For most of us, maintaining a healthy and appropriate balance in our lives can at times be difficult.
It is in those moments our doubts can find a home in which to grow.
With so many responsibilities pulling us in different directions, a healthy self-awareness is critical to maintaining our inner equilibrium and keeping fear at bay.
Whether those fears are in the professional, social, financial or personal aspects of our lives, knowing thyself is requisite to triumphing over them.
Many of my coaching clients come to me because they feel stuck somehow in their lives and unsure of their next step.
Left unchecked, that uncertainty can easily turn into fear. My job as their coach is not to tell them what to do, but to get them to see they have it within themselves to move through their challenges with confidence and grace.
For most people, this comes down to just a few things that need to be looked at a little more closely. It is when we lose sight of these that we also begin to lose our balance, and uncertainty begins to set in.
These four things are core values, language, self-esteem and action. Even though I’m going to talk about them separately, they all go hand in hand to help increase your sense of self-awareness and self-confidence.
These are the ingredients that go into living fearlessly and allow you to courageously pursue your greatest happiness.
Everyone needs to know what their core values are. They form the compass that keeps you heading in the right direction regardless of how rough the seas of life are on any given day.
“Everything is based on your values. Your values define who you are. They are the basis of all your beliefs, ethics, thoughts and actions,” explains Cherie Sohnen-Moe, author of Business Mastery and co-author of The Ethics of Touch.
Whenever I start working with a new client, the first exercise I have her do is make a list of her core values.
This gives us the starting point.
As the client moves forward in uncovering what is and what isn’t working in her life, decisions eventually need to be made about the future. These decisions become strikingly easy to make once the core values are identified because they will be either congruent with her value system or not.
So your values will always serve to guide you. One value I hope is on your list, for it is the most powerful, is gratitude. Without gratitude and appreciation, there can be no balance in life. I believe in every situation in life one could possibly experience, there will always be something for which to be grateful; you only need to look for it.
If you can appreciate what life has to offer, you can never again be a victim of anyone or anything, even when life seems unpleasant. I am at a point in my life now where I say “thank you” when I get a parking ticket.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not thankful I got the ticket; I am thankful I am fortunate enough to own a car, because there are many people in the world who don’t and wish they did. The parking ticket serves only to remind me of the abundance in my life.
Pay attention to your language, because the language you use about yourself and your situation can be very telling about your self-image. For example, some people refer to having no money as being broke and to having an abundance of money as being filthy rich. Either way, the descriptors of broken and filthy are at best unappealing.
“Language is so powerful,” says Sohnen-Moe. “Some people tend to say things in the negative, even seemingly minor things, when it’s so much more powerful to rephrase it in the positive.”
Massage therapist Susan Gray isn’t immune to hearing news about the economy and other seemingly negative situations. The owner of Susan Gray Wellness in Evanston, Illinois, she stays positive and inspired by avoiding what she calls the language of scarcity.
“When I hear practitioners refer to ‘loss, dwindling or cancellations’ taking place in their practices, I acknowledge it, but consciously choose not to focus on it,” she explains. “It isn’t productive for me to bring that energy back into my practice.”
It all comes down to your perspective. If you see your current situation as something to bemoan and feel victimized by, then you’re probably in for a very tough time. If this is your outlook, you’re most likely using such phrases as, “This is so-and-so’s fault,” or the ever-popular “Why me?”
If you had a client on your table using phrases like those about his own health, you’d invite him to re-examine his views and encourage him to reclaim responsibility for his own health. You would invite him to try a new perspective, wouldn’t you?
I view self-esteem as being similar to honor, in that it is something no one can bestow upon you and once you have it, no one can take it from you; you must develop it on your own.
Self-esteem is also very closely interrelated with self-confidence. They are, in fact, interdependent. For me, self-esteem is a basic understanding of my place in the world and knowing the value of what I am capable of contributing, regardless of what others think of me.
This inspires in me the self-confidence to move out into the world and do what I was born to do. I’m reminded of the 20/40/60 rule: “At age 20, you care about what others say about you; at age 40, you don’t care about what others say about you; and at age 60, you realize people were never talking about you at all.”
In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle opens with the line, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important YOU ARE!”
You are here for a specific reason, something only you can do. I didn’t fully realize this for myself until about two years ago. In June 2006, I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in my life. The first time was in 1998 and thankfully, I caught it early enough that my treatment did not require chemotherapy; I did have to undergo surgery and radiation, though.
Two years ago I was diagnosed again—and this time I was not so quick to catch it. By the time of my diagnosis, it had already begun to spread, which ultimately meant I was going to need chemotherapy.
It was the most difficult experience of my life, and at the lowest point of my treatment, I didn’t think I had it in me to continue. For a couple of hours that seemed like an eternity, I contemplated suicide, thinking it was the easier path.
But somewhere in that darkest of nights, I realized I was on this planet for a specific reason, and if I chose to leave this earth, that purpose would remain unfulfilled.
I can’t tell you from where I summoned the courage to keep going, because I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I beat cancer for a second time, and now I know intimately, beyond any shadow of doubt, what Tolle wrote about.
From that most challenging experience of my life was forged a self-esteem I had never known. I believe it was in me all the time, and I just never knew it. I also believe it is in you, whether you know it or not.
Never stop looking for it, never stop cultivating it and never again let any fear stop you. Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through hell … keep going!”
So yes, there will be times of doubt and darkness, despair and confusion. It will be difficult and discouraging, but these experiences will pass, and as fire tempers steel, you will emerge from that crucible a stronger individual for having gone through it.
Or, as Andre Gide once said, “One does not discover new lands without first consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
There will always be times when things don’t go your way. When they don’t, you have the option of either accepting it or doing something about it.
Consider this prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Whether you believe in a god or not, the most powerful part of this wonderful little mantra is the underlying presupposition that no matter what the circumstances are, there are always things you can change.
It only takes a little courage to make them happen. (I love the word courage. It comes from the Latin word meaning heart—so courage is not just about doing something in spite of your fears, it means doing something wholeheartedly.)
Let’s look at our economic situation for a minute. For many of us, the phone is not ringing as often as it used to. For massage therapist Rick Hayhurst, owner of BodyBizInc.com and co-owner of ASIS Massage Education, taking action is the key to staying in balance and out of fear.
“There’s really no such thing as no work,” he explains. “You are either planning or executing, but you’re always doing something during your dedicated work hours.
“I always have a list of things I can be doing, so when I experience those times when the phone doesn’t ring, I can get going immediately on all the other activities necessary to keeping my business afloat,” he adds.
For Alison MacArthur, a massage student and single mom in Gurnee, Illinois, living fearlessly is not only a matter of taking action, it’s also about steering clear of any pessimism that might derail her efforts.
Although she’s concerned about entering the massage field in a down economy, her outlook is upbeat.
“I know I’ll find work, it’s just a matter of not giving up,” she says. “My plan is to work with a chiropractor at first, until I have enough clients to make it on my own. I’m talking with different chiropractors now, but haven’t found the right one to work with yet.
“If I can’t find a chiropractor who fits my needs, I’ll look into working with other professionals—doctors, physical therapists,” she adds. “I know I want to work in a clinical setting, so that helps me keep my search focused.
“Another thing I do,” continues MacArthur “is to avoid news programs. They’re all talking about how bad everything is, and I just don’t want to be exposed to all that fear and negativity. The economy isn’t responsible for my success—I am. Yeah, it’s tougher right now, but it’s not insurmountable.”
Pulled in Different Directions?
Wherever you are in life and whatever challenges you may face, even when you feel pulled in different directions, always remember you have it within yourself to face them confidently—and regardless of the outcome, you don’t need to be afraid of them anymore.
Instead, choose to take the steps toward fearlessness, courage and confidence: Reaffirm your values, become conscious of the power of words and choose only those that truly serve you, cultivate a healthy self-esteem and take actions necessary to keep you moving in the direction of your dreams. Trust in yourself.
About the Author
Joe McCue is a licensed massage therapist and small-business coach.