Inside: You can embrace that you are strength and struggle and it is good. You can be afraid and messy and still show up fully to life. Here are some of the ways I overcome fear. This post contains referral links for books I recommend.
My anxiety has been spiking lately again. I always need to be vigilant to protect my mental health over fall and winter but the last time I felt warning signs like this was two years ago. That time I asked for help unheard over and over for months for my mounting anxiety until I crashed and had dark, suicidal thoughts again. After that my doctor promised she’d do a better of job of hearing me.
(My mental health is affected by Hashimoto’s and sometimes a micro adjustment of synthetic hormone helps me fairly quickly feel normal again but I also do a lot of other work in terms of nutrition, supplements, lifestyle, emotional healing and mindset work to care for myself. If you’re curious about Hashi’s you might like The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution or Hashimoto’s Protocol.)
So these past few weeks I notice that something is off and I choose to practice self-compassion by telling my inner circle how I’m feeling and asking for help: I went for blood work, I saw my doctor, I pulled out specific supplements and adrenal support that have helped in the past, I’ve seen my chiropractor and massage therapist several times for pain, and I hired a colleague to be a support to me and offer her wisdom and perspective around perimenopausal shifts in particular in case this is playing a role.
I am also afraid – launching a new course about fear has triggered me and all my old self-doubt and insecurity has bubbled up fast and furious. Course creation came to a screeching halt for a couple weeks. I shift expectations but I do not quit.
Overcoming fear doesn’t mean quitting or no longer doing hard things. The only way I overcome fear is by moving through it. This is not the first time I’ve tangoed with fear; many years ago I drew a line in the sand and decided to live – I have decided to live awake and aware and this means I choose to show up afraid.
I keep talking and writing about this so that I cannot hide. Asking for help and telling the truth is hard, extremely vulnerable, work.
We overcome fear by embracing that we are a messy tangle of strength and struggle
There is this sneaky, subversive shame – I’m calling it shame and I think that’s what it is – that tells me I’m overreacting. I’m being dramatic. I’m making excuses and being ridiculous because surely I don’t need help. I’m still serving my clients and making food and walking on my treadmill. I’m managing. Surely this will pass in another week or so (and maybe it will!).
But this shame is what kept me struggling all alone through most of my life – it led to suicide attempts and living with rage and self-hatred, it led to tipping into one addictive behavior after another to try to feel better. I want to feel better.
I don’t believe life “should” be easy all the time – that is not what I mean. I have learned to sit with discomfort and do hard things and show up even when I’m afraid. This is something else. You know how sometimes you hurt yourself – your leg say – and you can rub it and massage it or put an ice pack on it? You can access it and name it.
But there is a different pain – like bone pain with osteoarthritis. You can’t touch it or get it to it. It’s too deep but it’s always there. There is no position that makes it go away. Well I feel like this, like there is something deeper that hurts and feels off balance. I don’t quite know how to name it. I just know it’s there. And I need my support people to just listen and trust me.
Maybe most of all, I need to trust myself! I pause and listen.
I don’t want to need help. I hate it. I would rather that life be orderly and tidy so I can show up and teach and encourage from a position of having my s**t always together. This is what I want. And this is not my reality.
So I practice self-compassion and stand up for myself and remind myself that courage doesn’t mean the absence of pain or fear… it means walking through the pain. Not quitting. Believing that I deserve help. That even though there are people in far worse situations than me… I still deserve help and compassion.
Self-compassion also means making space for hard conversations and talking about fear and struggle and addiction and grief, faith and self-acceptance and all manner of messy thing – and not allowing people to talk over me and not settling for pat answers. Life is complex. Being human is messy.
People often want to “fix us” or throw simplistic solutions at us because it makes them uncomfortable when we talk about hard things. Or they feel triggered. Sometimes because of arrogance. But one of the most healing things in this world is to stop talking and just listen to each other without needing to agree, arrive at a conclusion, have all the answers, or interject our own experience. Just listen.
And we need to practice listening to ourselves and stop deferring to others.
It’s interesting to me that I often write about struggle when honestly I think of myself as a joyful, optimistic person. Not bubbly or gregarious but definitely hopeful, believing the best about people (to the point of naivete sometimes) and believing we are each gifted and on purpose. The truth is, I feel very hopeful, even joyful right now as I walk through this. Terribly anxious and also joyful.
I think this is because I found joy growing in the darkest of seasons – I found hope as I learned resilience and self-compassion in the valley. I realized that I am a messy tangle of strength and struggle. One isn’t better than or more acceptable than the other. I am both. You are both.
Maybe you need to be reminded of this today too.
But a couple other ideas have jumped out at me this past week. I am reminded that limitations in my life (including a tendency toward anxiety and an unwavering need for rest and breathing room) are simply boundaries to protect me and I have so much freedom to play and create and love and serve within them. The only harmful limitation is allowing perfectionism, comparison or fear to steal my joy.
I started thinking too about how much I’ve learned and accomplished and all the ways I’ve healed over the past five years. I feel called to notice. I am called to look for evidence of my resilience and capacity to rise above and to cheer myself onward.
We overcome fear by becoming our own biggest cheerleader
A handful of clients turned in testimonials this week – perfect timing. This was a lovely hit of encouragement to keep showing up through pain and struggle. To simply figure out my way as I get my hands dirty.
One client, Betsy, wrote this
Krista has been my coach and my cheerleader (without the pom-poms!) through what has been a very difficult year. She has gently guided me into making myself more aware of my patterns of self-protection, and encouraged me to shine a light on my gifts. With her help I’m slowly starting to unravel my habitual safety latches which is having a profound affect on my inner life, and also my close relationships. Step by step I feel I’m able to show up in a more confident and sparkly way in a world that has for so long seemed loud and intimidating to me. I will always be profoundly grateful to Krista, who in my mind is one of the worlds hidden treasures… and who I’m so lucky to have stumbled upon.
I am so clear that I want to help others see their gifting – all the ways they are amazing and that struggle or imperfection does not detract from that. In fact, our wounds and places of deepest struggle often become part of the beauty or light we offer to the world. Our unique wiring and our struggles help us see differently, live with empathy and compassion, and quietly change the world.
When Betsy called me her cheerleader (without the pompoms which gave me a chuckle) it sparked in me a reminder to be my own biggest cheerleader. To look back and witness my journey – how I never quit even when I was afraid and had no idea what I was doing. Even when comparison and fear roared to life, loud and bossy, and tried to bully me into submission. Through grief and physical pain, through bouts of depression and anxiety, I kept showing up.
I plodded ahead. Slow and steady. With gentleness and tears and determination. I simply offered the little bit of light that I had. It was enough. It has always been enough.
We overcome fear by mining for the gifts in every season
One cold November day, 5 years ago, my mom’s grave was opened up so that my dad’s ashes could be laid atop her, at his request. In one year we had said good bye to our aunt and grandma and then our dad after his long battle with cancer. The few years before that were also depleting as I lived in horrible pain and then went through a challenging hip replacement and recovery; as soon as the surgeon gave me the OK I started driving every 6 weeks or so to see my dad, never knowing which time would be the last. It was an extremely long, stressful, arduous season.
I was homeschooling and studying at the time, trying to love my kids and husband, fighting hard to keep my head above water. And after we said goodbye to my dad I sank deep and fast into a dark place. I had tried so hard to stay strong but my cup was empty.
But there were gifts in this season. For the first time in my life I asked for help – I told the truth that I was in trouble – and found a psychologist to support me for 6 months. I advocated for myself and got a diagnoses of Hashimoto’s four years ago which helped explain a lot of my symptoms, and began the long road to recovery and stabilization.
From that place of deep crisis I launched two kids into university and adulthood, over the past three years I built a website and beautiful community (I am so grateful for you) and have hit publish on some vulnerable posts that triggered my anxiety. But I didn’t quit because I had a clear and compelling mission to offer a light of hope and encouragement to other messy humans like me.
I have learned what it means to come alongside others and love when love doesn’t feel easy and to offer myself heaps of compassion. I have learned that I am the expert of my body and to fight for wholeness like I matter. I have learned to loosen my grip and stay open to joyful possibility. I have learned that joy and pain can coexist and that I have permission to feel anxious and afraid and still serve others and do amazing, cool things – imperfectly. I am allowed to be messy – raw and real.
I’m so incredibly proud of myself.
I don’t have a mom or dad to say this to me (and even at 47 I think we tend to wish we had parents cheering us on). So I self-parent and tell myself how proud I am of myself just like I do for my own kids.
I look with gratitude at how far I have come. I see the truth – all the beauty and gifts I mined in the past 5 years and I witness my strength. I acknowledge that I’m walking out what I say I believe – what I want for my kids and for you.
We overcome fear by challenging the stories we make up about the other people we meet
I think we make up stories about each other. We tell ourselves that we are the only ones who struggle and doubt. Everyone else has life figured out. Right? But every single one of the incredible, amazing humans I am privileged to work with – they come to me for support because they struggle. But maybe also because they know I struggle too.
I have heard from thousands of people from around the world – people like you and me – who need to know they matter. That they will be OK. That they don’t have to be better, smarter, thinner, more accomplished, have all the answers, be more extroverted or successful or wired differently from how they are.
We need each other. This world needs all of us in our diverse colors, shapes, sizes and artistry.
We need to challenge the lies and stories that keep us stuck in shame or hiding or despair. The stories that tell us we are broken, unnecessary, messy beyond repair. We will never be good enough or have what it takes or come up for air again.
Life is all about a dance. Ebb and flow – seasons of transition and times where we wonder if things will ever change. Days when you cry because your little brother became a daddy and days when you lay someone you love in the ground and you wail and ache like you never knew was possible. Times when you lift up your friend and days when you lean on her. And it’s all OK.
You can embrace that you are strength and struggle and it is good.
It’s all part of a beautiful life.
I wish today I felt better. I wish I had no anxiety in my chest and that everything was smooth sailing. But I know I will be OK. This is only temporary. I will love myself through this season just like I have every single time before. I will let others love me too.
I will scan for beauty and look for evidence of my resilience and I will cheer myself onward like my life depends upon it. I will speak life to myself – I am loved. You are loved. I will have some tears and remind myself that we overcome fear one step at a time.
And every day I will continue to show up afraid. Joyfully, on purpose, but afraid if that’s what it takes.