Just Let It Go – Yeah, Right
Please forgive the snarky title. I want to address something pervasive that I see in the business and personal growth community and I have strong feelings about it. I was on Facebook the other day reading a piece by yet another business leader telling me to just simply let go of my fear of being visible. This person offered a beautiful graphic designed to lead me through the steps of becoming aware of my fear (step 1), letting it go (step 2), and then taking a different action (step 3). I’ve seen hundreds of versions of this created by well-meaning leaders, coaches and healers of all kinds. Sound familiar?
I love steps 1 and 3. Who doesn’t love having more awareness and then wholeheartedly taking action towards their heart’s desire. It’s step 2, Just Let It Go, that trips me up. I often feel like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t just let go of a fear or resistance or something like that. Then I start to shame myself and try even harder which feels even worse. What about you? Sound familiar? Ever wonder why we can’t Just Let It Go? Let’s get curious here.
Get Curious About The Fear
The first place to begin is to learn more about the fear. This was me when I first started building my business. I was so afraid of visibility I didn’t even want to have a website. That was less than a decade ago. I hired great coaches and created to-do lists a mile long and made very, very slow progress. It took my social media coach a year to convince me to create a Facebook account!
To resolve this fear, I had to deeply ask myself the question “What’s good about being invisible?” Even as I write this, I feel a wave of the old fear run through my body. I had to truly honor that fear. Why? Because when I explored that question, I discovered that I held an unconscious belief that being visible was extremely dangerous. Long ago in my childhood I unconsciously created this fear/belief pair in response to the chaos in my family. I protected myself from harm by staying invisible.
It’s All About Survival
So what, you say. That was decades ago now. Indeed, except that my amygdala doesn’t know that. My what? The amygdala is a very primitive part of our brain that is our early warning system, our smoke detector designed to literally keep us alive. When I want to do something now that my early warning system in the past learned to recognize as dangerous, it sounds the alarm. This primitive early warning system does not engage my thinking brain to see if there really is a fire in the here and now. Its priority is to keep me alive so the alarm bells go off when anything at all in the present smells like that old smoke from the past.
Here we see the connection between my fear of visibility and biological survival. Since my old early warning system said all visibility was dangerous, I unconsciously stopped myself from taking any action that would increase my visibility. How could I possibly Just Let Go of something so connected to my biological survival. That’s just not how we are wired. Phew, there’s nothing wrong with me after all when I couldn’t just let it go. I feel compassion for myself even as I write this. I feel deep compassion for you who also knows this place.
There’s An Internal Tug-Of-War
In my opinion when we try to force ourselves to ignore our internal alarm bells, we limit our success because of an unresolved internal conflict like “I want visibility. It’s not safe to be visible.” There’s an internal tug-of-war. We have the impulse to emerge and the impulse to hide at the same time. Every time we try a technique or strategy to overcome an unaddressed pattern tied to our early survival, our alarm bells go off and we feed this internal tug-of-war. Now does my snarky title make sense?
Nurture Deep Awareness
By nurturing this deeper awareness of where these old alarm bells come from, we begin to rewire our system and differentiate the past from the present. By doing that deep self-reflection myself, I live more fully in the here and now. I have put much of the past in its place such that I now truly enjoy creatively writing pieces you might find helpful in your life.
Okay, so I have described some of my journey and I must say that I needed help with this unraveling. What about you? Here’s a way to get curious. Grab a piece of paper or open a blank document on your device and for two minutes answer this question without thinking: “What’s good about being invisible?” If that question doesn’t resonate it might be something else like “What’s good about staying small?” or “What’s good about not speaking up?” Choose a question like this that resonates for you and see what comes up. Any surprises? Any connections to the past? What do you notice on the inside as you listen closely? This is the beginning of trying a different approach. Instead of just trying to let it go, get curious about what unconscious alarm bell might be going off for you. Want help? Let’s talk.