All the fears that keep us down

One of the interesting things that has happened to me recently is that I have claimed ownership of who I am, what I stand for, what I’m capable of, what I’m interested in. In short, I’ve claimed myself.

I’ve had a bunch of stories about why I couldn’t be what I knew inside I really was.

They mostly come down to outside validation. I needed others to see it in me. I needed the pile of cash in the bank to prove that what I know is really true. I needed a large following to demonstrate that I was right.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way.

One of the big clues was recalling my friend and big inspiration, David Heinemeier Hansson, back when he originally launched Ruby on Rails. Back then, he didn’t have money or success or fame or anything else to back up his claims. But he just went out there, got up on his soapbox, and shouted out his opinions about everything that he cared about.

And boy, did he shout. I still remember the first time I met him. I’d hired him to come in to my small consulting shop and tell us everything about Rails, a few weeks after the first release, and I had to shush him several times, because he was way too loud for our shared office environment with other companies trying to get work done.

But nevertheless, he was completely unapologetic in spewing his opinion of everything that came to his mind.

And as far as I remember, very few people cared about the outside validation – whether or not he was successful, rich, had a large following, or anything of the sort, Some people thought he was a fruitcake, and they’d probably have thought as much regardless of his credentials. The rest of us listened to what he said, and it sounded pretty convincing, and so we were on board with it.

Something happened in me when I finally claimed what I know to be true in my heart, regardless of others’ opinions of it, regardless of the size of my bank account, the number of twitter followers I have, or anything else. It only took about a minute, but it was i giant mental shift.

I have beside me here a stack of post-it notes with various fears related to this project that I wrote down a couple months ago. And it’s interesting to note how most of them are completely moot now, most of them due to this one decision:

  • “I’ve tried it all before with Coach TV and with my blog, and it didn’t work out” – yes, but I’ve never before fully claimed who I am and what I stand for, and spoken my truth without apology, and that makes all the difference in the world.
  • “I’m scared to not live up to the expectations of the web 2.0 crowd” – who gives a shit? Really. This is who I am, if “they” don’t resonate with it, I’ll find someone else who will. (Besides, I’m sure a portion of the web 2.0 crowd will – there’s got to be others out there who are sick of the whole ego-driven funding-and-acquisition-lottery-game that’s being played right now. Is that really what life and entrepreneurship is all about? I think not.)
  • “I’m afraid to talk too much about myself” – yeah, well, Jante is still alive and well. Fuck you, Jante. Really. Go to hell.
  • “But I’m not really successful” – who gives a shit, if you’re telling the truth? Besides, what is success? I feel pretty successful in so many ways. Financially? Not so much. But that’s such a small factor in life. Nobody lies on their deathbed thinking “I wish I’d made more money”. I have great relationships, I touch other people’s hearts on a daily basis, I’m deeply connected to my own essence, I have the courage to make tough decisions and reap the rewards, I have the most wonderful children in the world. Many many things to consider a success.
  • “I don’t know anything about entrepreneurial success” – well, again, define success. But also: I’m not here to talk about how to make money. I’m here to talk about doing something meaningful with your life, about being true to yourself. That I know something about.
  • “I’m afraid people are going to think I’m too much or too weird” – who gives a fuck? I’m me, I’m speaking my truth, I’m sure there are people out there who are going to resonate with that truth, others who are not. Let’s have fun with the ones that do, and let the others do whatever they want with someone else somewhere else.
  • “The long, difficult journey” – I don’t even know what I meant when I wrote that :)
  • “I’m waiting for others to tell me what it is that I have to offer” – that is so lame. Of course I already know what I have to offer. Okay, there can be blind spots. But, really, I pretty much always knew. We always do. What this means is that I’m afraid that what I know I have to offer isn’t good enough or is going to be rejected, and so I need the world to tell me what it wants that could satisfy its egoic needs while still being within my range of capabilities. What a wasted life. Much better to claim what I know I’m about, and let the rest follow from that. Is there a risk that no-one will care. Of course. But I think the risk of watering it down to the point where it becomes meaningless for precisely the audience that I would most like to attract is so much greater.
  • “If you can’t have success, you’re going to have to settle for doing personal development and following your heart” – this is a really weird one. I’ve had this belief for most of my life. That some people (“the right kind”) were wired for success from the outset, and they never had to struggle or suffer or work on themselves and their beliefs and such. And then there were the rest of us who, to be honest, shouldn’t have been born in the first place, but now that we were here, we’d better make the most of it, by trying to make people think we weren’t really broken to begin with, and by working really hard to make up for our shortcomings. Ouch. It’s bound to be a tough life living with a belief like that. What it says is that I’m still playing the game that self-worth and happiness is about material success: how much money is in your bank account. But what makes for a fulfilling life for me has nothing to do with that. It has to do with love and interpersonal relations. With being present. With sharing my love. By claiming that as my truth, this belief becomes irrelevant.
  • “My story is embarassing” – no it’s not. It’s only embarassing to the extent that I believe the myth right above here.
  • “There’s something wrong with me, I’m different and wrong, and my experiences aren’t valuable to others” – this is just a variation of the theme above.

Claim, claim, claim!

Claim all that you know in your heart you really are. Claim it as fast as you can. Nobody benefits from you not claiming who and what you truly are.

In the words of Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Or in the words of Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art:

We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised land. We fear this, because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.

Are you willing to risk claiming all of who you are?

It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying because it does have some serious consequences.

But it’s well worth it.