Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. – Marianne Williamson
I grew up thinking that a certain four letter word – starts with an F, ends with a K, with UC in the middle – was the worst possible word. You had to stay clear of that word.
All the while I was trapped by another four letter word, something much more insidious, dark, and damaging than a swear word. I was trapped by fear.
The beginning of my journey with fear started when I was around ten years old.
Like many of our modern anxieties, my fears were irrational. One of them was the fear that if I didn’t fall asleep before midnight I’d be sick the next day. And of course the fear of not falling asleep would prevent me from falling asleep.
I grew to be afraid of social environments, of speaking up and speaking out.
It didn’t feel safe to be seen, noticed, or heard.
In my teen years I had dark thoughts about hurting my parents. I was afraid of these thoughts and I wondered, “am I the only one who feels so deeply this monster of fear in my life?”
Fear followed me into my early adulthood and reared its ugly head during one of life’s most meaningful moments, at the birth of my first child. When I literally ran out of the room, overwhelmed by uncertainty and inadequacy, an experience I share in the Dying before You Die podcast episode.
Fear has been a powerful force in my life, always present but popping up especially during stressful times.
When I was younger my mom wrote out the Bible verse II Timothy 1:7 on a 3×5 index card.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind.
I clung to this verse for years, carrying it in my pocket like a talisman. And although I’ve now lost the piece of paper, I’ve held onto it in my heart.
Those words brought comfort to me, for sure. But as much as I understood them intellectually, I didn’t feel them in my body. The only power I experienced was the power of fear and it was louder than anything else.
Les Brown, a well-known motivational speaker, is often credited with saying the following:
Fear is the most subtle and destructive of all human diseases.
He was actually quoting Dr. Smiley Blanton, a psychiatrist and cofounder of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry. Dr. Blanton knew what he was talking about.
This truth resonates in my own life and in the lives of many other people.
In one of his motivational speeches, popularized in the following YouTube video, Les Brown goes on to say this:
(Listen to section 4:50-7:30)
Fear kills dreams. Fear kills hope. Fear put[s] people in the hospital. Fear can age you… can hold you back from doing something that you know within yourself that you’re capable of doing… it will paralyze you… it seem[s] like you’re in a hypnotic spell.
What’s the benefit of allowing fear to hold you back?
When I first heard this a few years ago I recognized myself in that description.
Fear had stifled me, paralyzed me, and held me back from things I was a capable of doing.
Zig Ziglar says fear is F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real.
We believe it in our minds because we’ve told ourselves it’s true.
Granted, sometimes in our life it’s good for us to feel fear. But for the most part, in our modern day-to-day existence the perceived danger is not real. It’s false evidence appearing real.
Recently I participated in a Breathwork session led by Tristan Montoya.
I’ve done meditation and breathing exercises before but this was a particularly profound experience.
Like most deep experiences in our lives it’s hard to put into words, and I invite you to listen to the podcast to get a better sense of what I’m talking about, which is easier to communicate in spoken vs. written word.
As I explain in the podcast, after a series of prescribed breathing exercises lasting about 15 minutes I started to feel an electric-like current in my body. Starting in my chest, going down to my hips and up to my neck and the base of my chin.
I have never experienced a feeling of power, like this, in my body.
I’ve worked in construction. I have felt the surge of electricity and this was kind of like that but was a sustained feeling of power coming from within my body, not from an outside source. (And I wasn’t worried that I’d kill myself by electric shock either, which is always nice.)
It was surreal and incredibly moving. Afterward I remembered that scripture my mom shared with me, that God had not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind. Now I’d actually experienced that feeling of power in my body.
I’ve returned to that verse over the years and I like the paraphrased version of The Message by Eugene Peterson.
God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
Do you see the flip of perspective here?
It’s not about what you don’t (or shouldn’t) have – fear, but what you do have – gifts.
When I experienced the power in my body in the Breathwork session it wasn’t about expelling fear. I didn’t have to reject the fear or work against it.
It simply could not exist where there was no room for it.
I used to feel that power was outside of me, and fear was pressing against me, paralyzing me.
I’m starting to see that power is in me and that the very presence of that power is liberating me from fear.
Join me this episode as I get vulnerable about my personal struggle with fear, explore the teaching of some wise folks, and tell about my experience of when the words of an ancient book moved from intellectual belief to bodily knowing.
Media & Resources mentioned in this episode:
Music “Out of the Grey”, “Just a Glimpse”, and “Evanstar” by Stephen Keech.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson