Many articles written for Sixty and Me are about the things we fear as we age.
Losing our looks. Losing our partner. Losing our health. Losing our money. Losing our independence. Losing our friends. Losing our mind. Losing our interest in life.
There are other fears, but these seem to be the ones getting the most press.
Fear and love are powerful emotions. They can motivate us beyond what we believe is possible. Fear of losing health can drive us to exercise, eat nutritiously, or stop smoking. Some people in their sixties start running marathons and lifting weights. They become more physically fit than they were in their youth.
But fear has a flip side. It can freeze us in place and bind us to a mindset that steals our ability to live a fulfilling life.
So where do the fear-thoughts come from? Why do some people fear certain things and others in the same age group fear different things? And why do some individuals seemingly fear nothing at all?
Fear stems from our beliefs about others, ourselves, and the world around us. Most of those core beliefs are buried in the subconscious. We aren’t aware they exist. Unfortunately, they inform every decision we make. If they were positive and uplifting, we’d be in good shape. But often that’s not the case.
How were those beliefs formed? Therapists call it pre-cognitive. They were formed before we were able to discern whether or not the information being received was valid. We soaked them up like little sponges, and they became a belief system.
“The realization that what you’ve been living and telling yourself all these years was based on a skewed perception of something that happened as a child, is a freeing moment. You have to wonder how you didn’t figure it out a long time ago.” Janet Greene, Life Coach
It isn’t called the subconscious for nothing. Those beliefs are below our consciousness. We can’t simply decide to bring them up and, poof! there they are. They have to be tricked. Here are some examples of core beliefs:
I’m unlovable. I can’t have. I’m unworthy. I can’t figure it out. I’m powerless. I don’t belong. I’m not safe. I’m not real. I’m defective. I’m invisible. I’m boring. I’m useless. I’m not good enough.
These are skewed perceptions from childhood that no longer serve us.
When I began to work at naming my fears it shocked me to discover the darkness that lurked in my core. So much of my identity was wrapped up in appearance. My personal power depended upon being perceived as attractive. I realized that time would not work in my favor. I needed to shift the way I saw myself or risk becoming truly depressed.
I’m a serial journal keeper and I journal for a single purpose. I write to figure myself out. I call it “Writing for Self-Discovery.” I was determined to find out what had gone so terribly wrong with my life and why. I discovered that the subconscious can be fooled into coughing up the goods. The following technique came out of my relentless scribbling.
The difference between what we think we’re afraid of and what we actually fear, can be shocking. I began by naming my fear. “I’m afraid of losing my looks.” But I knew that wasn’t enough. The bigger question was WHY? Why are you afraid of losing your looks? “I’m afraid of losing my looks because I’ve gotten what I wanted in life by being attractive. If I lose my looks I can’t have what I want. I don’t deserve to have what I want. I’m worthless.”
As I wrote those words I was dumbfounded. Since that fear had more than one ‘why’, I continued. “I’m afraid of losing my looks because I won’t be attractive to the opposite sex.” When I dissected that one, the deeper message was clear. “I’m unworthy of love. I’m not ok as I am. I’m unlovable.”
Once I could see them in black and white, I knew they were lies. I wasn’t unlovable, undeserving, or worthless. But I also knew that I had unconsciously been living out those beliefs for many years. I had to replace them with the truth.
There are those who tell you to repeat affirmations such as “I’m successful. I’m capable. I’m confident and self-assured.” There’s a problem inherent in that method. If it goes against your subconscious core beliefs that you are an incompetent, gutless, failure, no amount of repetition will change that.
I needed evidence, proof that those negative statements about me were lies. I know it sounds simplistic, too easy. You wanted pain, right? That’s the beauty of it. The pain comes while digging into your fears. It can be a jarring awakening to see what’s been running the show. But when you list the reasons why those tightly held, worn-out beliefs are lies, and you replace the lies with truth, everything aligns. Your heart knows. Your mind knows. Your body knows and believes. This is the secret.
Here’s what I wrote to refute my unlovable lie, to prove to myself that it wasn’t true:
I am lovable because:
My dog wags her tail when she sees me. People tend to like me. I have good friends. I get valentines. Strangers tell me their problems. My kids talk to me. I’ve been married five times (this one may not apply to you!)
I wrote everything I could think of that proved I was loveable (not loved, just loveable). There’s a difference. And I kept on writing until I was convinced that I was indeed a loveable human being. Then I did the same for all the other lies.
I kept the lists handy and became aware of my self-talk. Fear tried to niggle itself back in. I had, after all, been allowing it a voice for decades. But now I was aware of what was going on and I had proof. When the demons whispered, I’d whip out the lists. I talked back to the lies, out loud. In legal terms, those lists were my rebuttal evidence.
You’ll never know if it works until you try. In my experience, when I began to speak the truth about myself, I felt an initial elation in my whole being. That was followed by grief. What if I’d known this when I was younger? How might my life have been different?
I took time with the loss. It gave me huge compassion for the person who operated from that damaged perspective. She didn’t know how loved, how worthy, how capable she was. And that compassion was the impetus that finally allowed me to love myself.
When your life is fear-based, love is compromised. When you remove the lies that exist at the source of those fears, you open the channel for love to flow. Not just self-love, but open-hearted love for others. And when your heart opens to give, it also opens to receive.
Have you ever taken a closer look at your fears and asked the ‘why’ questions? Was it helpful? If you think this technique might work for you, please try it and share the results.