F**k Fears: The Day I Stopped Playing Small.
I believe that we all have purpose. That we are here in this time, in this place, to create. We are not here to play small and live a life of what ifs.
My playing small is no longer acceptable. I’ve spent far too much time hiding. I was scared of being seen and people not liking what they saw. Of my not liking what I saw.
When I started a Wellness Center and College business some 12 years ago, I didn’t want anyone to know that I owned it. I made it so that everyone else was the face of the business and I was just some mysterious presence in the background.
I was terrified of judgment and the responsibility of living up to the expectations of others. And so I dulled myself. I took the backseat in my business and in my life.
I did the same thing in my marriage and really, in all of my close relationships. I chose quiet over conflict, and past over possibility.
As Thoreau put it, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
During this time of my life, the hum of my song — of my joy and truth and meaning — was almost inaudible. I heard it only in the rare quiet moments when no one else was there to listen and ask the words.
And it was those rare moments that made all the difference. In those times, when the notes reached my ears, I knew that there was so much more to my life, that who I truly am has meaning and purpose.
I started to crave the moments when I could hear the music again, and began a search for those things that made the hum possible. I devoured books and talks by self-help gurus. I practiced meditation and Yoga. And I started writing.
The hum was getting louder, but I still couldn’t make out the words.
And then something changed. Slowly at first, then all at once. The discomfort of not being who I was truly meant to be finally outgrew the fears that kept me safe.
Now, this wasn’t a gentle process. I exploded my marriage, gave the business to my husband, and left behind all sense of security and safety. I dropped everything.
And I found myself.
I could finally hear the words to my song! And it was beautiful.
It was also heartbreaking. I had attributed all of my difficulties to the people and structures I had created in my life. I hadn’t even given them a chance to hear my song.
In part, I blamed them for the quiet. And in part, they were responsible. But only so far as what I allowed. I was the one distancing myself and essentially creating the support for this distance… the quieting of my song.
This was two years ago. Looking back on all that has changed, I am so grateful for it all. I also grieve the loss of what could have been if I had had the courage to be who I truly was during those times.
When I think about what I’ve missed out on and how I allowed my fears to hold me back, I am filled with both remorse and determination. I will never allow this to happen ever again.
The dreams and vision that fill my soul are not inconveniences or maybe laters. They are who I am and my contribution to the world.
The fears that held me back aren’t welcome any more. And now it’s time to show up. I mean, really show up! In all of my imperfect, vulnerable and authentic glory.
I’ve heard it said, “Start where you’re at.” So that’s what I’m doing. There’s no need to be perfect before I share myself with the world. Truth inspires.
My limiting beliefs are no longer allowed to hold me back. It’s time to throw them off and see them for what they truly are. They are just beliefs — fears based in misunderstanding. They aren’t even real.
Sure, my fears served some sort of purpose when I created them — some small feeling of security that at one time allowed them to take hold. But I’m done with that now.
And so I ask myself, how will I start?
By simply starting. One small step. That will lead into another, and another, and another.
Every day I am new. Every day more and more of my purpose and truth emerge from within, and beg acceptance and integration.
As I said at the start of this short personal story, I believe we all have purpose. And I choose this belief of purpose over my fears. I choose connection over judgment, and vulnerability over comfort.
I choose to offer who I am in all of my imperfect perfection, and I am committed to helping others discover this trust and freedom for themselves.
Along this path, I have already met many guides and discovered truths that pull me forward. As soon as I started the journey, there was no looking back. The life I had lived before was perfect and integral to my growth, and yet no longer possible.
Though I have much to learn and far to travel, I have already discovered five essential truths that keep me moving. They are my mantras, my daily habits, and the support I turn to when I feel lost.
1. Fuck fear: When I realized that fear was just a belief that I held, I knew that I needed a way to release the limiting beliefs that had been holding me back. I spent a lot of time searching for tools, and found the most incredible one to be the process of inquiry.
My favorite resource for inquiry is The Work of Byron Katie. Inquiry guides us through the mental exercise of self-awareness, and shows us that our beliefs are not real.
This inquiry has moved me past so many boundaries I had previously created for myself, and into more authenticity and acceptance than I knew possible. It has helped me see the truth behind my thoughts, and allowed me to create incredible relationships that are based on acceptance and support.
2. Create vision: My purpose exists within me as an emerging vision for my life. This vision evolves and guides me on the path of purpose, and acts as the foundation for all else.
I have found vision work to be such a powerful tool for transformation. By actively writing down the truth of my emerging nature through my vision, I offer support and create congruity in thought and belief for my path of purpose.
I use this vision as the personal manifesto that guides my choices, and helps me discern between what is true for me and what is not.
I practice this visioning work on a regular, if not daily, basis, and also teach it to others. Here are just a few of the important questions that I ask myself in order to draw out the vision that is emerging:
- When you picture the life that you desire, how do you want it to look and feel?
- Near the end of your life, when you look back, how do you want your life to look?
- When you daydream or get lost in your thoughts, what are these wishful thoughts about?
- Reflecting back on all of the things you have done in your life, what has provided you with the most joy and satisfaction?
- If you could do anything with your time that you pleased, and no longer had to work, how would you spend your time? Who would you share your time with?
3. Build support: My support network has been my lifeline, and so integral to my growth. Choosing to spend time and energy with the people who support my vision, and sharing my support in return, has offered more strength than I knew possible.
Building these networks felt daunting at first. The walls I had put up before weren’t welcome.
The secret I discovered is to start where I am. I reached out to family and friends, and finally shared all the parts of me that I had previously kept hidden — my truth, my vision, and my desires. It was hard as hell, but I finally asked for support.
No more I am an island bullshit. I spent far too long in this. And when I finally opened up and asked for help, I discovered that it’s just not true. There is no such thing as alone; there is only a forgetting of the truth that we are all intricately and undeniably connected.
4. Show up: We can think about and talk about this journey all we want. But wisdom only comes from application. And so I commit to applying it!
I choose to bring my truth to relationships, my work, my health, and every single word and action I offer. No longer playing small, I choose to show up and be seen.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and yes, I want to hide under the biggest rock on some days. But this is why I’ve built my vision and support network. To remind me of the truth of my purpose.
5. Remember love: And finally, the most beautiful and authentic truth I’ve learned is to remember love. Act from love, receive in love, believe in love.
I choose to be authentic and accepting and honest to my core. No more playing small. Fuck fears. I’m ready for so much more!
Caroline Stewart is a lover of all things beautiful and authentic — the perfectly imperfect. She oscillates between her outgoing desire to spread love and compassion with everyone she meets and her deep-seated need for quiet and solitude. When not digging in her garden, playing dodgeball, or living in imaginary worlds with her two beautiful children, Caroline can be found curled up in the nearest sunny spot with book in hand and smile on her face. Caroline loves working on creative and transformative projects. Currently she is sharing inspiration through her business InspirED Me Learning & Coaching, which offers instruction in mind-body educational programs and business coaching services. You could contact her via her website, email or Facebook.