I grew up with the kind of religious belief that almost everything I thought, said or did was a sin, and that everything that went wrong in my life was a punishment for all the things I thought, said or did. I was so afraid of being punished for doing the ‘wrong’ thing, that I did almost nothing at all.
I avoided listening to my inner being, my ‘gut’ feelings, because I was led to believe that I couldn’t trust myself. All my efforts to question a God who is reported to love us unconditionally, and yet punishes us for every little thing we do, was seen by my parents as rebellion and met with – yes, you guessed it – punishment.
To make things worse, I was taught that Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, whatever you want to call him/her, tempted us into sinning which would make God punish us. My teachers depicted the fallen angel as this scary, ugly demon who did his best work at night under cover of darkness and could hurt me in ways that had me shaking in my bed. I was petrified of the dark, petrified of leaving the safety of my bed in the middle of the night to go to the washroom in case Satan, or one of his demons, leapt out at me and did unimaginable things to me!
As a result, I put aside the career of my dreams in favour of the ‘safe’ route that my elders suggested. I became a secretary and for years I hated it. I got married because I was led to believe that I wasn’t capable of supporting myself and needed the financial help and security of a spouse.
None of these things worked out because, paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong, I did almost nothing.
I was just over 35 when I learned to think differently. Strangely enough, it was Dr. Phil who saved me initially. I watched Oprah and Dr. Phil without fail in the hopes that I would find the answers to what was ‘wrong’ with me. Something Dr. Phil said woke me up. He said, “You are directly responsible for everything that happens in your life.” I was shocked. That can’t be true. It’s all Satan’s fault and I’m just a victim. Dr. Phil’s next sentence was (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember his exact words), “Take a look at your life up to this point and you will see that the way your life is now, is a direct result of decisions that you have made.” The light came on. I was angry at first, and then elated because that meant that I could change it at any time. I was in control.
Soon after that, I was taking yet another fear-filled walk down the dark hallway to the washroom in the middle of the night, and knowing that my husband was cheating on me, yet again, I got fed up with being afraid of everything. Afraid of a demon that I wasn’t even sure existed, afraid of doing the ‘wrong’ thing, afraid of doing the ‘right’ thing. Afraid, afraid, afraid.
The first thing I did was decide to stop believing in Satan. If my life was my responsibility, then darkness is just the absence of light and walking down the hallway in the middle of the night was not going to result in demons jumping out at me and trying to take to me to hell. From that moment onward, I was never afraid of the dark again.
Then I got myself a new career, one that I loved, and told my then husband to move in with the girl he was cheating on me with. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.
I started to trust myself, my gut feeling. I started to listed to my inner being. That didn’t happen overnight, but with practice, I learned that everything my inner being guided me to do, always worked out for the better.
I started to take responsibility for my life, to pay attention to my thoughts and how my limiting beliefs were no longer serving me. I started doing the things that scared me the most in order to heal. I’m still doing the things that scare me the most and I’m finding that it’s not so scary after all – it’s liberating and confidence-building and I’m actually starting to like myself. A lot.
Don’t let fear paralyze you into forfeiting the life you deserve.