“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield
I used to be afraid of so many things. When I was a child, I was scared of growing up and facing a life without my parents. I was afraid of the Easter Bunny and the milkman, and the thought of death had my head spinning in a thousand directions. Most of all, I was afraid of being myself. I never knew who I really was beneath the fleshy exterior and the questionable outfits my mother dressed me in. I was super self-conscious, and I couldn’t quite figure out my place in the world. The only place I felt comfortable was in the inner sanctuary of my mind.
Insecurity is a strange thing to ponder. Where does it spring from? How does it cultivate and flourish even under pleasant living conditions? My early childhood home was a safe and loving environment. Both of my parents are wonderful people, and my mother worked on strengthening my self-perception. Yet, no matter what she did or said, there was a constant underlying feeling of inadequacy shadowing my every waking moment. I felt awkward and self-conscious almost all the time – to the point that I was crippled on the inside. I had allowed those self-deprecating emotions to squander many opportunities throughout my early adulthood, which played a massive role in accepting the mistreatment of others.
I was around seven years old when my parents took me and my little brother one weekend to visit family friends who lived in Sydney’s north shores. If you’re familiar with Sydney, you’ll know those beautiful northern beaches and suburbs are populated with the spectacular homes reserved for the wealthy and famous. As it happened, one of my mother’s girlfriends had recently married a lovely man with ready-made kids, a seriously humongous mansion on the north shore, and a rather well-oiled, erratic mental disorder – and we, the nuclear family from the southern burbs, were lugging up for a weekend to experience how the other half lived.
I must be honest here, I was pumped. I mean, the moment I laid eyes on that outrageously big home, my breath caught somewhere in my lungs and my heart thundered in wonder. I know when you’re that age everything seems bigger than what it really is, but I can tell you that that home was set back among lofty trees and overlooked a lush valley leading to the water, and it was the most beautiful home I’d ever seen.
The interior of the manor was four levels of wonderment. The plush piled rooms were spacious, the kitchen and bathrooms were shiny and modern, and the Barbie-lookalike girl of the house slept beneath an elaborate weave of lace on the biggest bed I’d ever seen. Well, for a child’s standards anyhow.
She looked like a character straight out of one of my Golden Books, and even had a romantic name – Krystal – and I swear, when she clasped her delicate fingers around mine and rushed me toward her bedroom, I froze at the threshold and blinked – had I suddenly been pulled through a rabbit hole and emerged between the pages of a Golden Book?
As I gazed around the candy-colored room brimming with the latest gadgets, a huge doll house and all the toys under the rainbow, I decided I had. I wasn’t aware that other little girls slept beneath draping sheer fabric other than in the movies and my books. I had to be in a fairy tale – there was no other explanation.
Considering that up until that moment I had shared a rather small room with my little brother, you can understand how that possibility was a viable option for me.
After I managed to pull myself from the initial reaction to Krystal’s room, I allowed her to entice me further into her lair. She was excited to show me all her wonderful things, and I was eager to see them. Yet as she moved around the vast pink room with her chest puffed, her golden hair flowing down her back and her baby blues peering from a china-doll face, something else began to happen – me.
This stunning little creature with cherry-colored rosettes for lips and the glossiest blonde hair I’d seen outside of my Barbie doll collection had me enthralled. The thick carpet beneath my feet seemed to suck me further into its twisted pile and my entire body shifted into something extremely awkward as it dawned on me that this was a fairy tale and she was a real-life princess.
So, what did that make me?
Erm. Well, I’m going with the ugly duckling analogy here because that’s exactly how I felt. Better that than the wicked stepmother.
This lovely princess was confident and pretty, and she didn’t seem to second guess herself. She didn’t have to as this was a girl who appeared to have it all. She glided around the carpet like a swan skimming the calm blue ocean, gracefully flicking her hair when she laughed. And she laughed a lot. Turned out, she was a killer on the dance floor too – I know this because our parents took us out for dinner to a club that had a dance competition on the Saturday night and forced us kids to get on stage and boogie.
She won, by the way. Surprise, surprise.
The point is that this china-doll was everything I was not. She was perfect. I spent most of the weekend shrinking on the inside while my insecurities burned like a wildfire. If I could tell my younger self anything, I would remind her to love herself just a bit more than what she did, and I would tell her not to be afraid to shine. Because, at the end the day, that’s what insecurities boil down to – lack of self-love and self-belief.
I keep banners around my house. These are wonderful wise snippets shared from the likes of the Dalai Lama, native American beliefs and other ancient spiritual teachings. They’re everywhere. They’re in the kitchen, my office, the loo, my bedroom … I even have one hanging in my closet. I am someone that needs to constantly remind myself of the bigger picture, as I can become overwhelmed with life at times, and I know how easy it can be to slip back into old thinking patterns – those childhood feelings of inadequacy are never really that far below the surface.
One of my favorites is from Nelson Mandela when he talks about fear. Part of the quote is as follows:
“It is our light not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be?”
I love these words, and I realize now that playing small doesn’t serve the world, and that shrinking into the darkness and dimming my light doesn’t benefit me and won’t enrich my life. I won’t grow and flourish by continuing to doubt myself and think small.
I have come a long way since that little “ugly duckling” plagued with insecurities, and it didn’t come easy to reach the point where I am now. I had to deliberately set out to adjust my inner-perspectives and practice a bucket load of intentional change in my thought patterns, but over the years I’ve been able to tame the self-doubts and insecurities to something manageable.
Do I always get it right? Nope. But each time I feel that wobble, the one that says, “Who do you think you are to be doing what you’re doing?”, I take a few breaths and remind myself that a life lived in fear is a life half lived, and then I keep going, pushing myself to take the chances; putting myself out there in ways I could never have imagined, telling people how I really feel and baring my soul to the world. I do this because I am here to experience, expand, evolve and love like crazy. Why hold back when time is not on your side?
We are born on the leading edge of creation. We are born to shine. No matter how deep I must dig to find the courage to keep reaching for more, I’ll do it, because I am no longer that “ugly duckling” shrinking with insecurities and succumbing to the fear; I am the swan skimming over the surface of the calm, blue ocean.
So, the next time you feel that fear-wobble circling down your spine and threatening to overcome you, remember that everything you want is on the other side of fear, and consider these words from Nelson Mandela: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
You too are a magnificent swan – and the ocean is your playground. Play with me.