Fear Doesn’t Always Feel Like Fear

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Pressure to be great can be another form of fear.

I Thought I Was Through with Fear

I remember a few years ago when the baseline fear I used to feel stopped being there. That little feeling of anxiety in my stomach went away due to a lot of work I was doing on my motives.

I was questioning thoughts like, “I need to make more money,” “I want to be successful,” “I need to be happy,” “I need to be healthy.”

The turnarounds, “I don’t need to make more money,” “I don’t want to be successful,” “I don’t need to be happy,” and “I don’t need to be healthy,” were bringing me a lot of peace.

So I thought fear was done.

But There Was More

It didn’t show up as the feeling I recognize as fear this time. Instead, it feels like a pressure to perform. That’s what’s up for me these days. I feel it as a pressure in my neck and back. And a strain in my eyes and head.

I wouldn’t think of this as fear because it’s not in my stomach.

But I realized last weekend that it was the same thing showing up in a different form. The pressure I feel is a pressure to do a good job (at whatever I’m doing).

It May Not Sound Like Fear, But Look at This

The pressure I feel is not so much of a pressure to do a good job. It’s a pressure to do a prefect job. Which means that it’s really just a fear of doing something wrong, even just a little wrong. And ultimately, this is a fear of disapproval. That’s what I fear more than anything. And that’s what makes me strain and push myself. I’m trying to avoid disapproval. That’s the biggest stress in my life. I think it always has been.

For me, it goes back to when I was in school. I got the feeling from my mom that anything less than 100% was not quite good enough. I know she wasn’t really that strict on me, but I wanted her approval more than anything.

Again, it wasn’t really her approval that I wanted, because when I got her approval, it was never really all that satisfying. Instead, it was the fear of her disapproval that motivated me. I rarely saw disapproval from her. But that fear is what kept me running. That’s why doing a great job on one thing was never enough. There was always the next job waiting to be done. Which was yet another risk for disapproval to be managed.

And in my twenties, when I started to find my own way in the world, I believed that my mom did not approve of some of my choices. And that depressed me, even when I was doing what I wanted to do.

I Realize Now that Some of that Is Still Unworked for Me

Because I still fear disapproval. That’s why I try to be nice to everyone. That’s why I try to do a perfect job at everything. That’s why no matter what I do, it’s never enough. That’s why I work so hard. That’s why I’m afraid to do anything that I really want to do.

So while it doesn’t show up as fear in my stomach, the pressure I feel in my neck and back and head is my clue. It’s time to start looking at my motives again. And it’s time to start seeing who I am trying to please. It’s time to start writing some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on the various people whose disapproval I’m still trying to avoid. It’s time to do The Work on this.

Have a great weekend,

“How do you react when you think you need people’s love? Do you become a slave for their approval? Do you live an inauthentic life because you can’t bear the thought that they might disapprove of you? Do you try to figure out how they would like you to be, and then try to become that, like a chameleon?” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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  • Dawn White says:

    Thank you so much for this Todd. I have been finding motives everywhere, and I’m so grateful to read your insights and experience your humility. There’s a big shift happening for me where I’m beginning to notice everything’s OK, even (or especially) me having motives … it seems as if noticing my motives is a great support in uncovering even deeper layers of conditioning and strangely enough, bringing more and more peace with whatever is. Thank you, thank you!

  • todd says:

    Thanks, Dawn. Yes, loving what is includes loving that I don’t always love what is! 🙂

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