There is a dungeon we are in – a dark prison with no physical walls to keep us in, no guard to watch us day and night. And yet, we are serving our time in solitary confinement in there this prison…
Each one of us has particular aims, and as we move forward in life, our ambitions change, and we set ourselves certain goals. But more often than we realize, we restrict the goals we set for ourselves. We suffer from self-doubt, and our insecurities of which we are not even aware instill inhibitions that spread roots and branches in our minds. The result? Self-imposed internal limits – on ourselves, our goals, ambitions, potential, imagination. We lose faith in ourselves, and at times, we don’t even realize it.
At times, our inability to take risks and go beyond the defined boundary becomes so internalized that we do not even realize how we clip our own wings. Like a reflex action, our instantaneous response to any challenge is to evade the situation altogether, because it is too risky. It is almost as if in our own little world, the word ‘risky’ is synonymous to ‘bad’. Our inability to do something new and tough becomes an absolute truth for us. We even lose the capability to think it through, measure the pros and cons, and then arrive upon a decision like an intelligent being with a fully functioning cognition.
As a result of living in fear for too long, we manage to condition ourselves to play safe, without evaluating the reason behind reaching this negative conclusion. And even though we may not realize it, this state of mind is extremely dangerous. Not only is progress hindered in this way, but we are also not aware if this. And, as a result, our low self-esteem becomes chronic. Internal limits, like barbed wire, keep ups restricted, except these are invisible, and we fail to even recognize that we are doing something pernicious to ourselves.
What follows is slow, dull and very damaging. We develop anxiety, and then phobias. They affect the choices we make in life, our actions and habits and even our destinies. The all-encompassing fear of life prevents us from living. Thus, we have to struggle, even to get our everyday tasks done. We sink deeper and deeper into a suffocating darkness. Some reel under the pressure and give in to depression. Others wedge a daily war. But, everyone who sets internal limits to his/her goals essentially buries his/her best qualities, and jeopardizes his/her innate talents.
It all begins with the fear of failure. If you want something too bad, the fear of failing to achieve it, and being hurt and rejected is something that can be scary. This primarily happens as a result of setting a goal and considering it the highest achievement. When you assign a high level of importance to something, gaining it becomes so big that a failure at doing so might not leave your life with any meaning at all. Intensity of fear to fail is proportional to to the importance placed on the goal at hand. Moreover, the uncertainty of a situation makes you more nervous.
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality,” said Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Yes, many of us are prevented from accomplishing our dreams because we remain tethered by these imaginary obstacles and unjustified fears. We are petrified at the thought of making a gamble because we have a pre-conceived perception about the possible peril, and how we might fare in the face of it. It is crippling to think that you might fall face down, with the rest of the selfish world stamping all over you. It is even more paralyzing to think that you may never find the strength to stand up on your feet again.
But, should you stop walking altogether, then? No. You need to uproot the tendency to set the bar low in fear of not reaching any place higher. You have to identify your fear, and understand the root cause of it. That way, it will be easier to conquer it. What are your fears? Is it the evaluation you will get from others? Or, yourself, perhaps? It is about appearing too ambitious, and hence being ridiculed? Or, is it something even scarier, like failing to pay the bills and pay off loans, getting fired and losing the hard-earned status or title, getting dumped, being cheated, being ill-advised, being left to deal with life alone, losing a loved one, being hurt, being forced to start over, being lonely with nothing to do and no one to love?
It is the fear of being patronized that stops us from trying acting upon our ideas. It is the fear of starting something new that keeps us tied to our old routine. It is the fear of being alone that keeps us stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. Instead of following your heart and finding your true purpose, and reaching out to that person who can hold your hand along your journey to answer your true calling, you settle for what you don’t enjoy, for the one you don’t connect with. And to overcome our imaginary incapability, and the consequent lack of faith, you fall prey to rumours, or immersing yourself in what you’re not gaining anything from.
Once you place a finger on your fears, it becomes easier to find the common causes that are at the foundation of your fears. It could be anything from the standards set by the society or the expectations of family and friends, to poverty, physical disability, gender, sexuality, background or social status; from previous failure, rejection, or betrayal, and the reaction of the others along with the feelings of pain and shock, to lack of formal training leading to inferiority complex. It could be external, like being scarred by witnessing the failure of another. It could be because of the obvious uncertainty of any situation, and the possibility of wrong presumption of its importance or unimportance, followed by misplaced focus.
Reasons could be varied, and you have to figure it out. Once you find the common base fears, it will be much easier to work on them, as there will probably be a smaller number of issues to work on. This will help you to know yourself better, and realize that your feeling of inadequacy is perhaps baseless. And once you chance upon the realization that you are afflicted with self-abnegation, it will be easier to eliminate this acclimatization to channel your focus to tenure more than talent, to longevity more than love.
Now, the question that arises is, do we forego our personal boundaries all together to shed off the inhibitions? The answer is, you have to differentiate between healthy boundaries that keep you in a position of safety and dignity, and self-enforced boundaries that limit your ability and imagination. The important thing to understand here is whether your boundaries are derived from fear and dependence on others to tell you what to do, rather than from respect and love – be it for yourself, your work or for someone else.
Your refusal to break laws, bend rules, let unknown people come too close emotionally or physically, or do things that might leave you dead, injured r ruined is not bad, or simply things that seem neither enjoyable nor enriching are all healthy psychological boundaries. But, it is time to re-evaluate your course of actions, if you are motivated by the unconscious necessity to maintain “peace” to avoid confrontation. This could even result in developing a fear for the freedom to take charge and make your own decisions.
It is you who has to sort your priorities, recognize and set your own definitions of ruin, rules and laws, intimacy, comfort zone, as well as recognize the logic behind these. However, be careful about overthinking and concentrating only on the statistics of failure, because the more you look at the negative side, the more insurmountable your obstacle seemingly becomes. One of the most helpful things to do in this kind of situation is to be around positive-minded people: some people spread negativity and fear, rooting from their own lack of abilities to succeed. Their vide of stress and struggle will make you agitated.
Setting your priorities straight includes realizing that you’re perhaps making something so important that your fear of failing at that is even bigger than death to you. You have to ask yourself: is it worth your obsession and attention? How important is the opinion of the ‘others’ whom you are so scared to disappoint? How will their reactions affect your life? How will your achievement or failure affect their lives and their efforts to help you? Think about the pain you are so scared to face: it will perhaps eventually pass, however strong. Or perhaps, you will not fail at all! You will never know until you overcome the harmful belief that you are worthless.
Sometimes, we let a trivial challenge, a small hindrance, or a minor setback get in the way of our goal. Subconsciously, we simply decide that it is easier to give up, and use these as an excuse to justify our failure, or rationalize why we are not whole-heartedly pursuing something – to the world and to ourselves. Isn’t it easier to let a difficulty overcome you, than the other way round? So, are you sabotaging your own life’s goals and happiness to play the victim card? Or, it could be much more profound than that. It is you who has to figure it out. Not everyone is cut out to be a part of cut-throat competition, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
You do not have to do it alone. Often, a little extra help is needed. A shoe to symbolize your passion, a book as a reminder, the kind words of a loved one, the help of a professional… This article… But first, you have to first acknowledge that you are in need of help. Being too proud to ask will do you no good. It will perhaps boost your ego, with the prospect of telling the world someday that you battled your fears alone and emerged alone. But, this romanticism might not get you anywhere. Be vigilant about your course of actions and decisions, about whether you are deliberately choosing to pay the price of not achieving your goals, in pursuit of the glory of a lone warrior, or a martyr.
There is a lot in store for each one of us. To reach your pot of gold, you have to follow the rainbow. Give your ideas a chance. Choose challenges that directly address your fears. As you prepare to face them, it helps in personal growth and liberates you from all that restricts you, to be more confident. Try to think of what you will do in the face of a scenario that you are afraid to face. This is not to plan out every single possible situation in your head, of course, but just an exercise to make you habituated to the idea that you are prepared, that you have a scheme to fall back on, a strategy to guide you.
Accept that you might need to change the course of life. Knowledge and acceptance of what’s keeping you in the dark abyss will help you find the light. The thought of change persuades some people to not delve deep in their minds and see what is wrong. Thus, by not seeking what’s hidden in the darkness, people stay in the dark. It is natural to feel jittery, but don’t let it unnerve you. Instead, let the warm, fuzzy feeling spread within you. Let the butterflies flutter in your stomach. Feel the excitement.
Set a purpose, and place your vision upon that. Do not let anything else distract you. Remember that your goals and ambitions are unique to you. So, before you restrict yourself with internal limits, before you compare yourself to anyone and build yourself unnecessary competition, remember that you have your own set of skills and interests, which sets you apart from the others. No one else can live your life, or achieve what you can. No one else has the same purpose of life as you do. So get out there, discover yourself and set yourself free. You do not want to live your life below your potential, because one day, when you look back, It will be better to be satisfied and happy about having lived, having pursued your heart’s desires, than regretting about not even giving it a try.
“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”
– (Attributed to Mark Twain)
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