Over a decade ago, when I lined up 5 interviews in 5 days in NYC, got my dream job on day 6, flew home to Vancouver on day 7, and moved my life to NYC on day 8, "failure" and "fear" were never a part of my vocabulary.
It was impossible to fail at the time, since (I didn't know it at the time) I was following the heartbeat of Life within me. Life was the dancer and I was the dance.
Face No. 1 • Fear of failure
Let's explore the many faces of fear. The most common fear I hear from people in general is the fear of failure. Interestingly, it's the LEAST common fear I hear from fellow women overachievers, trailblazers and clients.
What actually lies behind this mask of fear, which I discovered when I started my first digital consulting agency, is the fear of saying the wrong thing, therefore hurting people's feelings, looking stupid, and/or not being liked.
With a decade of 50+ self-empowerment modalities and 100+ countries traveled under my belt, here is what I know:
- It is NOT possible to hurt other people's feelings, period. You could throw an insult at the Dalai Lama and he won't be hurt because he knows that the insult came from within your perception of the world. It has nothing to do with him. You could throw the very SAME insult to another and that person will blow a gasket, emotionally barf on you or loose all their marbles.
- It is NOT possible to look stupid if you are yourself, your true, true, truest self. It is only when we try to be who the mind, indoctrinated by culture / parents / society / crap / etc, thinks we should be, that the huge contrast between masked self and real self emerges as looking "stupid."
- It is NOT possible to not be liked by the right people, by your tribe, your weirdos. It is only when we try to change ourselves to fit in to a group that is not our true home that anxiety and the pain of non-belonging shrinks us.
So the fear of failure isn't really a fear of failure, it's a fear of not being loved and welcomed for who we truly are.
Face no. 2 • Fear of success
You know that feeling of having your foot on the gas pedal, with the handbrake on? Like you're expending enormous energy pushing forward, but not really getting anywhere?
It hit me like a lightning bolt one day that that was a paralysing fear of... success! Yes, that's a real thing!!!
With more digging, and examining the 4 businesses I was running (coaching, digital agency, wellness workshops, and aerial silk studio), I discovered that my fear of success was actually a mask for:
- a fear of leeches and assholes who would take advantage of my success and money
- a fear of isolation, you know, being so alone and lonely at the top, and
- a fear of losing my newfound peace, health, and romantic life.
It turns out, the fear of leeches was a mask for low self-worth, ie no matter how great I am, I am only worthy of leeches and assholes.
It turns out, the fear of isolation was a mask for scarcity and self-aggrandizement, ie when I'm at the top, there is not a single other great person there as well. Lol!
And it turns out, the fear of losing my peace was a mask for the fear of setting boundaries.
Face no. 3 • Fear of Being Shunned
With even more painful digging, I realized that the common root of the above 3 masks of fears is the fear of saying no. Boundaries?!? Never heard of them. What is that elusive thing you speak of?!?
And what is the fear of saying no rooted in? It's rooted in the fear of being shunned. Humans are wired for tribal connection, so we have a collective belief that if you assert yourself and set boundaries, you will be cast out of the tribe... no one will have your back... and you will die.
So what started as a fear of failure, was actually a fear of success, which is actually a fear of boundaries, which is actually a fear of being shunned, which is actually a fear of isolation, which is actually a fear of death. Oh. I see. Well somebody could have told me so <insert rage>.
We are touching upon an ANCIENT need for safety. A cavewoman without a tribe gets eaten by the tiger. Unfortunately, so much of our brain is still cavewoman brain, decorated with a rational frontal cortex.
The hardest part about greatness is letting go of those who are not.
– Ellany Lea
Face no. 4 • Fear of Surrender
I love the saying, "Faith is not trusting that everything will be okay. Faith is trusting that I will be okay no matter everything." So why do we fear surrender? Thousands of coaching sessions and interviews have shown that it's because of:
- fear of ANOTHER Heroine's Journey: How many more cycles of torture do you want from me, Universe?
- fear of uncertainty and disappointment: The future projection of the intolerable pain of disappointment if/when the outcome is not what I wanted (so we stop trusting ourselves)
- fear of betrayal: We went all in and people betrayed us (so we stop trusting others)
- fear of punishment: We took a giant leap of faith and the Universe gave us divorce, bankruptcy and burnout instead of love, money and fame (so we stop trusting the Universe)
No wonder there are sooo many lone wolves playing small. We're so afraid to surrender, to trust again like we once did as innocent children.
I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.”
– Mother Teresa
Face no. 5 • Fear of Dreaming Big
Most of us weren't taught to dream. We were taught to plough fields like ox. Ox don't know that they can grow fairy wings or mermaid tails.
Yet, women dreamers and visionaries know deep down that ox and fly and swim, so they sign up for every self-development retreat, listen to every self-empowerment podcast and devour every self-love book.
Yet still, so many women overachievers, founders and trailblazers don't dream bigger, because a part of them KNOWS that they would HAVE TO execute the dream, and they're just not up for ANOTHER round of The Heroine's Journey. "Ugh, not AGAIN!" she'll say. Which brings me to the next face of fear.
Face no. 6 • Fear of burnout
Most of us don’t even discover this face of fear until AFTER the burnout. There's a period of "self-care" and "self-love" and a vow to never again treat ourselves as punishingly as before.
From this place of grace emerges a new hope and vision for our lives. We are capable and competent, so why do we feel stuck / frozen and unable to launch the new vision?
It's because our wise bodies keep score. Our cells have memory. They remember how badly we treated it, starved it of lunch and sleep, deprived it of fresh air, movement and love, and burnt it on both ends relentlessly.
So a fear of another Heroine's Journey is really a fear of burnout, which is actually a fear of... self-hatred. It sounds like this, "If I fulfil my new life's mission, I'm afraid I'll hate myself like I did before and destroy my body/well-being like I did before."
Face no. 7 • Fear of Being Seen
I hear sooo many of my women overachiever clients say, "I'll show up for everyone else, but put myself last." Why do we do this? It's because if we showed up consistently for ourselves first, we'd have to let ourselves be seen.
There's an ancient cultural belief in women's DNA that if you let our true, vulnerable, courageous selves will be seen... then we will be crucified and burnt at the stake like wise witches were for speaking their truth or using plant medicine to heal.
So the fear of being seen, also known as the fear of vulnerability is really a fear of of death! Being our powerful selves means high, high, high risk of death. So of course, we'd avoid showing up like the plague!
Face No. 8 • Fear of Light
The deeper I explored philosophy, spirituality and "who am I?", the more I realized it's not my shame, self-sabotage, shadows or even death that I feared... it's my power, my Light. I had a fear of power to destroy myself and others, consciously or unconsciously and a fear of light that would require me to be burnt at the stake.
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. [...] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
– Marianne Williamson
As I painfully dug even deeper (man oh man, digging is painful!!!), I recognized that fearing my fullest light was a mask for the fear of taking full responsibility for my life. Before, I could blame anything and anyone, including the parts of myself that I hated, for not having actualized my potential.
Now, if I accept my Light, then I'd HAVE TO gave up blame, and I'd HAVE TO take full, full, full responsibility for every single bit of suffering (and joy) I caused myself and/or others, consciously or unconsciously.
I'd have to face the gargantuan potentiality that I have not actualized because of me, and me alone. And THAT is terrifying. So the fear of light is really a fear of terror...
Face no. 9 • Fear of Fear
Ok, now THIS one was a total shocker to me! How can one fear... fear?!?
It was thanks to an Ayahuasca retreat where Bufo took me to a wordless place of surrender, as if I was pizza dough being kneaded and slid into a fire oven. Then, I morphed into an atom and experienced a Hiroshima-like atomic bomb detonation, as if I was in the center of the explosion. Woah!.
That experience released a tremendous amount of terror... I wasn't afraid of the experience. I was afraid... of terror itself. It took a few months, two spiritual mentors, a psychotherapist bestie, some loving friends, and you my readers to realize that my mind-body had stored enormous amounts of terror from childhood that I was too young and incapable of handling...until my soul was maturated enough, in the safety of Consciousness School, to let it rip! Woah.
It took many, many more months to comprehend that the fear of fear is actually not my fear, by my EGO's fear of dying, of being killed off by my Light.
So... the fear of fear is actually the fear of death by Light, which is a fear of light, which (from face no. 8) is actually a fear of fear, which (from face no. 9) is a fear of light, which... LOL! No wonder we feel insane and afraid all the time!?!
In the End...
However we wear the fear mask(s), we prolong our own suffering and deny ourselves (and the world) the joy of liberation and full expression. It's the ego's way to waste away our potential, in order to keep itself alive. Fun, rigth?!? Aren't you glad you came to Earth School? Lol!
It took me a decade from that fearless move to NYC to realize that when my agenda is aligned with Life's agenda, effortless and magical certainty occurs. When my agenda is NOT aligned with Life's agenda, I lose, I hurt, I suffer.
Your fear is the most boring thing about you.
– Elizabeth Gilbert
How to unmask the many faces of fear? There are sooo many ways. The best way is YOUR way. Just like you can choose your drug of choice (food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex etc.) to numb out, you can choose your modality of healing to dissolve fear.