“Let go or be dragged.” -Zen proverb
Control freak. Type-A. Perfectionist. Workaholic.
Those are just a few of the not-so-shiny control traits I can sometimes exhibit.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how debilitating they all were. I used to take pride in my Type-A, stop-at-nothing, get-it-done personality and attitude. It might be controlling, but at least I’m not lazy.
And, there it is.
The thinly-veiled fear behind my hamster-wheel behaviors. The fear of being deemed lazy, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of someone else being better, the fear of not getting the gold star...the ugly fears pour out.
That’s the thing about fear - I’ve noticed, as we grow and become more self-aware, our fears grow right along side us, learning new tricks and polishing up their acts. They slide into our mind under the guise of productivity or busyness.
When I peel the layers back and expose it for what it is, even ambition sometimes grows out of fear cleverly disguised as a powerful trait.
This isn’t to knock ambition. Ambition is a beautiful thing.
It’s to shine a light on the anxious activity born out of fear we often label as ambition or striving.
When fear is sitting at the wheel steering our motivation - anxiety, overwhelm, comparison, and other lower vibration emotions take a ride along with us.
When our fear is steering, it gets cocky and downright comfortable being in charge. It lets us know who’s boss and how much we need it to survive. When fear is steering our motivation, we fear what will happen if we dump it.
What happens if I take away the very thing that motivates me to move forward?
What happens if I take away the fear that dangles the carrot just out of reach so I’m constantly striving?
I don’t want to fail! Fear has gotten me this far!
And, so the fear-based worry vomits out.
While this fear-based-motivation might seem to propel us forward, it actually keeps us stuck. It keeps us constantly pushing because nothing is ever enough. It keeps moving the yardstick by which we measure ourselves, so we never get “there.” It keeps our happiness contingent upon outside results.
The thing about fear is it means well. The fears we have are self-serving and are there to protect us.
Blame it on our hunter-gatherer days, but fear exists for a reason and is a means of survival.
The emotion of fear, and the fight-or-flight response it creates, served us well when we were living off the land and needed to get out of the way of, say, a tiger or bear. Fear is one of the emotions that helped us survive and evolve to present day. Which is why our fear clings on so tightly. At its core, fear just wants to protect us and keep us out of harm’s way.
In the absence of tigers and bears (oh my), fear scans for other threats. After all, that’s its job. Often our modern-day tigers and bears show up in the form of failure and rejection, especially if we've had a childhood experience with either. And, really, who hasn't?
As we continue to grow and become more self-aware, our fear, not wanting to fall behind and let us down, grows right along with us. Control, and it’s controlling cousins Type-A, perfectionism, and workaholism are some of fear’s favorite buddies.
Control is an illusion fear clings on to for dear life.
So, what to do? After all, we want to control the situation ;).
I'll be back next week with 5 ways to let go of control-based fear. In the meantime, I wonder if you can give fear the backseat?