Has your child ever yelled in terror for you to come running because there is a HUGE spider – one they are SURE is a black widow or brown recluse – in their room and they need you to kill it? You run in there with all of your supplies: a cup, a sheet of paper, hairspray (work with me here) and see that it is not a giant, flesh-eating, deadly killing machine after all, but a small, common American house spider that you could safely and easily squish between your fingers.
The size or type of spider was irrelevant, the point is that your child was scared. In their mind, they had convinced themselves that the spider in their room was to be feared, was deadly, and they were paralyzed by it with no idea what to do.
The same thing happens to us as adults – not with spiders usually, but other situations, or perceived situations we create in our heads, false narratives we tell ourselves about our mistakes, inabilities, inadequacies, or how awful things will turn out if we do try something new or do something different.
“I can’t tell the truth because I will be judged, or ostracized by my friends/peers.”
“If I ask my boss for more money, she will think I am greedy and fire me.”
“If I come forward about sexual abuse or assault, I will be branded as a shrew, a liar, a ballbusting bitch, and no one will ever want to be in a relationship with me.”
“I can’t allow myself to get close to someone because in the past I have always fucked up my relationships.”
“If I tell someone about something horrible that happened to me as a child, they will think I am gross or weird, or worse, they will be made so uncomfortable about it that they won’t want to be my friend anymore.”
“I didn’t go to college so I will never have a fulfilling career.”
“I can’t leave my unhappy marriage because I can’t support myself, I will wind up losing my kids, and live in a homeless shelter, or pay by the week fleabag motel.”
“I will never be successful at this.”
“No one wants to hear what I have to say.”
“I don’t have the discipline to stick with anything.”
“Who the fuck do I think I am trying to help anyone, when I have made so many mistakes in life?”
Do any of those things sound familiar to you? Some of those very thoughts held me back for years. I was paralyzed with fear. When I shared this with a therapist and later a coach, they both asked me if any of those thoughts were valid. They would ask me whether or not these things I believed about myself were true or real. “Are these things as big, monstrous, and insurmountable as you imagine them to be?”
Think about some of the negative and limiting things you believe about yourself. What is your plan? Is it to stay in bed, afraid that spider will bite your leg and you’ll die? Or is it to ask someone to help you? What if someone else was able to see this “spider” that has you paralyzed for what it was and show you how easily it can be removed or destroyed? And what if that someone also gave you the tools you need to get rid of it yourself? How awesome would that be? How brave and empowered would you feel, having removed the spider you initially feared, yourself?
Negative and limiting thoughts and fears, if left in your magnificent and powerful brain, will grow HUGE and seem insurmountable. If we aren’t able to see them for what they are and we don’t have the tools to remove them, we will use whatever we can to help us forget they are there. If we use things like drugs or alcohol, we only feed the spider in our mind. Once it grows sharp claws and fangs and becomes even bigger, it gets harder to kill. So, you have a choice: find the tools and resources you need to see and remove the spider so you can move forward or remain paralyzed and numb yourself and pretend it doesn’t exist.
I have done both.
When my mother died, I felt alone. I felt like no other human being would love me or believe in me or have my back. I was 19 years old. All of my other friends had moms. I hated when they talked about their moms coming to visit, bringing all of that mama love and mama cooking, and those mama hugs with them. I believed I was less than. When I had a baby, my mom wasn’t there. I had to lean on friends for support that I would not have needed from them, if my mom was alive. Asking for help is hard when you feel like you are not worthy of it.
Over time, that jealousy became anger. I felt like people were rubbing it in my face when they would talk about how wonderful their moms were and how their moms came and took care of the baby so they could go take a shower, get a massage, go on a much needed night out, and how they didn’t have to even ask.
I also had the ugly dark secret that I had been sexually molested by my older brother. I told no one for decades. If I told someone, I believed they would think I was gross, weird, or it would make them so uncomfortable they wouldn’t know what to say so they would go away, and I will be left alone.
When you read those things, they sound fixable, and they were, if I had only talked with someone about how I was feeling. If I had just talked to someone, they could have shown me these beliefs were false, like the monster from your childhood that you were so convinced lived under your bed or in your closet and was waiting to grab you when the lights went out. I could have spared myself so much sadness, anxiety, pain and suffering just by asking someone to look at my spider.
These thoughts, fears, and feelings are VERY real to the people who experience them and I walked through life carrying those things with me for years. It finally took a nervous breakdown and admission to an intensive outpatient treatment program for 6 months in order to talk about them. That is my story. That was the path I chose to get to where I am now. I did it the hard way.
You may be reading this and some of it resonates, but you are not done feeling that fear. It’s okay. Feel it. Share it when you are ready. Ask yourself when that will be? How long will you carry those fears? Where will they take you? What will you miss out on if you hold onto those fears of the scary, spider-like thoughts about yourself?
I have walked though some stuff in my life to where I am today. I know now that I didn’t have to do that. I am not perfect. My life is not perfect. I still have A LOT of work to do, but one thing I finally learned after all those years of carrying those limiting thought and beliefs with me is that if you are afraid of something, tell someone. Ask for help. And you don’t have to live with your fear of other people’s reactions to your truth. There are people like me, who will help you walk through it. Telling someone else about your fears stops those fears from growing. It’s not brave or heroic to hold it in or to try to fix it on your own. You can’t read it away. You can’t drink it away. You can’t pop a pill or two and slay the spiders. You have to get someone to help you.
If no one told you today, I love you. If you need me, I am here. And if there is a snake, ask someone else, cause those fuckers are not my jam.