Old Me, Who’s This?
Dear Old People,
Okay 1) Don’t be offended. Keep reading. and 2) I mean this not in a “wise, gray hair” type of old, but simply the kind of old that indicates you’re a little bit different today than you were a year ago, a month ago, or even yesterday. When you define “old” in these terms, we can all identify with the label.
I put up an Instagram question last week (which, I’m finding, is the hip new way of collecting data) that read:
“If you could tell your old self one thing, what would it be?”
Some of the not-so-serious but entertaining responses I got went a little something like:
- “That I will never need/use chemistry or organic chemistry in [dietetics] practice.”…lol true girl
- “You’re allergic to peanuts…put them down!”
- “Brace yourself, things get rocky…”
- “Veggies are good! Eat more of them” –someone get this girl a golden carrot!
- “Meet Claire as a child and force love of avocados upon her.” –for this reason, I’m glad time travel doesn’t exist.
Others handled the question a little differently:
- “Stop being afraid to say no.”
- “You are allowed to take up space! Emotionally, mentally, physically, and socially.”
- “Like the gooey center of a chocolate lava cake, the best parts of you lie underneath the surface.”
- “Even if you try, you cannot do everything wholeheartedly. It’s okay to ask for help.”
- “Don’t sweat the small stuff and be present! Seems like we’re always planning ‘what’s next.'”
- “Stop worrying about other’s thoughts on yourself, be happy.”
- “Take. Your. Time.”
- “Intuition never fails, discipline builds.”
- “Slowly chip away at it. People want effort and passion, not perfection.”
Although each response may sound different from the next, if you really look closely, you’ll notice that they’re all rooted in one, scary thing: fear. Ever heard of it?
Fear is an interesting little guy (okay, well, not so little in reality–but it’s more fun to call it that). Without it, we’d probably end up making lots of dumb decisions that would either get us and others hurt (both physically, mentally, and/or emotionally). With too much of it, however, comes the crippling cloud of self-doubt that leaves us with handfuls of regret…wishing we could warn our past selves about its sneaky nature.
Take any of the lines above so generously offered by the lovely peeps of IG and add a word pertaining to “fear” in them:
- “I’m afraid to say no because I’ll let other people down.”
- “Like the gooey center of a chocolate lava cake, the best parts of me lie underneath the surface–but what if others don’t like that gooey center?”
- “Even if I try, I cannot do everything wholeheartedly–but does asking for help make me look weak?”
- “Take. My. Time.–but what if that puts me behind of where everyone else is?”
- “Intuition never fails and discipline builds–but what if my intuition leads me to a life that people judge?”
- “Slowly chip away at it. People want effort and passion, not perfection–but what if my efforts and passions aren’t good enough?”
See? Fear is to these sentences as a single missing piece is to a 5,000 piece puzzle (…you know, that puzzle you’ve been waiting to finish for like a year because its final piece was hiding under Grandma’s crossword puzzle book all this time? Yeah, that one.)
It fits. It completes them. Without fear, they wouldn’t exist.
Something you’ve probably noticed about fear, however, is that *unlike me* it’s not an only child. It comes from a big, loud family, with many siblings. There’s “fear of getting injured,” “fear of rejection,” “fear of the future,” “fear of the unknown,” and the most notorious of them all “fear of what other people think.”
That fear is the sneaky guy calling the shots most of the time in this day and age–and it’s most certainly the recurring theme in this experiment. I call him “sneaky” because a lot of the time, we don’t even realize his power over our thoughts and actions.
I find that we often say “no” to what we really want to do not because of all of these bologna and cheese sandwich excuses we give ourselves (i.e. “I’m not experienced enough,” “I’m not creative enough,” “I’m not fit enough,” “I’m not wealthy enough,” etc.)–but rather because we’re more afraid of what everyone else would say if we looked to the universe, shouted “YAAAS,” and moved forward with a more genuine life.
I know we’ve all heard the Pinterest-perfect quote before–“Do what makes you happy, not what you think will make other people happy.” But hardly any of us actually act upon it.
So, I’m calling you (and the rest of us) out.
I’m a firm believer that true happiness and success lies in your ability to close the *metaphorical* gap between your actions and intentions. If your intentions say “I want to nurture and grow my best self in order to improve my relationship with self and others,” but your actions say “I’m going to keep living my life based on what looks good externally”–you’re never going to close the gap in the name of progress.
You have to learn how to live from the inside out–and the only thing preventing you from doing that is fear. If fear prevents you from leading from the heart, any feeling of accomplishment will never be truly satisfying because you’ll never be seen, appreciated, and loved for who you truly are. No one else will know it, but you sure will.
Unlike the dinosaurs, fear is never going to reach extinction (unless there’s some surprise fear-destroying meteor headed our way). There is always going to be judgement. There’s always going to be rejection. However, in order to lead an authentic and meaningful life, we have to learn to cope with these things.
Little by little, though, the coping becomes easier. Never easy, but easier. You know why? Because you fall in love with living your truth–and that’s a feeling so powerful that even the harshest judgement or rejection can ever diminish.
That’s what I would tell my old self. How about you??
P.S. A gratitude shoutout to everyone who participated in the IG fun & helped to inspire this post. If you’re reading this and want to throw your two cents into the next round of idea pooling, keep an eye out for my stories! @clairechewning on Instagram 🙂