Recently, I texted my friend Valerie. “Can you talk for ten minutes?”
When she called me up, I got straight into it: “I need to ‘out’ myself. My inner critic voices are going nuts.” Then I shared what they were saying and why they were saying it. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves laughing together.
It’s possible that this anecdote might surprise you, a bit. Haven’t I, like, “mastered” those inner critic voices, by now, making them go away, forever?
Answer: Nope. Furthermore, I no longer “want” to.
“Fearless” is bullshit (and just more perfectionism)
“Fearless” is so often touted as the end result of all of that hard, personal growth work. When you’re finally “fearless” you’ll feel confident, at peace with yourself, in touch with your shakti.
The problem is that “fearless” is just used to fuel more perfectionism. Someone starts something. They feel fear, inner critic voices, and the like. Instead of embracing and accepting fear, they work harder–to numb out, to not feel the fear, to over-achieve so as to dismiss the fear, or they outright tell the fear to go away.
It’s all intended to lead to the same end-point: feeling “fearless,” which people associate with feeling confident and put together, like you know what you’re doing.
This is a parallel cycle to that of perfectionism. Someone starts something. They decide they need to do it perfectly. Instead of embracing and accepting mistakes, when those “mistakes” inevitably arise, the perfectionist just works harder–trying ever-more to feel confident and put together, like she knows what she’s doing.
It’s important to understand that this process is not conscious, at least not at first. It’s a process that is only revealed once you start paying attention to it, and once you start paying attention to it, with some horror, you’ll see it all over your life. Most of us go through several rounds of practicing the courage to pay attention, seeing something about ourselves that is hard to accept, recoiling, and turning back to the old patterns of not paying attention.
That’s part of the journey of all this, of course–and it only changes once you decide that you will pay attention in a sustained and deliberate way.
“Fearless” is a dead-end. It’s a lifeless goal. It’s the path of the person who stops taking risks. It’s the way of the person who does not want to lead, voice an unpopular opinion, or try something new.
Being confident and put together, and knowing what you’re doing? These are comfort-orientation states. They certainly aren’t “bad,” and we all like those states when we feel them.
It’s just not realistic to feel them, all of the time–and, more importantly–when your experience of fear is to reject it so entirely that you don’t feel it at all, you miss out on fear’s enlivening aspects, the pieces of stepping into a great unknown that are kind of…sizzling, juicy, sexy, risky, provocative.
The Happiest Choice
The happiest choice I’ve made is one that has arisen slowly, organically, over time, feeling less like a conscious choice and more like the natural progression to sanity: I simply do not try to “get rid of” the inner critic voices.
When I stopped trying to get rid of a part of me that was wounded, I ended the war with myself.
When you choose to do this work, the shift is into that of unconditional love: We will work on this together, you tell those voices. I won’t tolerate disrespect, but I’ll stop disrespecting you by hating you for being afraid.
Click to tweet: You don’t need to be perfect; you need to be whole. http://ctt.ec/vCGD1.
When you choose this path, your life certainly won’t be “perfect,” but it will be more whole, more all-encompassing of all of the truth of your life’s experiences. That’s what really makes happiness possible, authenticity possible, and the truest connection with other people possible.
You don’t need to be “fearless,” and certainly you don’t need to be “perfect.” When you choose this path, you get something whole-heartedly better: being you.