Hiding from fear

At New Year’s last year, I set my intention as streamlining. I wrote just a couple of weeks ago about how my understanding about the intention has evolved. As with anything that you stick with for a while, it continues to evolve in wholly unexpected ways. I realized just in the past few days that this intention has given me permission to retract, to cocoon myself, to draw inward.

Drawing inward is not all bad. For example, I decided to wait until next spring to offer a new online course I was planning because I needed more time to prepare. But this retraction also has a shadow side. 

I think I’ve been using “streamlining” as a way to hide from my fear of more failure. I’ve put so many things out there in the past three years of starting my business. Many of them have failed outright. Most of them have not yielded the kind of financial success I want or need. So I noticed this week that I was moving very slowly in preparing all the new things I have planned. I’m honestly excited about these plans, but I was hesitating because I am protecting myself from the disappointment of failure yet again.

I’m told this iterative process is just part of starting a new business. Normalizing this experience has given some relief to me – a high achiever who loves to prove how good I am over and over again. Taking it a step further, I realized, while reading the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski, that I have not completed the stress cycle for the regular stream of disappointment I’ve experienced in the past three years.

They write about how the “Monitor” – the part of our brains that likes to track our goals, how much we’re investing in them and our progress toward them – gets really pissed off if no progress is made. If not enough progress is made, then the Monitor will tell you to abandon the goal altogether and you could be left a stressed, sobbing mess. (Read Chapter 2 in the book for more on this phenomenon.)

I’m pretty sure my Monitor has been pissed for months now.

But I have not been a stressed, sobbing mess. I’ve just been ignoring it.

I’ve retracted into that cocoon, tried to learn from my stumbles and failures and make plans (that I’m pretty excited about), but my monitor is still saying to me, “WTF? You’re trying THAT again. That’s a losing proposition! Abort! Abort!!”

One of the antidotes for this stressed out Monitor is to redefine goals. “When you’re frustrated by the slow or interrupted progress toward your goal, and planful problem solving and positive reappraisal don’t help with the frustration, you need to redefine winning.”

“Redefine winning? Who knew you could do that?” said the hyper-Type A personality to herself.

So as we move from burnout to bravery, let’s pause and journal on these prompts:

  • Honor the retracting/cocooning you may be doing. Why are you doing it?
  • What are the risks of emerging?
  • What are the benefits?

How do you want to explore this reflection in the next week or so? Maybe set an intention around this journaling exercise and return to it in your spiritual practice of choice for the next few weeks. Let me know how it goes by commenting here or emailing me.

Feeling beyond exhausted? To help you recover from or prevent burnout, I’ve developed my free, five-part “Burnout Proof Life” mini course, which is full of actionable tips that help you learn HOW to really rest. P.S. You’ll be smashing the patriarchy at the same time!