If you’re a human being living on planet earth, then more than likely you have experienced one of these at some point in your life (if not more than once!). Our American society tends to view these experiences as negatives, something to be avoided or ashamed of, and at the very least, something to try not to admit to having felt.
But just like the proverbial monster in the child’s closet, these feelings only grow bigger and stronger when we avoid, ignore or wallow in them. But when we acknowledge, accept and understand them, they become non-issues and quite manageable.
There are many alternative ways of viewing these feelings. Bill Bauman once described anxiety as the flip-side of excitement — meaning that they are just opposite sides of the same coin. So if you are feeling anxiety, simply turn it on its head and focus on the excitement instead.
Here’s an example: Sophia is getting ready to leave the job she’s had for 15 years. She knows it’s time to go, and it’s her choice to leave; yet she is feeling anxious about the change and worried about what the future holds. Sophia can choose to focus on the anxiety and worry and make them bigger and scarier OR she can see that they are simply indicators of change.
Instead, she can decide to focus on the excitement that she is also feeling about the possibilities for her future, the many unknown opportunities that lie in wait for her, and what wonderful new adventures she will undertake in a new, challenging position.
Pema Chodron said, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” So here’s another way to interpret these feelings: that they are indicating how close you are to your soul’s truth. In other words, when you feel fearful or anxious, pay attention — for something big and important is happening in your life. It is so big and so valuable an experience for you that your soul is trying to call your attention to it by activating alert signals in your body — like doubt, worry and anxiety.
Here’s an example: Carlos used to paint all the time, and then his life got very busy with work and other responsibilities; as a result, his paints lay unused for the last few years. Whenever his friends suggest that he should pick up his paints again, he feels anxious and doubts that he still has the talent or creativity he used to have. These feelings are indicators to him that painting is an important aspect of his soul’s truth and something for him to consider and reflect upon.
When doubts and fears arise, we sometimes don’t want to look at them and what they are pointing out to us — because then we might have to acknowledge that we’ve been avoiding doing something that is meaningful and soul-inspired. This recognition can trigger self-judgment, criticism and guilt…so rather than address the situation, we think it’s easier to just ignore it. But if it really is our soul’s truth, ignoring it will only make it go away temporarily.
As you stumble upon and uncover your truth, it’s natural to feel doubt and worry. Make a conscious decision to focus instead on the excitement and anticipation of playing in your truth. Choose to walk through the feelings and come out the other side, where you’ll discover a new-found freedom awaits those who have had the courage to face their fears.
When you face these feelings in a new way, you’ll be able to say with excitement instead of dread: Fears, worries and doubts — Oh My! I wonder what this means?