Updated: Jun 21, 2019
One of my favorite Robin Williams movies is Mrs. Doubtfire. A father who wanted to spend more time with his children dressed up as a nanny and was hired to take care of his kids while they were with their mother after a separation. When I think about shedding a fat suit this is the image that comes to mind.
You might be a little confused right now because the title says “fear” but the image and text reference “fat”. In my journey to become a more confident woman, at times I found myself reacting to certain events in ways that you would expect someone with less confidence to react. Ways that I reacted when I was afraid of those situations.
It felt strange. Why am I still reacting this way? When I think it through, I’m not afraid of it. I’m excited that it’s something I can do now. Maybe I could do it before with a great amount of difficulty and doubt. Now, though, I BELIEVE that I can do it. I’m ready. I can give that presentation. I can lead that meeting. I will get things done on time. Let’s do this. So, WHY do I feel this unexplainable panic? It’s not incapacitating but it’s there in an annoying kind of way. I’m ready and eager to show that I can do this. Go away! I’m not like that anymore.
How does this relate to a fat suit? Well, have you ever noticed that some people who lose weight still tend to move like they have the weight. It’s an odd sort of muscle memory. That’s what I imagined was happening in my psyche. I wasn’t afraid anymore but my system was used to reacting to certain situations with panic and fear before fully processing the situation and my part in it.
If I really zeroed in, I could identify sneaky, pesky, micro-thoughts that I had had like muscle spasms. Micro thoughts are what I call the thoughts that happen so fast, we don’t even realize there was a thought. Emotions are driven by our thoughts and we can't have emotions without having first having thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are so fast, that without close examination, all we can identify is the resulting feeling. People react to situations and event differently and feel different things about those events because of their lens, their perspective, and ultimately what they think about what has occured.
The thought spasm that said something like "this is scary because you're not good at speaking in front of people," happened so fast, it was a knee jerk reaction. It was how I've always reacted. I’m thinking new thoughts. They are thoughts that don’t happen lightening fast yet because it's a new practice and slightly foreign. My autopilot is confused by the new programming. So while thinking those new empowering thoughts, I recognize the old feeling of panic. What the heck? Why the mismatch between thoughts and feelings? The muslces representing confidence, challenge readiness, and ready to see what this bad boy can do attitude happened but were more intentional. They need more practice before they become instinctual.
Now, it’s time to see the invisible fear suit for what it is. It’s a form of reactive muscle memory that used to kick-in lightning fast in order to protect me from the danger of being humiliated. I smirk at it because it’s outdated and my thoughts are learning new patterns that will get faster in time. When the panic rises, I take a deep breath. Wow, look how far I’ve come. I used to feel panic in this situation and now when I truly reach in and imagine what it will be like to give that presentation, I feel excitement. Keep moving forward. Keep navigating the challenges in front of you because with each step, the new thoughts become more and more instinctual. It’s working!