I am a social worker. My whole life’s work has been dedicated to helping people self-actualize by guiding them to find their inner voice.
What I mean by self-actualization is, I help people become their true, authentic selves.
The people we are capable of becoming on a higher level. The people we can manifest fully and completely without restriction (whether it is self-imposed or placed on us by others). Fear, as a way of life, is paralyzing and keeps us from achieving true happiness.
There is rational fear: when we tell our children not to touch the stove because they can get burned. There is irrational fear: the fear that comes from the unknown and keeps us from living. There is fear of flying: the fear that keeps us home and keeps our worlds small.
These fears are based on a few things:
>>> Fear of things happening to us as a result of what we might do or say.
>>> Fear of what others may think of us.
>>> Fear of humiliation.
>>> Fear of embarrassment.
>>> Fear of rejection.
>>> Fear of loss.
>>> Fear of being true to ourselves.
I have experienced many of these, but I was somehow able to rationalize the irrational and work through them. This took some effort and an incredible amount of risk-taking.
Yet despite these personal triumphs, I am currently watching helplessly as my son struggles with all these same fears. As a mother and a therapist, it is heartbreaking.
He is a smart, funny, kind and wonderful young man. But he gets in his own way. It is hard to watch. I try to look back and search for answers as to how this could have happened (how I could have let this happen), but there are none, except that fear rules his life and robs him of happiness and any semblance of accomplishment.
I know that when we live in fear we do not take risks for fear we will fail.
But how can we know if we will succeed if we’re not willing to risk? Risk embarrassment, humiliation, lack of praise, approval, love?
The truth is, only by stepping outside our fears are we able to see what we are really capable of. It is in this risk-taking that we develop our strength…a sense of our ability, a sense of self. It is in this risk-taking that we become greater beings.
I know that my son is on his own journey and I know that part of my job is to “let go” and allow him to work out some of his fears on his own—if only it were that easy to do. I realize letting go is one of the most difficult, and painful things for any of us. These are some of the things I try and remind myself, and some things I wish for my son.
>>> Of what we cannot control, such as what people think of us.
>>> Of “shoulds”—what we think we should be or should have done or should be doing.
>>> Of what we think is expected of us.
>>> Of ideas of what is “normal.”
>>> Of past failures, so we can build a better future.
>>> Of timelines of when and how we are supposed to accomplish things.
>>> Of old wounds, so we can move forward.
And after we let go we need to remember to love ourselves enough to fight for freedom of the fear that haunts us, because we are valuable and deserve good things even if it’s not according to the unbending time-line we’ve set for ourselves.
Self-actualization can only happen when we are free.
Free to be kinder to ourselves, to be forgiving to ourselves for whatever infractions we believe we’ve committed. Free to love ourselves despite our failures. Free to love ourselves enough to risk it all for the sake of happiness.
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Bill Strain/Flickr