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Soften: It Is Fear That Paralyzes Us

Soften.

I’ve had this word on repeat over the past week or so. 

Not “breathe”

Not “relax”

Not even “release.”

But… soften

It seems to work in a completely different way than the rest. Like an authority figure that immediately gets your respect and attention. My body understands it. 

If you’ve been reading recently I think you’ll know that I’ve been having some struggles with my anxiety. If I take you back to before Tuesday’s post, I had been mentioning this surge of physical energy I had been feeling. This increased “hype.” It became more unnerving as the days went on and I was continuously unable to get any sort of grounding or grasp on my feelings. I had become completely hardened. Physically and mentally. 

Physically I was tense, my body felt as if I was running on four cups of coffee. Mentally… I was cut off from any sort of emotions.  Though of course, because I was numb and fleeting through life at a hundred miles an hour, I didn’t even notice. It felt like I was speedily skimming over top of some surface, not letting myself look down for even a moment to see the ground my feet were not touching.

I had a chronic knot in my abdomen. I’ve written about this before. It’s what happens to me when I feel any sort of stress or anxiety – it seems to go straight to my stomach. I’ve been reading more about it and articles such as this and this and resources like this and this are helping me understand that its not just all in my head.  

But understanding doesn’t always make it better.  Its uncomfortable and frustrating and affects me daily. 

So last week, when the running and skimming and knot in my stomach became all too much, I broke down. I just exploded and didn’t want to hold it together any longer. 

After a cry, and then a long meditation focusing on softening this knot in my belly (literally telling it “softensoften…”) inviting it to let go, and trying to listen really hard to what it was trying to tell me…

I realized what it was trying to tell me was that I was scared. 

I was so bloody scared. 

    

It wasnt caffeine giving me the hype. It wasnt food or exercise. It was me pushing down feelings I didnt want to feel.

Once I let myself stop pushing them down, the knot in my stomach went away. 

The crappy audition I had last week only increased this fear twisting and turning inside me, as it reminded me how damn hard life is going to be after I graduate as I try to make my way as an actor. It reminded me that as much as you dream and as much as you may see yourself as capable when in the confines of your own studio or practice room, there are a million others out there who may not think or see the same things as you do (FYI –  I will not know the results of the big audition I talked about here until the end of April, as I presume. So that just remains an agonizing waiting game). 

I wouldn’t be so scared if this was my first go round. When I graduated college, I was so naive. I was passionate, but I hid any feelings of fear deep underground and didn’t let myself feel anything of the sort. The difference between then and now was that I never let myself feel them. I didn’t know this is what was even happening.  I simply covered it all up by saying, “meh its okay, there are other things I want to do anyways.” or “maybe this isn’t what I want to do for a living after all…”

I’m scared because I know what happened then. I pushed down all these feelings and instead turned to the numbness of an eating disorder. I got sick and lost myself and my dream, entirely. So the fact that I am about to enter the exact same scenario… with all the same triggers and tempting pulls in front of me again…. its like a blockbuster sized deja view.

But now, since I’ve been there and elsewhere and now back again, I know this is the only thing I want to do.  Feeling this level of desire, and being reminded of the very possibility that I may not be given the chance to do it… now that’s terrifying. 

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bodies are amazing. They will not ignore something they know is important to us. They will hold on to it until we get its message to pay attention.  And… its okay to let go and listen. 

Fear is what paralyzes us. Where can you soften? #fear #soften #dreams #selfcare #grace Click To Tweet

Staying grounded and confident is going to be absolute priority as I go after my dream. Especially in this next couple of months, as I transition from training to real life and face a lot of changes and discomfort, I may need some extra help to keep this sensitivity of mine from getting too triggered.  And yes, I do have a game plan. 

My point to all this is…. it is fear that paralyses us. 

Fear hardens us. It masks itself as that urge we feel to “distract distract distract” and make to do lists and run around with our coffee cups. We cease up and try to protect ourselves by ensuring we have no open space to be alone with our thoughts. But this does us no good. It keeps us in robot land, flittering above the surface not feeling or seeing anything around us.  To let those feelings through, we must let ourselves feel them. 

So to do that, I am repeating

Soften

to myself. 

Daily. Many times a day if I have to. 

To remind myself to stop holding. 

To jump into the scary place of vulnerability and feel what I’m feeling. 

Then I can see clearer. Feel my feet on the ground. And then I can go out. More fierce than ever. 

Tell me,

Where in your life do you think you can soften? 

Are you aware of when you distract yourself from feeling an emotion?

If you are feeling any sort of fear right now… of the unknown, of things not working out as you planned… give yourself the grace to feel what you have to feel. You’re not alone. 

25 COMMENTS

  1. Susie @ Suzlyfe | 24th Mar 17

    Honestly, you just made me cry. right now. It isn’t even 6 am yet. I needed this right now, Cora. I really did. Not just for the infertility stuff. I also needed it with regards to the fact that I don’t have to be so strong all the time. I can soften and let the emotions come in–they won’t hurt me.
    Love you. sending hugs. For both of us.
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Easy Peasy Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread MuffinsMy Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      Not only will they not hurt you, but they will make you stronger. No – you do not need to appear like you always have it together. You do not need to be the hero for other people all the time. You can be messy and sad and we will all sit by you through it and marvel at your courage. Always thinking of you suz.

  2. Jamie@TheMomGene | 24th Mar 17

    Oh fear. Yes, I let it paralyze me too. It has to do with all the empathy…I’m like a well of feeling and when I put myself “out there” I fear the reception because not everybody is as “feely” as me. It’s like walking around the world with your skin on inside out…to many nerve endings exposed, which makes me bristle and try to protect myself. I think my biggest area I need to soften is around my husband. I take ALL my frustrations out on him, because I know he can take it. But that’s not fair to him and that’s not dealing with it.
    Jamie@TheMomGene recently posted…How to Sneak in Physical Therapy on VacationMy Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      So much ‘yes’ jamie. Thank you for knowing exactly how i feel. It is a protection device to turn ourselves outside in and keep those sensitive bristles of ours hidden away. Especially when that has become so second nature it can be hard to do the reverse. I think we all take our fears out on those we love most. But not everyone can see it. Thank you for being so wise.

  3. Emily Swanson | 24th Mar 17

    I really need to soften in trusting God and not trusting my own feelings which are so deceptive. I want to trust God’s perfect plan for my life, no matter how cloudy and uncertain the future seems to me. I do get paralyzed by fear about the future, fear about people, fear about relationships, but I have never seen God forsake me, and I want to soften that fear and start just resting in the peace knowing that He is in control.

    I’m so glad you shared this because I think we can all think of any area, a place in which we really want to soften, but this was a good way to get us all to think. <3
    Emily Swanson recently posted…On Learning to Eat EVERYTHING In RecoveryMy Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      I agree em. It can be so hard to soften to the trust that our life will turn out as it should.

  4. Evangeline | 24th Mar 17

    I need to soften in the way I treat my mom. Our personalities clash, and it’s tough to show her love, to treat her with a softness. It makes me bitter, and it hurts both of us.

    I also struggle with repressing those emotions that need to be dealt with. It’s hard, Cora, really hard. I’ve learned that I tend to avoid conflict, even at the price of resolution. All those feelings build up and build up and, then I’m overwhelmed.

    You, my friend, amaze me. I just love your thoughts here so much. Absolutely beautiful.
    Evangeline recently posted…An Ode to the Y ChromosomeMy Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      And you amaze me at your constant awareness and desire to grow. I think we all treat our loved ones in ways we wish we didnt…ive been workinf at softenng my instinctual reaction to my own mother for years now. It is slowly taking a much better shape but it is not an overnight change. Its a big vulnerable muscle to open ourselves up to. Thanks for being you.

  5. Ellie Pell | 24th Mar 17

    I’m so afraid of one thing right now. On Sunday I have a big test, that I am trying not to make a big deal of, but it kind of is and I’m worried, but trying not to worry because it’s silly but I care about it so it’s on my mind and all of these things go through my head every 10 seconds so it’s hard to find anyway to manage my feelings.
    Whew.
    I’m going to try repeating the soften phrase, or some other mantra at the beginning of Sunday and hope either it gives me strength to conquer my fear, so a level of acceptance of what I am trying to accomplish.
    Ellie Pell recently posted…My Favorite Products For Spring 2017My Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      And…
      Breathe. I know exactly how this feels ellie. Sometimes there is no choice but to feel all the craziness and just try to centre ourselves the best we can. Thinking of you today as you have either already finished or are getting ready to write this test. You are going to feel SO much lighter afterwards. Rejoice in that feeling and be proud of yourself no matter how it goes (and let me know how it goes…).

  6. Kaylee | 25th Mar 17

    Ughhhhh waiting is the worst! I’m not a patient person so I can sympathize with you. I would rather just know now even if it is bad news.

    Also, I’m currently reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. What you spoke to reminded me of the chapter I’m on that talks about the ways me disengage from our emotions. The overall book deals with how we don’t give enough credit to the discomfort in being vulnerable needed to ultimately rise strong. Would definitely recommend the book!

    hmmm, I honestly feel that in the moment I’m not all too aware of when I’m distracting myself. It usually hits me after the fact that I’ve been doing XXX instead of really recognizing my emotions for what they are.
    As to your other question, I know I allow expectations for myself (my own and/or perceived ones of others) to really bog me down. Particularly, however, I am too hard on myself grade-wise. So I think that’s the area I want to focus on “softening” right now and focus on enjoying my last semester of undergrad.
    Kaylee recently posted…Poached Eggs on Yogurt “Bed”My Profile

    • Cora | 26th Mar 17

      I love brene brown. Ive read her perfectionism book but not this one…ill put it on my list. I think being aware of when you WERE distracting yourself from an emotion is a huge sign of awareness and more than most people manage. It will slowly start to morph into seeing the connections in the present moment as well. And i think this is a wonderful goal for you in regards to grades. I let that go after years of seeking to be at the top, and ive learned way more ever since.

  7. Miss Polkadot | 25th Mar 17

    Wow. At first I “only” saw your current situation – obviously not just an “only” because I am genuinely interested in following along your journey – in this. Yet then some of what you wrote towards the end hit spot on for my life as of now. It’s not something I want to share here but let me say that I need to think about your – wise – words more again.
    Journalism isn’t exactly an easy field to get started in, either, but I can only imagine acting being that much harder. I so SO hope somebody will realize how talented and unique you are very soon. Waiting is so damn hard and can really affect us mentally. Big big hugs to you.

  8. Cora | 26th Mar 17

    Journalism is the exact same. So much rejection, vulnerability and putting yourself out there. But if it is our love than it is worth all of it. Sending peaceful thoughts your way, always.

  9. Lana | 26th Mar 17

    That was very insightful! I too have to continue reminding myself that life’s experiences are not something we need to defend ourselves from ( an eating disorder is such a perfect hiding place because it takes the entire mental capacity! ). But rather embrace the possibility of any kind of outcome – both “good” and “bad” and keep going. In the end the quality of ones life experience depends entirely on perspective..

    • Cora | 29th Mar 17

      Absolutely. Eating disorders are one of the best ways to hide from life’s true feelings. So we can choose to go that route… or we can choose to suffer the bit of pain the feeling might cause, and then the wealth of learning and growth and success we feel afterwards. I absolutely love what you’ve said here. Thank you, Lana.

  10. chasetheredgrape | 26th Mar 17

    The day you allow yourself to feel and truly embrace the feelings you have inside, both good and bad, is the day your life changes. Whether that be using meditation or talking to another, both allow yourself to reflect, grow and be strong. Allowing yourself to feel just shows how much courage you have gained.

    • Cora | 29th Mar 17

      And seeing those feelings are what leads to learning, which leads to growth and change. Its hard. But I am learning.

  11. Bravery Is A Muscle: Week In Review | 27th Mar 17

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  12. Cindy | 28th Mar 17

    I love your posts like this. You are so brave, so reflective, and a true inspiration for people around you (in real life, and in the blog world). Thank you, Cora.
    Cindy recently posted…Holy CannoliMy Profile

    • Cora | 29th Mar 17

      Thank you, Cindy <3

  13. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 29th Mar 17

    Fear is a tough one, we all have it on one level or another. How we deal with it though is another story. It can be so easy to push those fears aside or down, but eventually they’ll come back ten fold. We need to remind ourselves there’s nothing wrong with fear. It’s ok to be scared and like you said, “soften” ourselves towards our own fears.
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets recently posted…Week in Review: The Tiny Human Takes Over (#76)My Profile

    • Cora | 29th Mar 17

      It will never go away. It’ll just rear its head in in some disguised way. Fear is scary but it isn’t bad. I think you told me fear just means that something is worth fighting for.

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