"It's all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation." -- Dr. Bob Gilbert
Years ago I remember reading an interview with Elvis Presley. It was well known that, like many performers, beneath the stage act of his sexy machismo and bravado, Elvis had a softer side that was relatively fearful and insecure. When asked if he ever got nervous before his performances he replied that in his "early days" of performing he was so afraid that he would nearly always throw up just before going on stage. Can you imagine how his career might have been altered if he had given in to his fear of performing and sharing the unique gift he came here to share? He might have ended up doing something with his life that would have been far less rewarding for him, as well as his millions of future fans. The irony is, in his wake he left countless others who created an industry of trying to emulate him rather than find their own center of uniqueness within. While in his later years he definitely had his share of demons to dance with, over the span of his career he, nonetheless, defined and redefined himself a number of times and each iteration was as original as the one before -- and because of that, his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of people.
We don't have to be famous rock stars to relate with this story. For many of us, fear is no stranger when it comes to stepping out of our comfort zone and onto the "stage" of a new experience to share the gift of ourselves with the world. The "stage" to which I refer is not necessarily the one we use to share our talents. While it certainly can and often will include that, I am also referring to the limelight we must step into that invites us to more fully express who we really are in our daily lives. Anytime we follow the pathway that honors our authentic self it is likely that fear will be part of the experience. Too often, however, we end up standing in the wings, just off stage, metaphorically comatose, because we allow our fear of failure (or sometimes, success) or our fear of being judged and rejected to keep us there.
For some of us, stepping onto the stage may mean dealing with the fear of applying for a new job that more fully honors who we really are, or feeling the butterflies within fluttering madly as we ask someone on a first date while, at the same time, trying not to be anyone other than who we authentically are. Then again, it could also mean grappling with the fear of losing or leaving a long time job or career -- or losing or leaving a long time relationship to honor who we know ourselves to truly be. These are all areas where we tend to stifle our authentic self, however, anything that pushes us onto the stage where we are forced to confront and transcend our fear of being who we really are qualifies. These are also the times when the portal to our redefining moments open and avail themselves to us if we are willing to step through them.
If we are not mindful, the fears that linger within will define our lives for us without our conscious consent or awareness. Our fears erect invisible walls that keep us and our soul essence compressed and unexpressed, and this can only lead to a life of dissatisfaction and regret. Why? Because we inherently know, beyond the fear, there is something within us that is larger than the fear and it is calling us to step up and into the limelight of a life worth living: It is the authentic self seeking the freedom to be what it came here to be. We know it is there -- we can feel its presence and desire to be set free. Perhaps the only real difference between ourselves and the "early" Elvis is that along with sensing that presence he also allowed himself to feel the fear, throw up, and then get on with what he knew he was born to do. We could say he learned to let his "inner" Elvis (his authentic self) out, while too often we tend to feel the fear and hold back. The good news is it's never too late to let our "inner" Elvis (our authentic self) out.
The practice is to acknowledge our fear and embrace it rather than deny or run from it. To embrace our fear means we are making a conscious choice not to allow it to define who we are or what we can accomplish. The energy of fear, once harnessed, can be like a highly spirited racehorse we can ride to our own greatness. What did Elvis know that perhaps we may not know (until now)? He knew he had to saddle that horse night after night, mount up and hold on tight to the dream he had come here to make his reality. It's all right to have fear in your life -- just be willing to ride it rather than run from it. You'll be amazed where it can take you when you hold the reins.
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