You may have heard me talk about how, as an ACT Practitioner, my approach is very much “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Well, I want to share with you how this has helped me in my own journey to encourage you to take the chance and to show you that I absolutely walk the talk. This is a story of how I have learned to fall in love with life.
Growing up, I had very little self-belief, and I’ve been on the journey to address this for most of my life. I suffered with depression and even self-loathing at times, but it was always offset by a feisty spirit that knew I mattered and wanted me to believe it. I’m so thankful for that spirit because I never quit! I’ve tried all manner of therapies, and used all sorts of personal development tools to reach the point where I can genuinely say I love myself and know that I matter. My entire professional and personal life was dedicated to the same mission – helping myself and others move through life’s challenges to get to this point.
I used to shy away from life, and not feel I was good enough. I didn’t do a lot and was stuck in a rut of low self-esteem and a life that reflected this. There was no one magic wake-up moment; it’s been gradual for me. At some point in my 20’s, I had the realisation that fear is only an emotion. I made the conscious decision that if fear that was the only reason stopping me from doing something, then I’d better do it anyway. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started pursuing hobbies and dreams that I’d thought ‘other people do’ but that weren’t for me because they felt too exposing. I started going to a writing group and playing guitar. This all tied in with a point in time where I watched the film the ‘Yes Man’ and read the book ’The Luck Factor,’ in which research was quoted showing people make their own luck, and one major way to do so was by being open to opportunities: keeping doors open wherever you can and more importantly, noticing those open doors! I’m not sure if the noticing bit was in the book or something I added myself!
I started living life more fully, loving the fact that I was meeting new people and having new experiences and embracing every chance encounter, never knowing where it might lead. Then I started facing more fears and never letting social norms stop me experiencing something. I had the most amazing experience in Chicago in 2010 – I’d flown out there on my own (facing a big fear of flying!) and the friend I was staying with was extremely busy finishing her PhD. It was my birthday, and I had the choice to stay in or make something happen. As a huge music fan, I chose to go out to Buddy Guy’s blues bar, where I was invited to sit on a table with a woman I met in the queue – Dianne and her brother Rusty! I met some amazing people, had the most incredible evening watching blues artists play and it was just the absolute icing on the cake when Buddy Guy himself walked in and we met him at the bar!
I’m not recommending dangerous risk taking (stay safe folks, be sensible – to a degree!), but breaking those social norms of going out alone (especially as a woman) and facing the fear and the unknown resulted in the most amazing birthday ever!
When faced with the offer of a management role in an NHS mental health service a few years later, with no management experience whatsoever, my stomach lurched – because I knew I had to take it; and at the same time I knew I was terrified! I took the job and succeeded in setting up and launching a whole new service model within my first month! But even if I hadn’t pulled it off, it was a huge learning experience, and a huge self-esteem boost to know I made that choice rather than shrinking back from life’s opportunities. To me, allowing myself to live life to the full is an act of self-love, and a choice I make daily. It becomes a self-reinforcing positive spiral, where you send the message to yourself that you do deserve to allow yourself the same opportunities as anyone else. You deserve the chance to allow yourself to see what happens. If there’s one other person in the world who has done it, why not you? Not only that, I kind of consider it’s our mission to shine – we owe it to the world! See my blog post on this here, where the question is not what do you want from life, but what is life asking of you? It’s all about stepping up and daring to follow your heart.
I’m not saying the journey has been easy – some would say that confronting your fears, facing your shadows that hold you back and daring to be open with others about it is actually the hard road – but it has been totally worth it! Along the way, I’ve discovered the power of the mind to help you cope with the struggles. Meditation changed everything for me, as I learned to detach and recognise my story doesn’t have to define me – its just a story. I’ve learned that the mind has the capacity to completely reprogram itself – neuroplasticity is a real thing – it happens! My thought processes are generally optimistic and I have a natural confidence and enthusiasm for life now that my 20 year old self would have only dreamed of! As your mind and your outlook change, I’ve learned that life reflects that back to you, so I’m incredibly careful now where I put my energy and what I focus on.
So where does this leave me now? Well, I still haven’t ‘conquered my fear’ – I experience it all the time, as do most people. Even the act of sharing my story in this much depth (although in a very nutshell form!) is an act of facing those fears, for the sake of connecting with and hopefully helping you guys. But I have committed myself to overcoming fear, whenever it does arise and that makes me feel unlimited, knowing I’m not going to be held back. That in turn makes life feel awesome!
Sometimes we have to change things externally; a lot of the time, it’s the internal shifts that make the difference. Those changes soon reflect in the outside world anyway. My mission is to help you make those shifts to fall in love with your life, whether you are at war with it, are OK with it, or just live it on autopilot! There’s a whole world out there waiting…
If I did it, so can you.