Historically, there has always been a moment that came before I did anything “big.” I’d look at the possible steps before me. I’d see how the pieces could work. I’d see what it was that I needed to do. It was obvious. Clear. Easy.
And then I would do something else.
It was consistent subtle aversion. Hidden under the surface, I could pass it off as something else. I could pass it off as “needing more information” or “not having the resources.”
That wasn’t the only way I avoided “big.” I also did things half-cocked. I did things without any research or knowledge. I did things without talking to people. I did things without making connections or following a model or having a plan. So the “big” things may as well have stayed in boxes. They may as well have stayed in a warehouse under a blanket in Siberia.
But how does a person take something from a Siberian warehouse to Manhattan?
Fear and The Revised Pursuit
I think the first thing is energy. I’m ready for some more energy. I’m ready to be restored and refilled (it would help if my preschooler didn’t feel called to be my alarm clock.).
I’m thinking about how I want to switch to drinking more green tea over coffee. It’s not that I don’t love coffee – I do. I just need a break. I need something else. I need a total shift in perspective.
That’s kind of where I am in other parts of life. I love them. I just need to take a step back. I need some time to examine and explore what my relationship is to those parts – if I want them or if they need renovation.
And that’s how I discovered my Siberian warehouse and sleight of hand – symptoms of a lingering fear. It took me a little while to uncover and unpack the fear. I had to really dig down into what was causing these bizarre behaviors that took me away from what I wanted.
Ironically, it was the fear of being seen – of being known. This is the deepest fear I had, and it stopped me from innumerable pursuits. It was a glass ceiling of my own design. I would get to a certain point and then stop, slinking into the comfort of shadow.
This fear was rooted in the worthlessness I felt stemming from abuse as a child, built upon by decades of social and cultural interactions supposedly confirming what I thought as true. If I was seen, I could be found out – found out to be much less than I appeared.
When I was a teenager, I knew I was physically beautiful, but I also felt incredibly insecure and any single flaw could send me tipping over into a spiral of self-doubt and despair about my appearance. I didn’t think anyone could really like me.
Really. Honest to God. This is what I thought. People might look at me or meet me now and think, “How could she ever feel ugly?”
Society has an amazing ability to make anyone feel horrible about themselves.
But one time I was at summer camp, and I was talking about this feeling. An older girl looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that you’re not beautiful.”
It took me a long time to get comfortable with my appearance, and to this day, I struggle with the repercussions of going out in public. When I go out in public, people look, and often stare. It happens every time I go out in public. Because of my history, I’m sensitive to this. It conjures up all the questions of object versus subject, emotions versus reasoning, dominance hierarchies, bodily autonomy, and physical safety. It brings up all my questions of worth.
For a long time I hid myself. I dressed down to avoid the overt staring. I slumped my shoulders.
Then, at some point, I accepted it was going to happen. I didn’t want to walk around feeling anxious any more. Instead, I wore the clothes I liked that made me feel powerful. I did my hair so I felt awesome. Sometimes I wore make up. Sometimes I didn’t. Whatever the case, it was about me.
And yes, I got more stares. The difference was, it was on my terms.
What happens when I’m seen?
For the first two and a half years of college, I didn’t ask questions or volunteer information. I sat silently, in the back at Bard, and silently in the front at Juniata. It was only when I was forced to schedule a meeting with a professor that he called me out.
“Why don’t you talk in class?” he asked, furrowing his brow.
“I don’t know. I don’t have anything to say,” I flushed.
“You need to talk in class. You’re insightful. I can tell from your papers you think through things.”
“Also, if you don’t start talking, your grade is going to suffer.”
I was an A student so the idea of my grades suffering was, well, insufferable. It was hard at first, to push myself to respond to other students. I was uncomfortable with the idea of someone disagreeing with me in such a public way. I took those things personally, not recognizing it as an intellectual exercise benefiting everyone, but as an attack of all things Alexis.
I got over it and began to participate assertively in class, countering arguments, whereas before I never would have done such a thing. It took practice, but once I did it a few times, I flourished.
From Words to Actions
Last week I spent a lot of time on Quora. I’d recently discovered it through recommendations of business strategists (think: ask a question and get an answer from the public!). When I first uncovered the platform, I thought of it as a way to observe without requiring interaction.
However, Quora is by nature a space for expertise. It’s a place for you to showcase your knowledge and wisdom. After reading a number of questions and answers, I couldn’t stop myself from answering one. Then it became two. Then I immersed myself in the platform and answered like ten questions in a row with essays.
At first my craving to answer questions centered on the need to escape the present (a story of death, spirit, and demonstration for another time…or form). Then I saw it as a way to build connections with readers. I realized there were people out there who wanted an expert and had no idea how to find them. It was like match-making for seekers and teachers.
BAM! Totally hooked with permission!
I’ve stepped back a bit from the platform, but it helped me uncover a few trends in myself and in others. One is, I like answering questions about religion, spirituality, emotions, and self-improvement (is any of this a surprise?). I gravitate toward those over writing, politics, or any other thing.
Another was, there is a lot of misunderstanding around religion and the purpose of it (I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…I forget how much people don’t know about this stuff!).
Thirdly, there is real work to be done around self-forgiveness. I mean…really. People have a lot of guilt and shame holding them back and I really want to help them overcome it.
Also, it only took a couple days for me to get my answers requested. Clearly I caught someone’s attention.
Owning up to “Teacher”
All this is to say, I’ve come to a place where I really need to own up to the role I’m so clearly meant to take. It’s silly to keep running around in circles, claiming I want to do something, and then never do it. So in the next few months, I’m just going to figure it out. I’m going to finally launch some courses. I’m going to figure out the tech stuff. I’m going to actively seek out some speaking engagements. Because doing anything less would hold me back from what I want to do – which is help others.
And when I believe in my message so strongly, there’s really no reason to hold back. None at all.
Do you have a lingering fear? Have you been holding yourself back? Leave a comment below!
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