Have you ever held back sharing your beliefs for fear that you would be less loved, ridiculed or appreciated if you did? I used to be afraid that people at work might think I’m crazy if they knew I’m into spirituality and meditation. It may seem outright ridiculous that anyone should even think of fearing something as simple as that. You are who you are, right?
Even though intellectually I knew I shouldn’t have held back, I did. At the core of my fear was a limiting belief doubting that spirituality was acceptable in workplace and mainstream society. This limiting belief was stronger than me. I did not recognise it for a long time. Eventually, I traced its roots to my childhood. My dad used to correct me all the time to behave as everybody else, and not to stand out in any way, you guessed it, for fear of being perceived to be weird. According to him, people into self help books and faith were best avoided. Standing out for these reasons was bad, I was told. Now I know that by limiting myself in this way, I gradually adopted other limitations. I felt safe and free, lulled in the sense of compliance with accepted behaviour. But in fact I was insecure and enslaved.
Every time I gave in to this fear and held back my beliefs, deep down I felt defeated. Sometimes I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but my inner mood would turn sour. You can recognise this by getting feedback from people around you along the lines, “You’re not yourself today, is something wrong?” When your gestures or the look in your eyes are incongrous with the words coming out of your mouth. When you’re out of sync.
I realise now I was spending my defences against myself. I used to think and care a lot about what others might think of me. As I was acting against my nature, against what I love, I eventually turned against my nature, so sometimes I would even act and speak against spirituality in others.
It took me a while to overcome this fear. I convinced myself that most of the time people don’t think about me. Dr. Daniel Amen’s 18/40/60 rule struck a cord:
When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you; when you’re 40, you don’t give a darn what anybody thinks of you; when you’re 60, you realise nobody’s been thinking about you at all.
I realised that to let go of this fear was to love myself fully. I started believing that nobody else’s opinion about me counts, but the opinion I hold of myself. If people have something to say to you, they already have. If nobody said anything, it’s none of your business then. This has enabled me to unleash my focus on my goals and purpose in life.
Sometimes we pit us against ourselves for the very reason we think others would reject us: we don’t accept ourselves. To accept yourself means to see your wishes and wants just the way they are, without the guilt or need to explain them to anyone, ultimately not even to yourself. We are who we are, right? Who we are never goes against anybody else’s who they are. Who we are and our unique talents need no justification. They need celebration. Cheers to that!