“Express yourself. There is nothing to fear. There is nothing to lose. There is just you being lived.”
Writing is one of my biggest passions. I have always wanted to be a writer. But I have a fear of writing. Or so I thought.
I see writing as self-expression. It is an act of bravery to me. Allowing others to see my inner workings feels scary to me because I could look incompetent. They might think I'm wrong. They might think less of me. I could be ridiculed and not taken seriously. I may get rejected and feel humiliated. “Who do I think I am?!”
The “Who do I think I am?!” sentence often comes to my mind whenever I try to express myself in writing. It often stops me.
“Who am I to …?!”
Who am I to write? Who am I to express this thought? Who am I to put this out there for others to read?
There are tons of experts out there. Tons of better writers than me. Tons of people with deeper insights or better knowledge. How conceited of me to waste other people’s time by trying to get them to read my writings. That is toxic shame talking. It’s not “the truth.”
Sure, there may be some truth to it, but why should anyone else’s skills impact or hinder my self-expression? How do I know that I do not have anything additional to offer? Why would I judge myself for others? Why not just let them think about me whatever they think about me?
And so “Who do I think I am?!” became “Who am I to judge that?”
How about I let others think and judge for themselves? How about I don’t make that decision for others? How about I realize that I can’t anyway, that I do not even possess that power?
How about I show myself, give of myself, contribute, and let the chips fall where they may? What if I don’t try to control what others think of me, my words, my experience? What if I just let them have their thoughts about me knowing that that is all I have ever feared? Their thoughts. My thoughts. My thoughts about their thoughts.
Seeing Through Thoughts
I am no longer scared of my thoughts, so why should I continue to be scared of their thoughts? It’s all the same. It is nothing to fear. Formless, uncontrollable energy. Fleeting and temporary.
True and false. Meaningful and meaningless. And oh so subjective.
When I started to see the nature of thoughts, my mind became very flexible. I started to see how my thoughts were not necessarily true or false, helpful or unhelpful, positive or negative.
They just were. I was noticing them instead of identifying with them. I started to judge them less and less. I managed to take them a lot less seriously than I had ever done before.
This, however, came a long time after I realized that I was not my thoughts. It did not happen overnight for me. It is an ongoing process. One I have started to enjoy very much.
From the confines of my fear-based, restrictive thinking emerges an openness, a silliness, an excitement, and a joy that is difficult to put into words. It’s comes from a liberated state of mind.
From that state of mind I started to play with my thoughts. There was nothing to fear. There was no danger in doing so. There were just thoughts to be experienced.
And so my original shame-induced, fear-based question (and lie of my mind!) of “Who am I to …?” changed to “Who am I not to?”
“Who am I not to?”
Who am I not to write? Who am I not to share who I am? What if I could have an impact on someone else, but my fearful and insecure thoughts are restricting me? What if I disempower myself by empowering my fearful thinking?
Empowering fearful thinking like: What if I look ridiculous by expressing myself? Why do it when there are so many others, who seem to be doing it much better than me? Who have already had lots of success? What do I have to contribute?
Maybe my contribution is just one new thought. But it might be one new thought that does have an impact.
Perhaps because of something I’ve written someone will choose not to hit their child and take a deep breath instead. Or maybe an employer will seek to understand rather than dishing out a verbal warning without inquiry first. Or maybe a wife or husband will focus on what they appreciate about their spouse instead of criticizing them for not fulfilling their expectations.
I can’t possible know if my writing will ever have any impact. I cannot possibly know what kind of impact that would be. But I am willing to take a chance. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to waste my time writing at the off chance that it does have an impact, that it does help. In any case, it is not for me to judge.
And what if the impact I believe I should have is the impact it has on me? What if that is all there is? What if that’s all the impact I need to have? What if that’s the sole purpose?
But also what if there is a child not getting a smack or an employee who now feels motivated to work harder, or a husband, who remembers how much he loves his wife?
“What if …?” It’s too big for me to ever know. I know that I don’t need to know. I feel that what naturally emerges from this place of freedom, this more liberated state of mind, is contribution. Loving contribution. No expectation. No pressure. Just space and love and openness.
So next time you get caught up in your favorite shame story (and you will know because you will feel horrible; we always feel horrible when we believe the lies of the mind) see it and see through it. Very often it’s hard to let go of but try to ask yourself “Who am I not to?”
Stop depriving the world of your contribution. Stop depriving the world of you. Stop disempowering yourself by empowering fearful thoughts. And ask yourself “Who am I not to?”
Who are you not to write and draw and talk and swim and dance and sing and teach and clean and build and cook and play and grow and love and laugh and try… and be?
“Who are you not to be you?”
Often it is just one thought that keeps you from expressing and being all that you are. It is this one thought that stops you from growing and giving yourself to the world.
It doesn't matter how small you or someone else thinks your contribution is. It doesn't matter how valuable you or someone else believes your contribution is. It will matter to someone. It will be valuable to someone.
You may never know how or why, but it will have an impact and so it will help us grow collectively, as a species. And even if not, even if that’s just some lovely story my mind has created, even then, express yourself. There is nothing to fear. There is nothing to lose. There is just you being lived.
About Marlena Tillhon-Haslam
Marlena loves people and life and is passionate about finding ways to make the human experience as fulfilling as possible. She works as a psychotherapist in the UK, manages a clinical team, runs Codependency Today on Facebook and writes for Love with Clarity. She is an expert in human relationships and sees them as the lifeblood of a meaningful existence.