Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. — Bob Marley
Cheating on someone is one of the worst (I repeat – WORST) things you can ever do to someone. To you, it might have been all a game, but to them, it might have meant everything.
Whether or not you’re doing it to fill a void or just for the thrill of it, when you cheat on someone, you’re doing more than just hurting them. You might be unaware of the consequences of your actions, but let me tell you, for someone who has been cheated on, it will always be some sort of reminder to them – it will always haunt them. It is a concoction of heartbreak, anger, regret, anxiety, and shame all rolled into one.
When you cheat on someone, you’re telling them they’re not good enough for you. That you never loved them.
You may beg to differ, but how can you put someone you truly love in such a position? To make them doubt their self-worth? To make them question everything they thought they knew about you? To make them believe that their trust was completely misplaced?
“Did I do something wrong?” “What could I have done to prevent it?” “Why did this happen?” “Am I not good enough?” “Why did you do it?”
– are questions you’ll ask yourself over and over again when you’ve been cheated on.
You don’t cheat on someone you love. Period.
When you cheat on someone, they’ll always be emotionally scarred. They’ll have their walls up because they don’t want to ever be hurt that way again. To feel like your world is crumbling, to believe that things like that happened, but just not to you. You see it in movies all the time, but we all know what happens in the movies and what happens in real life are two completely different ball games altogether.
They won’t let just anyone in; and even when they do let someone in eventually, they’ll always be guarded.
They’ll be paranoid, and you can’t blame them for it. Even if they’re in a new happy relationship, they’ll carry the hurt and the emotional baggage from the previous relationship into their new relationship – whether it be conscious or not – and it can’t be helped. They’ll always be suspicious, but don’t blame them for it; they’re just afraid that the same thing will happen to them again, and they can’t go through something as painful as that ever again.
They’ll want to trust again, but it’ll be difficult for them. They would take forever to learn how to trust, and how to be okay. Even if they’ve come to the rational conclusion that their cheating ex is a horrible person, you’ll somehow still fear that every future partner has or is cheating on you. Congratulations, you’re now an emotional wreck and a mess inside, and you’re going to spend every waking moment trying not to imagine the worst because you believe you’re completely broken.
When you cheat on someone, what you really mean to tell them is this: “I don’t love you. I don’t respect you, and I don’t care for/about you. I didn’t think about us, and how this would affect us. I was only thinking about myself.”
Is just one person not enough for us anymore? Aren’t we supposed to just find one person whom we think is worth it, and always stick by them through the good, the bad and the ugly?
When you love your partner, it means you respect them. And when you cheat on them, you’re betraying all of that. Isn’t it absolutely apparent that loyalty is fundamental in any relationship? We don’t need a Guide Book for Dummies for that, do we?
So please, leave if you must, but don’t cheat on someone you love, because that is the worst kind of damage you can do to someone who loves you.
I’m sitting in the front passenger seat of my sister’s Peugeot 306 and we’re listening to loud upbeat music on the radio, because it helps her focus and drive.
“Do you wanna give it a go?”, my sis asks me in response to my unstoppable complaints that I need to get in the driver’s seat and practice if I’m ever going to use my driver’s license. I’ve had it for about 10 years, way longer than my sister.
“What? Now?! No, we don’t have time,” I hear myself replying with another excuse.
This conversation happens again and again, and while it plays out differently every time the bottom line is the same – I have the opportunity to do something I want (finally re-learn to drive), and I don’t take it.
In the meantime I find excuses, some legitimate, some significant, some momentary, some existential.
This is my story.
This is my fear.
I tell myself a story of seemingly unovercomable external factors to justify my actions. In fact, those external factors are all the masks worn by one single villain – FEAR.
Fear makes me tell myself the story that it’s never a good time to drive.
Fear? Not existential fear, I’m not afraid for my life. Fear of failure, of not being able to do it.
What if I can’t do it? Or I am not good at it?
Without driving I can still convince myself that I’m a good driver. Sounds ridiculous, but even local authorities confirmed it by giving me a premium driving license available to only those who haven’t had any accidents or fines. Without driving I can live in a reality where I don’t fail. Where I’m doing it well. Where I have the premium license. But that’s just an illusion. If I try and drive, I might not be good at it (most probably I’ll completely suck as I’ve not been in the driver’s seat for the past 2 years). I might fail. And obviously I’m afraid of that.
But funny thing – the only way to actually become a good driver is to give in to my fear and drive. I might suck or I might rock. There is no win without the risk.
The only way to win the premium license is to give it up.
My fear is keeping me in the comfortable limbo of the unknown, where I can pretend that the possibility of being good at driving is prevailing. Illusion.
Fear, masked as obstacles and excuses, has the power to give you an illusion of a safe place of feeling content.
In fact, that’s the worst thing I can choose. The illusion I experience now will only turn into regret and life dissatisfaction, and sooner than I expect.
Let’s see how.
False Events Appearing Real
In his book, The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, Grant Cardone, describes FEAR as an abbreviation that means False Events Appearing Real.
One of my favorite thought leaders, Mark Twain, says that worries and fears aren’t real, and mostly never really come true.
So, is fear real? And what is fear?
I’m quite sure fear is a real thing because here it is, stopping me from doing the things my heart longs for.
But let’s hear Ms. Science.
Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events.
The keyword that support the point I’m making here is perceived.
When I see a car approaching me with 100mph I would really like to feel fear and flee. The perceived danger may cause my death (although we shouldn’t even fear death to be completely free but that’s a topic for another post)
But when I refuse to drive my sister’s car for some ridiculous excuse, what is the real danger?
Only the danger of getting my ego hurt. It’s like the ego has become the same things as the being.
But it feels the same way.
In his infographic, Ameen Khwaja shows us what happens to our brains on fear.
To me, it looks pretty simple – we observe the situation and immediately deem it fearful so that behavior and body responses are triggered.
How do we know if a situation is fearful?
Well, we are all wired to fear some things. In fact, all creatures even to the tiniest cell is watchful of some events and objects. But most often, we use the features we attach to a certain event, our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves to be written on that big whiteboard and give us direction.
Toxicologists, epidemiologists and risk experts study the physical perils [of fear] one hazard at a time. But the cumulative load of modern threats may be creating an even greater risk that is largely overlooked: the risk that arises from misperceiving risks as higher or lower than they actually are. As a result of some of the decisions we make when we are fearful, some of the choices we make when we are not fearful enough, and because of the ways our bodies react to chronically elevated levels of stress, the hazards of risk misperception may be more significant than any of the individual risks about which we fret.
Fear in itself isn’t the biggest problem, you see, it’s learning to act out of fear, or being in the habitual reaction to everything as it was risky.
So, when we choose to act out of fear, we teach our brain a new way of thinking and responding. The more often we repeat this behaviour, the more the brain learns that it is the right behavior and adopts it is a first choice.
Imagine it in that way: there’s a list of responses possible and the more you choose one, the more points it gets. Then Mr. Brain looks at the list in a situation to choose a response and “sees” that the fear response has been used again and again and guessing that’s the best match, chooses that.
The result? We subconsciously choose to act out of fear. The funny thing is that the more we do it, the more natural it becomes.
The environment in which we live affects this process of course, because it’s quite risky.
Going back to my fear of driving, this behavior that I exhibit is teaching my brain to use the fear response for other situations as well.
And I can sense that.
When I was 19 and my frontal lobe wasn’t fully developed, I didn’t fear anything (that’s when I got my license by the way). Just a few years later, I started acting out of fear and creating regrets.
I’ll tell you about one of them in just a few moments.
First, I’d like to step on the shoulders of a few more giants and share with you their view on fear so we can hopefully find the truth somewhere in all of this.
Fear in Buddhism
According to Buddhism, there are two types of fear: healthy fear and unhealthy fear (you were already guessing that, right?).
Let me give an example:
I’m afraid of snails because of one particular accident when I found an alive one crawling on the greens in the salad I’d thoroughly washed. This is an unhealthy fear (and kind of hilarious as well, I know). I realize that and I have taken steps to face it – I held a snail for like a minute a few months back, and that’s as far as I’m willing to go currently.
But, back to my point….this is an unhealthy fear because the snails don’t have a plan to dominate my life and torture me.
A healthy fear would be the feeling that you get when you get mugged in an alley. It would most probably cause you to give in your wallet and smartphone rather than start a fight with a guy holding a gun to your back.
I call unhealthy fears, daily fears. We’re so used to them that we don’t even identify them as fears, but just as the way things are. For example, asking my husband to order pizza instead of picking up the phone. That’s the daily fear of my imperfect Turkish.
But in fact, the daily fear are our strongest indicators of how to become a bigger, better version of ourselves.
Fear makes me not do things, while the only way to do something in life, is well, to do it.
“Fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
The Danger of Living In Fear
Not becoming the best version of ourselves is only a small portion of the life enjoyment fear takes away from us.
I told you that I’m going to a regret story with you, right?
It’s about regret. But first, why regret?
Obviously, fear is a powerful tool for….missing out on life.
Fear leads to regrets about life.
And here’s mine. I didn’t go to that concert with my brother from another mother, my homie. At the time I was afraid that someone won’t like me going. I postpones for next time. Well, there won’t be next time because the person I was supposed to go with passed away 1,5 years ago. It brings tears to my eyes that I missed to create another memory with the person who was my best friend and became my wedding’s best man before he left this world.
Fear of the unknown and of failure make us live a life of regrets.
And regrets are super dangerous – because they last.
After all, fear lasts as long as we don’t do what we’re afraid of. The moment I sit on that driver’s seat and run that engine, feel that I’m in control of the car and drive for 30 minutes, fear will be gone. Or at least a small part of it.
With every further attempt there will be less fear and more confidence.
But what happens if I decide to bow to fear and never drive? Pretty soon I’ll start feeling disappointed with myself, regretful and my self-confidence will plunge. I’ll feel like a failure for not trying (apart from not being good at it!).
One feeling will take over: regret.
And you know what? Regret lasts forever. Or at least, until we’re on the planet, in this form, and that can be quite a while, you know.
As my father says,
Life turned out to be longer than we planned for.
This has to do with saving for retirement (start now!), but it makes a lot of sense when it comes to regret and fear as well.
How long can you live with your regrets? Can you afford to feel regret for as long as you’re alive?
I don’t know….this sounds pretty much like hell to me.
But isn’t fear necessary for survival?
We saw how our brains work. We know what fear is. But let me play the devil’s advocate and ask this one question: isn’t fear a response to a life-threatening danger?
Let’s say, for example, I’m walking on the side of a high building. I’m afraid of falling because I might die. My brain tells me to move away from the edge and be safe.
The ego protects me by keeping me whole, by not letting me hurt myself. The problem is that in our complex lives, staying safe is a very stretched expression.
We are afraid because our brains are advanced enough not only to remember past occasions (burning my finger on the stove), but to project possible scenarios (I know I’ll die if I fall down from the building even though it never happened before).
This is where imagination comes in…
The biggest fears come from the unknown – that what we have not experienced at all.
The brain, obviously, can’t differentiate the real dangers with the dangers imposed on the ego. Because when I get in the car and drive, there isn’t a real danger other than hurting the ego that has decided it can’t fail.
We need fear as an emotion to keep us from doing stupid things.
Embracing fear might not look like a juicy bite, but it’s important to start practicing it. Maybe not with our biggest fear first, but with the small, conquerable fears, because…
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Steven Pressfield
In fact, unhealthy fears show us the path to growth.
If I want to become more – i.e. a better driver or to turn from a non-driver into a driver altogether – I need to embrace my fear, follow my fear.
Fear tells me what to do.
Afraid of driving? Drive to grow.
Many times when we don’t do something, it’s the unrealized fear of something, that’s stopping us.
For example, when I procrastinate launching my consulting business with excuses that I don’t have the time or skills to start it yet, this is the fear I have that it won’t turn out to be as successful as I imagine it in my head.
But if I don’t try I’ll never know. And sooner than later, I’ll regret not trying.
As I write this, it becomes clear to me that fear exists because of my attachment to the end result – driving or helping people with my consulting. The fear of this end result not manifesting is what’s really stopping me from experiencing life in all its forms.
It’s better to try and experience life rather than live it in your imagination.
That’s a wise life – in which the end result isn’t the goal, the experience is the goal.
After all, as Buddha says
Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
How To Practically Conquer Fear
We’ve come to the point where it’s quite clear where fear comes from – attachment to results – and we should be ready to detach, free ourselves of fear, and experience life.
They who have conquered doubt and fear have conquered failure. James Allen
Right, so we need to take some action to conquer fear and thus, failure.
But what is it?
How can I stop making up excuses and get into that car, turn the key, and get going?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the one-size-fits-all answer.
It’s more complicated than most people make it look and we won’t always manage to succeed. But let’s try.
Undoubtedly, the first step to facing fear, is realizing what you fear.
That might sound simple, but in fact, can take a lot of time, contemplation, meditation, and self-exploration. But naming your fear is definitely step #1.
How can you do that?
Identify what you’re attached to.
Many times, we’re so emotionally involved into an outcome (like my believe that I will be a good driver one day), we invest so much hopes and dreams into it, that the possibility of it manifesting differently are terrifying.
Let’s name the attachment: being a good driver.
That wasn’t hard, right?
Now turn the attachment around into the opposite of what it is: being a crappy driver.
I’m a crappy driver.
Well, honestly, that sounds much better to me than not driving at all, you know! There’re many crappy drivers out there and if i’m gonna join that club, I’m gonna do it with pride.
Wow, that was kind of liberating!
You can follow my example if it makes sense to you and label your attachment and its opposite.
Is it so bad?
It might be, depending on your fear, but don’t forget that’s just Mr. Wannabe Perfect (yes, you, ego) talking.
It’s gonna feel bad if you’re labeled as a bad mom, or a bad hair-dresser or as a weak, emotional person.
Now, get used to that, learn to live with it. Think about it, visualize it and work with it until your ego becomes comfortable with it.
Hint: Not easy, but…
….good news, the worst part is over!
After you’ve let the fear take over you, go through you, take everything you’ve hoped for and throw it out of the window, it’s time we show that fear who you really are.
Using The Power of Fear
What are you afraid of more: being a bad mom or never being a mom?…
….Being a crappy driver or never being a driver?
To really be free of fear, we need to use fear.
I think that’s not a way of tricking fear, conquering it or avoiding it, but using it. Fear with fear, you know.
The one thing that nobody teaches us is to eliminate fear.
Because it just isn’t possible. It’s neither viable or healthy to not be afraid of the things you fear. You fear. I fear. We fear.
But we gotta work with that fear, right? At least if we want to move forward and live truly.
So, let’s use it.
A way to move forward, even when fear is present, is to fear the regret more.
This is a small mindset shift (or a huge one, rather) that doesn’t need to eliminate fear, but to channel it, and I have a hunch this is the way to go.
My fear is mine, and I’m gonna make it work for me.
I’m going to channel the fear I feel into fearing the regret more than the actual thing I’m afraid of.
I’m going to fear never driving my kids to school more than being ridiculed for not being able to park well.
I’m going to fear never going places more than the stress of driving.
This is how we don’t fight fear, but we work it to get to the point where it’s useful for us.
I’ve said that writing is therapeutic many times. That’s why this blog’s tagline is Writing For Happiness. But to experience it myself every time I open up, tell my story, and go deep into it, is priceless.
As I’m writing this I’ve still not gotten in a car and driven my way to anywhere. It’ll take some time.
Yet, writing my feelings and the deeply rooted story I’m telling myself, had a powerful effect on me.
I see how ridiculous is some of this fiction.
I see how silly it seems when you actually put it on paper.
And I see my fear. I look it straight in the eye.
I know you’re there. You can’t hide anymore.
You’ve been spotted. And soon you’ll be tamed, channeled, and I’ll drive.
When will this happen?
Well, most probably when the fear of missing out on the experience becomes bigger than the fear of failure.
I guess I need some motivation!
Hit me up, what am I missing on when I give up on driving to feed my fear of failure?
My goal isn’t to make people feel beautiful. It’s to make them realize that feeling beautiful doesn’t mean jack shit. Beauty fades. Beauty is not reliable. Beauty is subjective and fluctuating. You take up the space you want and say “I might not think I’m beautiful. Hell, I might be ugly to some people, but I still deserve to be here, to be loved, to do what I want.” I don’t think I’m beautiful at all, but I try not to stop that from getting in the way of living my life. That’s a much more powerful thought than “I’m beautiful too.” Don’t be afraid to be ugly and stop holding yourself to impossible standards in public. Ignore the male gaze. Ignore all gazes. Focus on yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.
1. Recognize that lapsing is a normal part of recovery.
I don’t say that to justify lapsing or use as a cop out when things get difficult. I say it as a reminder that your recovery doesn’t have to be perfect in order to produce results. That said, no one’s recovery is perfect. Everyone has set backs and struggles. Everyone makes mistakes, messes up, and reverts to old behaviors — not because they’re weak or incapable, but because recovery is really, really difficult. Your behaviors helped you cope with trauma and incredible emotional pain. They allowed you to numb out and they kept you afloat when you felt like you were drowning. Letting go of something that helped you survive for so long is not easy. And it doesn’t happen over the course of a few days or months. It’s terrifying, painful, incredibly challenging, and it takes time. So be compassionate with yourself and your process. You’re doing the best you can to fight this and recover and it’s all you can ask of yourself.
2. Use the lapse as a learning experience.
You can’t go back in time and change the fact that you lapsed, but you can choose how you respond to it. You can wallow in self-pity, beat yourself up, and use what happened as an excuse to continue using behaviors. Or you can choose to use what happened as a learning experience. You can look at the lapse as an opportunity to collect important information about what triggers you to use behaviors and what you need in the moment to avoid a future lapse.
3. Be curious.
Judging yourself for having a lapse doesn’t get you anywhere. It makes you feel worse and it keeps you stuck. Instead of feeding the cycle of self-hatred, treat yourself with compassionate curiosity and start asking questions:
What need did you have in the moment that wasn’t being met? Were you feeling lonely? Sad? Depressed? Angry? Hurt? Disappointed? Rejected? Invisible? Inadequate? When you turned to behaviors to cope, what were you really looking for? Did you need to feel safe? Did you need a way to express your feelings? Did you need to feel seen and heard? Did you need a distraction? Comfort? Control? How could you have gotten that need met in a non self-destructive way? And how can you take care of yourself in the future when these triggers come up again?
You don’t have to know the answer to all of these questions right now, but it’s important to start exploring and being curious.
4. Treat yourself like you would a friend.
If you had a friend or loved one who lapsed, you wouldn’t put them down. You wouldn’t call them a failure. You wouldn’t see them as worthless. And you wouldn’t discount all the progress they had made. You would treat them with kindness and compassion. You would give them a hug, remind them of how far they’ve come, and reassure them that just because they had one lapse doesn’t mean they can’t turn things around and get back on track.
Well, you’re not an exception. You deserve to be treated with the same forgiveness and love you would so willingly give to anyone else who was struggling. So when your self-hating thoughts get loud and tell you that you’re a failure for lapsing, challenge them. And if in the moment it’s difficult to be nice to yourself, think of what you would say to someone you care about and apply those positive counters to your own thoughts.
5. Reach out.
Don’t isolate and withdraw. It may feel safer, but it only perpetuates the pain you feel and keeps you stuck. In order to get back on track, you have to talk about what happened. You have to be honest with yourself and your support network. You have to give yourself permission to ask for help, use your voice, and make your needs known. Keeping secrets keeps us sick. If we want to heal, we have to break the silence.
6. Get extra support.
If you’re struggling, you deserve to ask for help. Denying yourself extra support when things start going down hill isn’t noble or self-sacrificing. It’s self-destruction, and it’s a sure-fire way to put yourself at risk for another lapse. There is nothing shameful about asking for more help. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a disappointment. And it doesn’t make you a burden. It makes you someone with the courage to be honest and the strength to make recovery a priority. It makes you determined and admirable and brave. It’s self-care and in order to get back on track and heal, it’s imperative.
7. Focus on progress, not perfection.
One lapse does NOT discount all of the days you went without using behaviors. It doesn’t make you weak or incapable or inadequate. It doesn’t make you a failure or erase your progress, and it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t get better. All a lapse means is that you were hurting so deeply and didn’t know how else to cope. It was a bad decision, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. The lapse was just a bump in your road to recovery, but it doesn’t mean you have to start all over. You’re just continuing your journey right where you left off. So don’t give up. You willget to where you need to be in your own time. Until then, breathe, be patient, and trust that as long as you keep pushing forward, reaching out for help, and picking yourself back up, no matter how many times you lapse, you can and will recover.
“I learned the hard way that I cannot always count on others to respect my feelings, even if I respect theirs. Being a good person doesn’t guarantee that others will be good people, too. You only have control over yourself and how you choose to be as a person. As for others, you can only choose to accept them or walk away.”