Lately I have been doing an exercise to help me better understand who I am. This was prompted by a discussion Feraz and I had a few months ago. I was having some friends over for dinner and Feraz didn't want to "come" to the dinner party.
He asked if it would be alright if he went out and did something else and I was really offended. I told him he had to come. He pushed back and said that wasn't fair because he didn't know anyone who would be coming and he wouldn't have anything to talk to them about. My defense was that I would look like a fool if my own husband didn't come to my dinner party. Feraz countered that I shouldn't care what other people think.
He ended up coming to the dinner party because I communicated that I would feel hurt if he didn't and we care enough about each other to make compromises to protect each other from hurt. But the conversation got me thinking. Who would I be if I was not afraid?
Whether a person is more like our parent's generation and dictates each action by how it would be received by the community or if a person is self-proclaimed free spirit who is not moved by the masses, it seems an alarming amount of people base their life decisions less on internal factors but more on external perception.
People stay in relationships, jobs, religions, and many other situations that are not right for them because they are guided by fear. They are afraid of seeming to have failed if they leave something, even if it is destructive to them. They are afraid of taking a risk because if they fail, people will say I told you. They are afraid of leaving someone who is bad for them because they fear begin alone. They are afraid they are not lovable. They are afraid that they are frauds. They are afraid they are not enough.
Since that dinner party, I have been trying to evaluate each decision I make and judging what is motivating my action. Is it something I am doing because I feel it is expected of me? Because I enjoy it? Because I am afraid of people's judgment if I do or don't do it? With each decision, I was able to see that the things that made me happy were born from an internal desire, principal or value. The things that were making me unhappy were born of external pressures regarding success or appearances.
As I evaluate the actions I am taking, I recognize the fear that is motivating certain behaviors, I acknowledge it and then I let it go. By doing this, I am becoming more closely aligned to who I want to be as a person. In Islam, there is a concept of the fitra. It is like an internal compass that we are all born with. This compass has already taught us everything we need to know about goodness, compassion and rightness. It is an affirmation that our natural state is that of goodness. If we can believe in this principle or a like-principle, then we do not have to fear discovering who we are and living a life that is sincere and honors that fundamental part of our self.
So, who would you be if you stopped being afraid?