What to do with Lingering Fear
I’ve been thinking about my hair a lot lately. Trying to decide if I want to go shorter, or keep it longer so I can throw it into a ponytail when I’m in a hurry. I’ve also been thinking a lot about clothes. How my wardrobe is totally boring – and doesn’t really help me present myself to the world in the way that I want to.
Thinking about these things is fine – and wanting to look put together can demonstrate a sense of pride in yourself. But I suspect that, from time to time, I’m investing too much of my mental energy into them.
I suffered from disordered eating for 10 years. I ate three meals a day — which meant I could hide my struggle much of the time — but I counted every calorie that went into my body. I didn’t eat a lot of whole foods because they didn’t come with nutrition labels. I obsessed about gaining weight.
A few years ago, I finally took the leap and started eating healthfully — and enjoying food. I love learning to cook new dishes and I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of eating foods that are organic/non-GMO/local.
I don’t obsess about my weight the way I used to. I have a healthy body image. But I still catch myself feeling fat sometimes. And every so often, I find myself imagining how much happier I’ll be once I have that perfect haircut.
I’ve done years of therapy, meditation and all manner of soul searching to get to the point where I believe I’m worthy of being loved exactly as I am. And I really feel that way now deep down. But I still have those moments where my snarky inner critic tells me my legs are too short for those boots. Why is that?
It’s like a knee-jerk reaction or a nervous tick that’s still there — even though I no longer buy into the underlying premise that I’m not inherently loveable. I think it has to do with fear. The obsessive calorie counting was, initially, a coping mechanism. I didn’t feel completely loveable, so I was afraid that I’d be rejected. And I counted calories to starve myself into a body that, I hoped, would be sure to make people like me.
Fear is tenacious, so even though I’ve dismantled the belief system that caused my fear, the fear itself is still lingering, even if just a little bit.
I think the solution is to act fearlessly, even if that’s not how I feel underneath. I have to put myself out there — take risks — even if there’s a chance I will be judged or rejected. And one of two things will happen. I’ll be accepted or I won’t, and both are opportunities to grow.
It’s a case of faking it until I make it. Putting my ideas forward — putting myself forward — as if I’m 100% confident in who I am — is the only way to move past the fear. Just last night, I was at a bar with my husband and he asked me to dance, but I was too embarrassed by my less than stellar dance skills, so I told him I didn’t want to. Those are the kinds of silly decisions fear feeds on. The lesson I’m learning is that fear doesn’t go away unless you take risks. So, one little step at a time, that’s what I’m learning to do. And who knows — maybe one day, I’ll even feel courageous on bad hair days.