How can we go after what we want without being freaked out and feeling so much fear?


When we know what we want, we can be afraid to go after it. Because what happens if we do and things don't go smoothly? We could be hurt or disappointed. We may experience rejection or other challenges that make us doubt ourselves, our worth, our capabilities, or our enoughness - in short, we may experience pain. But, wait a second, who exactly will experience this pain? You?

Think about it logically - if, when you go after what you want, someone tells you something negative or offers a poor opinion of you or your work, or if someone says no to your endeavors - does this mean you aren't a worthy person? Are not capable of doing or having what you want? Are not good enough? The logical answer is no, it doesn't mean these things. Right?

So, logically we can see that your worth, capabilities, or enoughness in the world is untethered from these events - whatever rejection letters we receive or whatever Susan at X organization says about your ideas. So, I ask again, who will experience this pain if things don't go smoothly when you go after what you want? We just established it's not you. So, who then?

Hum. Well, I don't have any definitive answers, but one answer that feels pretty true from where I stand is that it's coming from our concept of a "me" - the story we all have of a "me" inside, the "me" we identify with.

Through no fault of our own, we all can tend to forget who we really are - the one whose worth is a given and untouchable by whatever happens to us - and sub in this story of a "me" whose worth we believe is, in fact, a reflection of our external circumstances (I suppose some could say the "me" I'm talking about here could also be called "ego," but that term tends to mean a lot of things to people and so for simplicity, I'll continue to refer to it as "me").


So, why does this happen?

Well, there being a "me" is not something we consciously create. There are probably many, many arguments why the "me" exists - from every angle of academia - from the way our brains are wired, to the way we've been socialized. Why we have a "me" and identify with it is for another day. We just have it. Or really, even if you don’t think it’s a real thing, thinking of things this way can still be very helpful.

From my perspective, here's what I think having a concept of a “me” does:

The "me" in each of us creates thinking that has us believe that we can control the world. Even though I know and you know that we can’t actually control the world, here we are getting up and going through each day as if we can.

And when we’re thinking we can control the world, we have a sense that we are responsible for both the good and the bad things that transpire in our life. And if we are responsible then they must be a reflection of us. Something good happens and we think it means we're good, something bad happens and we think it means we're bad. This is why when we forget who we really are and identify with the "me" (which is often most of the time) we revert to thinking our worth is externally determined. And then we are open to feeling pain.

So when we're going after what we want and experiencing the inevitable challenges and ups and downs of life (because, again, we can’t actually control the world), it's our "me" that feels hurt and identifying with "me" is why we experience pain when things don't go smoothly. "Me" is also the part of us that throws up all the fear and stops us in our tracks from going after what we want. In case things transpire that make the "me" bad.  

This is how the "me" gets in the way of us going after what we want. The "me" wants us to play it safe and avoid the risk of rejection or failure.

An example could go like this...

I want connection. “Me” is afraid of rejection. I want to share my gifts/talents with others. “Me” is afraid no one will want to receive them. And so, with "me" in charge, I don't reach out. I don't give what I have. And I keep playing small. It's "me" protecting "me." The fear of potential pain if I go after what I want, steps in to protect "me." The logic of "me" is always self-preservation of the "me."

But it doesn't have you or your best interests in mind. Because in the long-run or big picture, it's not protection. "Me" is not protecting you - it's fear-induced behavior that keeps you from the fulfillment of your desires is actually very painful. It's painful to go through life never being able to get what we most deeply want, what our soul is yearning for. For you and your desires to always take a back-seat to the tyranny of "me" and all its fears and "what ifs" stopping you feels like a slow death.

"Me" is also not protecting you because it takes a tremendous amount of effort to constantly engage in all the behaviors that will keep "me" feeling safe - all the things you have to do to try to prevent any situation arising that could be interpreted to mean that "me" is bad. Going after what you want and the fulfillment of your desires is easy compared to the effort expended to keep "me" from being triggered - the effort expended to try to control life. It takes a crazy amount of effort to be a "me."

So what's the upshot of all this and answer to the title question, how can we go after what we want without being freaked out and feeling so much fear?

In short: Awareness of the "me." Awareness of the "me" inside you and all its moves to stop you from going after what you want. Or its moves to have you identify with it and feel bad.

We didn't consciously create the "me" but we can consciously develop awareness of it.

Awareness that rejection or failure are only threats to the "me," not to the real you. So even though you may feel fear or freaked out or bad for whatever reason while you embark on your journey you know why and where it's coming from.

And finally, this awareness may even be enough to make you feel differently - to have some space from the fear and be a little less freaked out while going after what you want.