Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Safety has been on my mind since Saturday when the crane fell on several building that I see right outside my window and talked about in my previous post, Shame on NYC–Building Crash Outside My Window. My neighborhood still feels like a war zone, reminding me of what it was like after 9/11 on some levels. Drilling and banging 24/7. Helicopters buzzing overhead have slowed down. But going to the store or bank is a struggle as one side of Second Ave. is closed and people pack the other side to look at the fallen buildings.

Eyewitness News came here on Sunday, filmed the wreckage from my apartment, and interviewed me for ABC. It aired several times.

My work has gotten very backed up as I’m tired from being jolted awake occasionally when a loud piece of metal falls or banging gets intense during the night. Even with earplugs, noise gets through. That’s why I haven’t posted all week. That will change next week when I launch my Embracing SUCCESS series. Last night I had an awesome acupuncture session that’s left me feeling more refreshed and ready to rock. Taking care of my health is my favorite way to empower myself!

On Friday I posted about taking risks in Develop Bigger Cojones & Say “Yes” to More. I suggested asking yourself if you’d prefer to be safe or happy. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel happy AND safe. I sure do! But avoiding things that might bring you joy, in the name of safety, keeps you in a prison created by your mind. I was safe as a DoorMat. VERY safe! I did what others wanted and kept the peace at all costs. That safety left me a very unhappy chick!

Fear is your prison guard and your excuses to not take risks or step outside your safety zone are the bars keeping you locked in.

We think of prison as a place to lock up criminals. Keep bad people away from the rest of us. I personally think it’s criminal to make yourself a prisoner of fear. That doesn’t mean you need to risk everything. Or even a lot. But avoiding that which might bring you pleasure because you’re scared it won’t work out really does put you in prison. When I baby stepped out of DoorMatville, I remember the fear I felt. How could I live without people liking me since they might not if I said no or expressed my needs. What if I was alone?

And the biggest fear—the unknown. Not knowing the consequences of steps you take keeps those steps from coming, unless you stop making excuses and start living.

And face life, instead of dodging it in the name of safety.

When I split from my husband, it was the first time I’d lived on my own. I went from the loving arms of my parents to those of my husband. He did take care of me. My life wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It was safe but not happy. I was twenty—ignorant of life and who I was. Feeling like I had no skills to take care of me. Grateful to have a man who loved me even with the body I hated back then. Fearful that if I left, no one would love me again.

But I did it—finally!

When I began to develop enough self-appreciation to make a move, I was ready to live, not walk through life. I was tired of feeling comatose—living on autopilot, sleepwalking through the motions without feeling joy—all for the sake of feeling safe and secure. I had a husband who loved me, who provided economic security, a nice house in the burbs and friends who were clones of me.

What more could a girl whose distorted perception made her think she was fat and ugly, with only a trickling of self-esteem, want??

FREEDOM! When I finally decided it was time to live instead of just passing time, I danced out to the tune of a life of my own. I didn’t ask for alimony or try to take anything more than I was entitled to. People were shocked at how amicable my divorce was. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t try to get more. Few understood I did get what I wanted by risking all that safety.

FREEDOM! I told people that was worth all the money I could get. I was FREE to grow up and become a woman who had choices. I was FREE to take risks!

Do you want to free yourself from fear? Are there things you avoid that deep down you wish you had the cojones to do? Think about your own life and ask yourself these questions:

* How safe do I really feel? Determine if you’re safe or just avoiding things that might make you feel unsafe. People who avoid because they’re scared don’t really feel safe.

* How happy do I feel? I mean really happy! Content with your life, not relieved to pass another day unscathed. Not happy because you have a man to make you feel complete for the moment or a woman who likes sex with you in exchange for you making her feel secure. I mean happy with who you are and your life.

* Am I staying in my relationships because I’m scared of not finding someone else if I leave? Boy, I related to that one! When you think you need someone, you grit your teeth and stay, rather than risk being alone. I’ve learned that being alone can be the most joyous place on earth. I love doing things MY way and staying solo unless I meet someone worth spending time with. That’s what happy does for you! Risking that you’ll be alone can help you learn to love yourself and your own company!

* Am I living for ME or for what others want or expect of me? We can get lost in trying to please others and lose sight of our own journey. What others want is for them, not YOU. There is a risk in saying no to requests or putting your own needs first. But the cost is often alienating someone who’s not out for your best interests anyway.

* Do I have things I’d love to try but postpone them for when the time is right? Waiting to lose 10 pounds or make more money or all the others things we think we need to step outside the safety zone wastes time you can never get back. Those things rarely come since there’s always another pound to lose or promotion to strive for.

* Do I feel too insecure about who I am to take risks or feel deserving of things that would make me happy? Been there, done that! If I could get over it, YOU can too! When you feel imperfect and don’t have confidence, it’s hard to trade what you perceive as safety to do something you’d like. I didn’t think I deserved it. But I did. And, so do YOU!

Don’t let me motivate you to take fast steps for the moment that might flip you out after. Work on appreciating your assets more and building your self-confidence. Just take a small step. Do affirmations for confidence and make one call to ask for something you’ve been wanting or scared to ask for. Or do a day trip by yourself. As you conquer one small
risk, your confidence will increase and help you go for more.

I began with taking a short hike by myself because my soul lives in the mountains. I visited a national park in Montana and hiked a bit further. Doing my first solo backcountry hike felt scary. As I began, I reminded myself I could always turn around and go back. I saw no one the first hour. Then I saw a few scattered people who warned about fresh bear poop on the trail. They reminded me to make lots of noise if I saw one. I almost turned around but kept telling myself I could do it. I got tired and worried about running out of water before I returned.

But with each fear, I continued and I affirmed over and over, “I can do it!” And I did! Finishing gave me an exhilarating feeling of confidence. A few days later I climbed my first switchback mountain!

I’m blessed beyond measure because my strong faith keeps me from getting scared during times that would make people want to curl up and cry. But I’m truly living now—trying new things, giving up opportunities that would pay well but not stoke my passion, working more hours that most of 2 people put together, and truly LOVING my life in the process. Yet I do feel safe because I trust myself to come through it all, and I trust that God will support those thoughts. My awesome career and life in general makes me feel happy almost all the time. And bold about taking risks!

Don’t’ trade happiness for safety. You CAN be happy, AND safe, if you choose to slowly try new ways to live instead of avoiding life. You can’t get the time back that’s wasted on evading situations that appeal to you. Find your own path to happiness and dance down it, even if you do the slow-step!

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