Or Why I Keep Kicking Ass in the Face of Fear.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I was eight-years-old, walking home minding my business, the breeze blowing through my hair on a nice warm spring afternoon. I was playing with the necklace that was recently given to me by my mother—it was a rare occasion to have a necklace like this, even if it was just costumer jewelry because we didn’t have much money. So, I cherished it that much more.
To me, it was the most beautiful necklace in the world.
On my way home from the park two girls approached me—who I knew were trouble—and told me how pretty my necklace was. I thanked them, but knew they were not paying me compliments.
I peered over their shoulders through the wire fencing to see how close I was to my home, but I was too far out of earshot for anyone to hear me. I lived in a housing development for low-income families, which was rough even by Winnipeg standards. No one was likely to put themselves out for me if I tried to fight or yell for my necklace—or for my life for that matter!
The girls knew this, circled me a few times and laughed at my situation. I told them to get lost—to leave me alone. But they were bullies and wanted nothing but to make me feel bad. In fact, they didn’t really care for my necklace, they simply wanted to take it to wipe the smile off my face.
As I started to cry, they threatened me if was too loud, took my necklace and pushed me to the cement. I sat there on the sidewalk watching them walk away through my tears. I was alone, feeling crushed and disappointed at being bullied and thought, “that was all I had, why take it from me? Couldn’t they see how much joy it gave me?”
I went home, told my mom and we tried to get the necklace back by talking to their single mothers. Both claimed the necklace was bought for one of the daughters, but there was no way to prove otherwise. Many parents acted similarly because they didn’t know any better—they were ignorant. I was ignorant. No moral life lessons were being taught.
I’ve often recalled that event through the years—especially when things weren’t going well. Because in that moment and in many situations after that, a similar notion would show up that would create a sense of fear of losing something—that anything could easily be taken away from me no matter how much I wanted it. A fear I wouldn’t have protection from those who wanted to see me fail.
I had no understanding of “impermanence” at the age of eight and wouldn’t have it for another 25 years. I didn’t know how to process the situation then so took it personally and kept it close to my heart—for years. I started to create separation between myself and other people when I noticed they could afford things beyond staple food items—my family couldn’t. We were poor and survival was top priority.
So I allowed myself to believe that they were better than me.
Self doubt reigned supreme. I felt small, inferior more often than not, because I let the necklace go. How insignificant was I that people could openly lie to my face and turn around and call me the liar?
And now my necklace was around someone else’s neck—and they would get away with it.
It was a pivotal moment that set me up for fear-based thinking and an ego fire was lit within me.
Through the years, I was able to find relative success by relying on my ego, but after awhile it started to wear out. It became easier for me to live smaller and smaller. Slowly, I became just another person on this planet who punched a clock and existed merely to eat, drink and sleep, with the hopes that I could do it all over again the next day.
Never to rise to my fullest. Never to be my true authentic self.
I held on to things that no longer served me—relationships, food, material things—for fear that whatever I actually had in that moment would be taken away from me, just like my necklace. As I entered new or difficult situations, I was always thinking the worst was thought of me. Even if I didn’t see it, I would imagine it—feel it—and I would let it to hold me back. I would find myself giving up at social events, in relationships, in work situations where I felt like I had nothing to offer.
My internal broken record playing, “people will eventually realize I don’t deserve a spot at the table and they will toss me.”
And it was never true because I was always worthy—all of this was a reflection of my ingrained fear set in that spring day.
Fear held me back in two ways.
First, I needed play it safe, to be happy in a contained life and never rising higher than what I felt I deserved.
Second, I operated from an ego-based space, always striving for perfection, afraid of losing my grip on my work, school, or relationships. I was tainted, and it showed.
It has taken years to regain the strength to rehabilitate myself—with sweet friends, a deep yoga practice, self-reflection and meditation. I have been able to see that we are all inherently good human beings doing our very best but sometimes, we fail.
Those mothers and their children had no idea what they were doing when they took my necklace. And that look in their eyes I perceived they gave me was simply a look of fear that I would call them out.
Now, I approach projects and tasks with a deeper commitment and make the conscious decision to not give up easily. As a yoga teacher and health coach, I am often in front of new audiences and I need to show up for them. My personal issues go out the window because it is my job to keep people safe and feeling good. This task of showing up has allowed me to be my most authentic self—I need to be grounded and ready to help people with their health, weight, mental or emotional issues. I am the vessel and I’ve always been the vessel in every circumstance of my existence.
That little girl in me is holding out her arms wanting to be held and protected and I have a chance to offer that in every moment of every day—simply by showing up.
With a deep awareness that impermanence is a part of life—that if things don’t work out or something changes—it was meant to happen. There are life lessons at every corner. We have to be open to receiving them.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Melissa BethAnne Horton / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Marilyn Paul