There are two voices that live inside my head.
One encourages me to take that new yoga class, or attend that event that’s just a little out of my comfort zone, or to approach that stranger at a party.
The other responds that the class is too far, I can’t go because I’m too tired, or it’s raining, or I need to do laundry. Oh yeah, and that stranger: he definitely doesn’t want to be bothered—what would I say, anyway?
Oftentimes, the problem is that the first voice—the voice that tells us it’s safe to join with others—can be a whisper, while the second—the voice of the ego, of fear—can turn up the volume into a scream.
It’s persuasive with its resounding “noes,” its desire for solitude, for sameness, for comfort. It’s the voice that tells us to pull away. It’s the voice that keeps us from opening up, particularly in a romantic relationship. It’s the one that wants to withhold love, and can come up with a barrage of reasons to support that idea.
Recently, that second voice told me that it wasn’t a good idea to spend a Sunday with the person I’m dating. I felt anxious and exhausted. The day before, I ate a pint of ice cream and a family-sized bag of chips (as one of my snacks), and so I had a stomachache, as well as bad case of acne.
It told me to put on my pajamas, crawl into bed, and watch Netflix. I experienced so much resistance to the idea of going to see my date that I began looking for semi-logical reasons not to: there was traffic, parking would be difficult later in the day, I could see him next week, I was sparing him from my negative state of being—I even told myself that it was an act of self-love, that I needed to stay home because my empathic soul needed to recharge.
Our fears know how to kick up dust. It’s easy to listen to our egos because they’re so loud, so insistent, while the voice of our true selves feels more like a nudge, a mere whisper telling us that we are good enough, that we don’t have to lose those 10 pounds before we start dating, that people don’t stop caring for us when we break out or when feel unattractive or sad, and that, yes, we should set up that online dating profile even though we are resistant.
It occurred to me that I wouldn’t allow myself the chance to spend a sunny Sunday with someone I really cared about because of that second voice. I wouldn’t give myself that much happiness, and instead, I actively resisted a joyful experience.
And somewhere in that knotty mess, deep in my heart, was the truth I didn’t want to face: I did not feel worthy of love—not at that moment, at least.
It was my deeper feelings of unworthiness that were stirring up sadness, which I then used as an excuse to withdraw. What I blamed on traffic, or hormones, or my need to rest, was really my deep fear of joining in—a fear rooted in the belief that I was not good enough, that only my best self deserved love.
Our amount of self-love will determine whether we choose to join with others.
I learned this lesson last year, when I finally began to open up to the idea of looking at the subconscious fears that were dictating my romantic life. I felt like I had dated every man across the Eastern Seaboard, but it was only when I had become so frustrated by the act of perpetual dating that I was finally ready to take responsibility and look within.
Many people have similar patterns—fears about opening up, being vulnerable, being intimate—that result in the ego insisting on clever reasons to detach.
He’s too far. We’re too different. It’s Sunday. It’s Tuesday. I have laundry. I have a hangnail.
And yes, sometimes we do need to rest. And yes, I suppose we should wash our clothes once in awhile. But other times, we simply say no to going out after work, or we dismiss an opportunity to meet someone because we are not allowing ourselves the experience of union—of receiving love, joy, fun, laughter, or excitement.
We empower separation by declining invitations and choosing to separate from others, when what we really seek is connection.
So here’s what we need to ask ourselves: Are we withdrawing from fear? Or are we withdrawing out of love, because a relationship is no longer serving us?
The trick is being able to discern between the voice of our ego and our inner being. Our ego will come up with the most elaborate reasons for pulling away. I have come to recognize that the fearful part of me that resists love is like a small child trying to spit out a large pill—it knows how to throw a tantrum.
Only when we recognize these fears can we transmute them. If we believe the voice of our ego, if we listen to it, we close ourselves off to the possibilities of experiencing love.
We can choose to live a heart-centered life. We can choose to recognize our fears when they arrive, to greet them with love, but not listen to their directives. So what do we do when we are experiencing these fears that, often, come dressed as anxiety, exhaustion, or self-doubt?
First, we can recognize them. Becoming aware of our negative patterns is the first step in releasing them.
We can choose to join. I could’ve slathered on some foundation, shoved a pack of Kleenex in my purse, and chosen to nurture love instead of solitude. I could’ve vetoed my fears: Sorry fear, I hear ya, but you’re not the final decision-maker.
If we find it too difficult to move past our fears, if we’re too anxious or resistant to take a step toward love, we can communicate this to the person we’re pulling away from. This is the grounds of a conscious relationship—one that makes a safe space for fears to arise. We can be willing to look at our fears and those of the other person without judgment.
That night, I was able to open up and communicate to my date about why I didn’t want to see him. I explained that it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy his company, but rather, I was stuck in a fearful state, and I couldn’t bring myself to even leave the house.
I could’ve just as easily lied, telling him that I had food poisoning or leaky pipes. That would’ve been an easy out, and one that wouldn’t have revealed my wounded parts.
But I opted for honesty this time, because I’ve learned that talking through fear shifts fear. Further, it lets the other person know that you trust him or her.
Immediately after our talk, I felt a shift, a lightness in my heart.
The next morning, I wrote “Conscious Compliments” on a mason jar and placed it on my desk. I set an intention to fill the jar with loving words about myself, to focus on the beautiful things I offer to the world.
Pain surfaces: There is part of me that wants to push others away, to detach. But I see that part, and I choose to love her. She is trying to protect my heart, and she is kind and good. She has been on a journey for 33 years, and she has loved, been hurt, and hurt others. She has opened up and been vulnerable, and she has shut down—too afraid to express herself, unwilling to let anyone see her scars.
There are times that all of us will choose to detach and pull away from those who are kindest to us, those who will love us despite our acne, the extra 10 pounds we carry in our middle section, or our painful past.
When we most feel like we are unworthy of love is, paradoxically, when we need it most—it is our call for love. And deep down, it is our reminder of the real truth, which is that we are love.
We are love expressing itself as a human being for a little while. All of our tears and acts of detachment are sacred, because all things are sacred. Nothing is unwelcome.
As we sit with those parts of ourselves that feel unworthy for a while, we find that the unhealed part, that shadow self, may just decide to join in, may just feel worthy enough to receive love, too.
From here, we can join with others from a place of wholeness. And a union born of wholeness becomes more than joining with another person—it becomes a process of joining with and loving all parts of ourselves.
Author: Jessie Leon
Editor: Callie Rushton