Courage Is Loving Myself... Again
Kris, 36, New York
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I love to do” - Georgia O’Keeffe
Paralyzing Fear. Life-Altering Terror. I have lived with this and continue to do so each and every day of my life. In fact, I am not even sure I remember what it’s like to NOT feel fear. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to meet a truly gifted “Fear Facer” — Michelle Poler. She explained how she decided to face “100 Fears in 100 Days”. As I listened to her share her “Fear-Facing Journey”, I realized she USES fear — not against herself, but for herself — to motivate and push her. She took something, in this case an emotion which could have been used to her detriment and turned it around to use it for her benefit and own personal growth. I felt both awed and inspired to take a giant leap of courage and face a fear that I had.
For more than 5 years I had been talking about how much I missed going to school and longed to go back. After hearing Michelle’s journey, I felt how could I not face this one fear. This fear that to me was larger than life itself.
Would I fail or succeed? I wondered. Could I handle my fear or would it succumb me into its all-consuming grip? Would I get overwhelmed? Would I be wasting, not just my time, but that of my professors? …so many unknowns before I even took a step, not to mention a leap.
As I sat there thinking, I realized I was asking myself the wrong questions. I came to realize what I really feared was fear itself. So, I decided then and there that like Michelle, I was going to face my fears and go back to college at 36 years old.
I’ve been back for almost a year now and have not just faced my fears of going back to school and the unknowns, but I have learned how it was really the feeling of fear I was most scared of. I have faced fear itself and could not be more glad I did. In doing this, I have achieved more than I could have hoped for by getting and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I am aiming to graduate in May with a 4.0, and then move forward with my education from there.
I also decided to face another fear. Amidst doing this, I decided to learn to be more self-compassionate and to love my own self again. Not for what I did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, thought or didn’t think, felt or didn’t feel, but just for who I was at the most fundamental level possible. I chose to accept myself and where I am at any given moment in time. In doing this, I decided to write myself a poem so that I could remind myself that I am “imperfectly perfect”.
“I am here to tell you…”
(letter to self)
I am here to tell you…
You are NOT your disorder.
No matter what anyone tells you,
it DOES NOT define you.
CHOOSE to acknowledge this.
You are NOT your label.
Labels are misleading,
They are only useful for the proper professionals,
and, of course, insurance companies.
DO NOT let it hold you back,
restrict you or toss you to the side.
your label cannot taste the salty air,
smell the sweet scent of spring coming,
see the stars shining so brightly,
hear the sounds of birds chirping,
or feel the love you are so capable of giving and so worthy of receiving.
You are NOT your symptoms.
Symptoms are fleeting,
they may not even adequately describe the human being which lay beneath.
They do NOT make you bad, dirty, or to be shamed by the ignorant.
do not let it determine your beliefs or impede on your dreams,
chose to believe and please, please chose to dream anyway.
You are NOT your challenges.
Challenges are just that — challenges.
Choose to see them as a gift,
a gift meant to show not DISability, but ABILITY.
Believe it or not, we ALL have challenges.
They are opportunities to overcome,
not in spite but “de”spite.
Choose, not to succumb, but persevere and surpass,
to show all that glitters and the wonders you keep hidden within.
In fact, my inner friend, you are NOT even your diagnosis,
but SO MUCH MORE than any of this.
You are MORE than what others’ may CHOSE to see,
even more than what YOU may chose to see.
You are more empathic, caring, and compassionate because of it.
You are not limited, but limitless,
You are not inadequate, but adequate beyond all measure.
You are not unkind, but so kind.
You do not lack empathy, but feel it so easily.
You do not lack understanding, because you know exactly what it's like.
You were made to be imperfectly perfect.
You are not untouchable, unreachable, or unloveable.
You are so easily touched, you may have to take a break at times.
It may take a little longer, a different journey, or a gentle knowing,
but you are so very reachable.
AND my little one, YOU ARE SO VERY INCREDIBLE.
You DO NOT belong in a box.
In reality my brother/sister, parent/child, friend/acquaintance, or even
YOU, yes YOU,
are SO VERY BRAVE and SO VERY LOVED.
By and FOR YOU: Kris
I still get scared, terrified, overwhelmed, and anxious. I still feel fear. however, I am not afraid of “fear” any longer. Thanks to Michelle and her sharing of her own journey with fear, and learning how to use fear for me, I am not so afraid that I let it keep me from doing a single thing I really long and yearn to do. I have worked on changing my perspective and instead of being “afraid of fear”, I “embrace fear”. I am grateful for the ability to feel it, just as I am grateful to be able to go back to school and maintain my 4.0 GPA. If I feel scared, I gently remind myself, “Hey, I am just feeling an emotion — it's called fear, and that's okay.”
My job then really begins when I ask:
What will I do with my fear?
How will I use it for me?
How can I use my experience to not just help me, but help the world at large?