my unworthiness to be a wife and mother.
As I investigate this, my temptation is to judge this or to get defensive by challenging the truth of the assumptions underlying the fears. And trust me when I tell you, my temptation to challenge this is huge. Because that’s a big part of who I am. I like to challenge assumptions.
Here’s what I know: it’s not necessary (or helpful) to judge or challenge this. My only role here is to be with what is.
This is not always easy. There are some big things going on here. I’m uncovering a lot. And the temptation is to hide or fight back. Instead, I take a step back and I say to myself:
Wow. Isn’t this interesting?
Interesting is one of my favorite words to use when I’m tempted to judge or to challenge what’s going on.
The other thing I like to say is this: It’s information.
Reminding myself that this is merely information keeps me away from attempts to give it meaning.
So often we want to create meaning around everything we notice, and that’s not always healthy.
Perhaps it’s too early to assign a meaning to it. Perhaps a meaning will give it more importance than it deserves. Perhaps a meaning will lead me into a downward spiral of self-beating and shame. None of that is useful here. None of that serves.
So instead, I remind myself: “it’s just information.” Interesting information.
Then I pretend I’m a traffic cop at the site of an accident, waving drivers along:
Everyone move along now. There’s nothing to judge here.
Finally, I am nourishing myself. I sit back and look through a broader lens and invoke my faith in the Divine – that force in the Universe that is bigger than I am, that is actually in control. I remind myself of what is really true, outside of myself:
I won’t be alone. I will not be in some deserted back country. I’ll be in a suburb of our nation’s capital. I’ll have internet, and Google, and a car, and FaceTime and food and water. Allyson and Adam have a community of friends available to help if necessary.
And my suitcase is filled with an arsenal of spiritual and personal development tools and leadership skills.
Humor. Compassion. Grace. Playfulness. Resourcefulness. A healthy sense of adventure. Love. Faith. Trust.
As I remember this, the reasons for my fear fade away. They aren’t the truth. They are just stories. Stories of my mind to rationalize a feeling in my body.
What’s true is this: I have three nephews who I love – “more than all the stars in the sky,” as I tell them often. I am an amazing aunt. They are excited for me to stay with them.
And for the next four days, we are going to have an amazing adventure together.
As I remember this, the train pulls into the station. I exit into the beauty of the historic Union Station in Washington, D.C. The sky is blue and cloudless.
And I am no longer afraid.
We all have fears. Let’s help each other! If you found this series helpful, please consider sharing with a friend. And make sure to get on my list. You don’t want to miss the big news coming soon. I promise it will be worth it!