Contrary to what you may have been taught, you’re not at the mercy of a dangerous world or your own negative self-talk. In fact, you can change your mind to see yourself—and the world—with a whole new perspective.
The first step is to become aware of thoughts that are based in fear. This takes practice, because they sometimes look and sound different than you might think.
Here are three common fear-based thoughts. When you hear yourself saying these statements to yourself or someone else, you can be sure your fear-based ego is doing the talking.
“What if I make a mistake?”
Just think of all the ways this ego thought impacts you. It could keep you from experiencing the most significant aspects of life: falling in love, having a family, starting a business, booking a trip, buying a house—even something as simple as ordering a menu item you’ve never had before.
If you give your power to this one thought, you can end up completely paralyzed.
The fear of making a mistake may disguise itself in different ways. For instance, it may look like the fear of being judged by others (or yourself).
It could be the fear of looking silly or being ashamed.
Or it could look like conformity to a family code that has always governed your behavior, maybe without your knowing it.
The truth is, we all make “mistakes” and take detours. Sometimes we have to regroup and chart a new course. And sometimes we find ourselves in a delicious new place that we wouldn’t have discovered if we had listened to our fear.
As you go through your day today, become aware any time this fear gets in your way, then ask yourself: “What would my life look like if I weren’t afraid of making a mistake?
What if I disappoint someone?
True story: I married my first husband out of a lot of fear—fear of being alone, of not being able to support myself, and of disappointing him.
This was not a good idea.
“What if I disappoint someone?” can cause chronic unhappiness by making us think we’re being noble or dependable…but at the cost of our own joy. It can mire us in “shoulds” and convince us that everyone else’s feelings are more important than our own.
The ego does this to make itself feel important and indispensable, but the truth is that you’re important and indispensable by being the unique and genuine child of God that you are, not by trying to please everyone around you.
Pay attention through the day and see if some form of “What if I disappoint someone?” shows up in your mind. If so, remember that you have the right to focus on what brings you joy—and do it even if it’s not what others might want or expect.
Remember: This is not a selfish act. In fact, it’s the most generous thing you can do. The more joy you have, the more you have to give
“I feel so guilty.”
There are LOTS of variations on this theme, including regret (“If only I could do it over again”) and beating yourself up over something from the past (“What was I thinking?”).
These feelings and thoughts are part of being human, of course. But mistakes aren’t meant to be lifelong burdens. If you allow your mind to go round and round, revisiting the same guilt feelings or regrets about the past, you’ll completely miss the gifts of life right now.
As you go through the day today, become aware any time your thoughts linger in guilt or regret.
Then ask yourself, “Is there anything I need to apologize for or any amends I need to make?” If so, take at least one step toward doing so today.
Equally important, be open to the idea that you may be carrying guilt over past mistakes that no longer matter to anyone else, or that you’ve long since been forgiven for. Be aware that the primary person who needs to forgive you is you.
Debra Landwehr Engle is the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need and the forthcoming Let Your Spirit Guides Speak (Hampton Roads, September 2016). She is also a workshop facilitator, and regular blogger at Patheos. She is also a longtime teacher of A Course in Miracles and a widely traveled inspirational speaker. She lives in Des Moines, IA.