Fear is not the animal
We make her out to be
She is the truth, which lives
Inside both you and me
In personal development circles, the concept of unworthiness comes up often, and for good reason. So many of us have experienced messaging from a very early age and from a variety of sources that reminds us of all the ways that we are simply not deserving of a multitude of gifts that are arguably, our birthright.
Over years of internalizing this messaging, we come to believe that we are unworthy to be loved, unworthy to have material abundance, unworthy to accomplish goals, unworthy to be happy, unworthy to be seen and heard in our truth, unworthy to show up authentically in the world. And, if we consider examining what we might need in order to feel worthy, we often feel like we’re unworthy to even ask that question.
In other words, we’re trapped. Or it certainly can feel that way.
This has been a recurring theme with my clients as well. Working with women who are on a personal development path, I notice that more often than not, the solar plexus, the energy center connected with self-esteem and personal will, is nearly always closed when we first begin working together. Over time and with trust and practice, the solar plexus is more consistently open, and that’s often how I know they’ve made a shift.
Throughout my own personal development journey, I haven’t been immune to these feelings that my inherent worth is somehow deficient either. For me, my messaging has been around being “too much” – too loud, too passionate, too sensitive – which later became an ingrained belief that I’m not worthy of expressing my voice or my feelings – and so I didn’t.
And so, like many others, I did the work. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I embarked on the all the practices I could to help me reframe my disordered beliefs and relearn the truth about myself: that I am worthy. And yet, more than seven years later, I still found myself feeling like something is missing. Sometimes it felt like unworthiness, but often it felt more vague and unidentifiable.
For the last few years, I’ve picked an intention for the year, usually in the form of a single, easily-remembered word. My word this year is fearless. I don’t consciously choose my word; I open up to the energy of what I’m needing at that time, and this year fearless came in loud and clear. It was not a complete surprise. For years, I’ve lamented the fearless nature I had a child and even as a teenager. It was a healthy fear, the kind that kept me from making impulsive or dangerous decisions, but also allowed me to move forward with ideas without worrying too much about failure. When I wanted something, I just went for it, without much consideration that it might not happen. And it usually did.
Of course, we don’t get to go back to an earlier time, but that doesn’t stop us from pining for a version of ourselves that exemplifies something we feel we lost and would like to reclaim. And identifying that seemingly lost aspect of ourselves gives us the opportunity to observe what actually IS showing up in our lives, and to interpret its meaning.
For me, I spent time observing how fear shows up in my life disguised as unworthiness. In doing so, I experienced a major shift and clarity I haven’t felt in a long, long time. It’s not the same as going back to my younger, fearless self. It’s actually better. And in doing so, I was able to identify three clues that felt like unworthiness to me, but that I now know are actually fear.
- Seeking more – This is a constant struggle for me. I find myself constantly feeling like need more knowledge, more degrees, more training, more certifications, more coaching. I’m a continual learner for sure, and it’s normal to seek help and knowledge from experts and outside sources in order to learn new information and support our work. However, when it becomes a pattern it could signal fear rather than an actual need for knowledge. Fear to move to the next level, fear to speak our truth, fear to be seen as an expert (or even a novice), fear of failure. When we feel the pull for more, we can listen to our internal voice for insight. Is it saying, “That looks interesting” (curiosity, a desire for learning) or “I NEED that” (desperation, fear of missing out on something that we can’t tap into internally)? We can also examine where we are in our life and our work. When we are in a place of transition, becoming more confident in our abilities, and putting ourselves out in the world in a more visible way, the vulnerability often creates fear that we’re not ready, that we need more. If needed, we can also ask a trusted friend for an objective sense of what might really be going on (my husband is a great sounding board for me because he doesn’t feed me any B.S.).
- Hesitation – I find that even when I accomplish something important, or I’m offered a great opportunity, I often hesitate. It could be that I hesitate because I don’t feel worthy of that accomplishment. But most often, if I didn’t feel worthy, I wouldn’t have attempted it in the first place. Or I wouldn’t have put it out into the Universe for that opportunity to present itself. It’s precisely because we believe we’re worthy that we even try. And it’s fear that keeps us from taking that next step, even when it’s handed to us.
- Downplaying accomplishments, talents, good news – This is one of my biggest clues. When you’re talking about myself, I tend to hold back on the good parts. I might say, “I’m fine” when really I’m having a great day. Or I hesitate to share my latest breakthrough at work because I know the person I’m talking to doesn’t like their job. This feels like humility but it’s not. It’s fine to be humble and considerate of what other people might be going through, but when we consciously diminish the good aspects of ourselves and our lives so that we don’t make others feel jealous or bad about themselves, that points toward fear – fear of being rejected, fear of being seen, fear of authenticity, fear of being “too much”. These fears might be familiar to us from previous experience, or they may seem foreign and point to ancestral fears passed down by generations. Either way, we’re not doing ourselves any favors by downplaying what’s awesome (and worthy) about us.
This list of clues that we might be experiencing fear instead of unworthiness is certainly not exhaustive. If you have your own to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you! I also encourage us all to remember that even though we don’t get to go back in time and become who we used to be, we do get to reinvent ourselves over and over again, bringing into our newest versions all the wisdom and grace we’ve earned along the way. My charge for each of us is that we keep doing the work and digging deeper to get to the truth of what’s holding us back – whether that’s fear, unworthiness, or something entirely – for ourselves, our relationships, our work, and our world.
P.S. If you do feel like fear is something you do struggle with (like me), I invite you to join me on May 22 for a powerful, no sales web class where you’ll participate in a transformational guided visualization to heal the fear that’s holding you back today. If these clues resonated with you at all, you don’t want to miss this opportunity! Join me for Release Fear and Reclaim Your Power!
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