When I was a little girl I dreamt of being successful. To my naive young self, success was measured by fame. So naturally I wanted to be famous. I had no idea how I would attain this dream but you know what? The universe listens to every impulse that's released through our internal Intel. When you start to imagine or think of yourself in a situation (good or bad) the universe responds by sending messages your way. The catch is, unless you're ready to receive anything you envisage, you might miss it all together or even mistake it for someone else's fault (if its bad) or sheer luck (if its good).
The obvious fame that I had in my young mind was to be on TV. While I did not tell anyone about my dream, for some reason a friend in high school chose to share a newspaper ad for TV presenting classes with me. I became interested and every door of support that I knocked on, opened effortlessly.
After some time as expected, my dream came true. I was on TV, people recognised me and I got other perks of being 'famous' (whatever that means).
But the thing is, I had no idea of what I actually wanted in my life. Blame it on being young and reckless but I didn't know my life purpose.
I rubbed shoulders with some of the most talented, inspiring and funny people but I never asked the right questions. I failed to nurture positive connections. I allowed life to happen to me instead of living a full life. I was careless to contribute as people did things for me. Everything seemed so easy until I came across the most valuable lesson I'll ever learn from an unlikely source, death.
Death is an incredible teacher. It strips you naked of everything. What matters now may evaporate in an instant. My experience travelled from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other in a matter of heartbeat. Before I knew the joy of motherhood I found myself navigating the dark corners of grief. It would take several years for me to accept the impact of death. I lost a child. Along the way I met face to face with FEAR.
My truth may not be yours as your teacher might not be death. Yours may be a car accident, loss of job, breaking up with your partner, moving to a new country, new school and so on. But in my lesson I unwittingly found myself grappling with the monstrosity that is FEAR. Fear has a way of clutching at our core in an attempt to prevent us from living our full life. It creates a comfort zone beneath our skin; so close yet so far from our grasp. When allowed to reign, fear clouds our situations. It highlights that which is painful, that which we lack and makes every goal seems unattainable. In my experience of fear, I became incapable of dreaming, all doors seemed to close before me, I turned into a stranger to myself. In that askew existence, I took care to construct a façade that said, 'I'm okay,' but inside I was crumbling into pieces and no one but me knew this.
In her article, The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, Julie Axelrod articulates Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of normal grief as proposed in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. It wasn’t until I came across these steps that I realised that my life stems from FEAR.
Here are the steps and how they affected me (I’m writing in brief terms):
• Denial and Isolation
Because I was fit and healthy at the time, my mind told me that this is not happening, it cannot be happening. Because my body was in a great shape to bear children. In my denial I began to dissociate with anything that reminded me of my pregnancy. Especially friends and places where there would be questions like, 'so where's your baby?'
When I began to come to terms with what transpired, I found myself beginning to blame – among other things – my body for betraying me and everyone else. I also blamed the medical practitioners for not realising what was happening inside my body.
The above steps were merged into one. During this time, I lived in a place infested with 'what ifs.' What if my bleeding was not internal, what if I asked my Doctor a different question? what if I listened to my body more intently?
In my private depression I stopped contacting people who knew about my loss. I started looking for new friends. I searched for employment in different industries. I could not wait to migrate to Australia – where I was enticed by the illusion of new beginnings. But as time progressed everything started to get heavier on the inside and I found myself in need of an outlet for my emotions.
Somehow along the way, I came across writing and I slowly allowed myself to say, ‘its okay to pursue something that I like,’ ‘its okay to feel sad sometimes,’ ‘its okay to not know what to do’ and most importantly ‘its okay to share my story’.
“Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone,” writes Julie Axelrod. I feel blessed to be able to say that I have accepted what has transpired. I am learning to live with my loss even though the pain still feels raw nearly eight years later.
In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success, Deepak Chopra writes about the role of karma and dharma. He talks about the importance of finding “the seed of opportunity” and then “tie that seed with dharma – your purpose in life." I know that Val, Neo Utkovic (my silent son) has blessed me with a seed of opportunity. It is through mothering him that I now know what fear looks like. It (fear) is not a pretty sight but it is incredibly important that one looks it in the eye, acknowledges it and keeps going forward towards one’s dreams. Fear won’t simply move out of your way but it’s your prerogative to forge your way towards happiness and your dharma.
Beyond my acceptance stage, I know that something wonderful is happening inside me. I'm dreaming again. Only this time I know the route that leads towards my life purpose. I see all the messages that the universe is sending my way because I'm ready to receive.
This is a taste of my story. Yours might be different, but I hope mine gives you courage to begin seeing fear and how it’s holding you back from living a full life.
Beginning to combat FEAR, here are some suggestions:
1. Acknowledge your fear.
See your fear for what it is, an emotion that begins inside you. One that only you have the power to control.
Each time you set a goal, somehow along the way, does it seem unattainable? This could make you want to give up. Perhaps complain that 'it's too hard' or 'it's not for me' or 'I don't even know why I bother' and so on. Yours could be a short-term goal such as completing a daily TO DO list or a long term one like starting up a business.
Always remember that where fear reigns, failure is sure to settle in.
Perhaps next time when that sinking feeling begins to envelop you and you find yourself watching your goal slip out of your grasp, stop. Stop in your tracks and realise in that moment that fear is upon you. This is a good thing because as you travel along the path that leads towards your purpose in life, you have to learn to jump over the hurdles and the highest hurdle is fear.
Therefore by acknowledging the fear you have, you're accepting that this is not an easy undertaking but through determination you can forge through. You are human after all, so if it takes you a few times before you get over your hurdles, it's okay. The trick is to be persistent.
2. Own it. Take control of your fear.
Find out what triggers your fear.
While growing up, did someone tell you that you're stupid? That you'll never amount to anything? That you're fat? That you'll never have nice things?
I was made to believe that I can't write and for the longest of time I believed this so much that I was physically scared to write anything that encouraged my creativity.
You see, once an idea is set in an imaginary stone, it becomes very hard to see it any other way. I may not be a top selling author but I know that it is a tangible possibility because I know how to use the tools that will get me there. Plus I know how to construct a sentence (winks).
Others' view about my writing may not have changed but the important thing is, my view about my abilities has changed and this has helped me overcome my fear of writing.
Let's take an example; you grew up being the 'fat kid' in your family and your community. Then you move to a new city for work, study or to live. You meet new people who don't think you're fat, in fact some even pay you compliments for having a beautiful healthy figure. Your first reaction when someone says, 'those jeans look great on you' is scepticism. Right there is your trigger. Because history has taught you that you don't deserve a compliment and fear tells you that the person is probably lying to you or just being nice to the 'fat kid.'
What if you accepted the compliment? Wouldn't that make you feel good? And fear doesn't like good feelings so you're happiness will send it packing. Thus helping you get over the hurdle that prevents you from seeing your true beautiful figure.
No matter how big or small the situation, take control of your fear by deliberately doing the opposite of what you would normally do.
This is the energy you're sending to the universe and the universe is always listening and responds accordingly.
Be proud and high five yourself no matter how big or small the achievement. It's a milestone worth celebrating in your journey. If your goal is to complete at least five things on your TO DO list and you manage to accomplish that, smile and congratulate yourself. This will give you the courage to set an even higher goal. You might add two more things to tick off your list the next day and before you know it you'll be a pro at completing the tasks that bring happiness to your day.
If you suffer depression or know someone who does, follow the links below for help. There is much more help online beyond these links.
Love and Light
Dorcas Maphakela is a writer, visual artist and holistic well-being advocate, using art and words to share knowledge and inspiration on living a full life. She is also a TV presenter, public speaker and founder and producer of the Antenna Award-winning OZ AFRICAN TV (OATV). Alongside her role with Multicultural Arts Victoria, Dorcas co-founded Yo CiTY, a platform that champions the culturally diverse experience through Art & music. Dorcas is an Academic Screen Lecturer at the University of Melbourne. She studied Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Writing.