I used to live in fear.
Fear of failure.
Fear of falling.
Fear of not being pretty enough.
Fear of not being lovable.
Fear of judgment.
Fear was my teacher. Of course, I didn’t know Fear was my teacher at the time. But it was.
Fear taught me I better go out of my way to do things to make others like me, for others to think I’m successful, for others to think I’m “perfect,” otherwise… who am I? What is my worth?
A major way it showed up in my life was through dieting.
At the core of it all, I feared that if I didn’t look a certain way, nobody would love me.
I never left the house without my hair and makeup done. I dressed in a way to hide any “problem spots.”
I created strict rules around food and exercise.
Every day, I woke up with the goal of “staying in line” today. “Don’t mess up, Jules.” Exercise until your muscles ache. Push past that hunger, you don’t need to eat yet, you just ate, don’t you want that belly flab to go away?
Every day, I worked hard to “keep it all together.” Be the leader of this, the center of that. Be smart. Be funny. Be “on,” always.
And at the core of it all, was Fear.
Fear taught me if I didn’t do all of the above, I would not be safe because I would not belong, let alone be loved.
And at the core of human existence is the need for love, safety and belonging.
So there I was. Gripping to all these superficial things Fear taught me I “should be.”
…Until I broke. Until I got caught in my lie of “being perfect.”
I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t love my body, I hated it. I wasn’t confident, I was constantly stressed and distracted.
Then, I met yoga. And yoga introduced me to a new teacher. I didn’t yet know what I was doing, but I was beginning (very slowly) to say good-bye to the teacher of Fear, and turn instead to the teacher of Love.
And today, the teacher of Love is at the very core of my life. But it’s only been very recently that I’ve had my own breakthrough of recognizing that this is what I’m practicing, and even passing on to my health coaching clients through body positivity and intuitive eating.
For a while, I thought of intuitive eating and movement solely as connecting with myself more, letting go of the need to control and trusting that my body is smart and will tell me what she needs.
And that connection, that trust is at the very heart of intuitive eating, exactly. And it includes something even more beautiful.
Gabby Bernstein’s “The Universe Has Your Back” pointed it out to me. She brought to light the concept of letting Fear be my teacher, rather than Love, and challenged me to take a step back and look at what I believe, how I think, how I act. In each moment, she suggests noticing when Fear is being my teacher… and then deliberately saying a prayer or intention to learn through Love instead.
So today, I consistently ask myself this one question, and it changes everything: “Who is my teacher right now: Fear or Love?”
When I think of the control I used to exercise through dieting and this need for perfection, Fear was my teacher.
But when I think of the connection I strive for today, taking moments to pause and dig deep, and become more aware of how I am feeling and what I need… that is an act of Love. I am learning through Love.
While I used to exercise based in fear of not being lovable due to how my body looked, I now exercise in Love: love for my body, for it’s desire to move, as a celebration for all that my body can do.
And when I used to rest, I’d rest in Fear. Fear that I should be moving. Fear that I was losing everything I worked for. Fear that I wouldn’t belong or loved. Now, when I rest, I do so knowing that I am listening to the teacher of Love, knowing my body needs this precious recovery. Learning to find peace in my rest.
I have also started applying this idea when I notice myself judging myself, judging a situation, an experience, or other people.
When I judge, I know it’s coming from a place of Fear. Fear that in some way, shape or form: I’m not good enough, or that there is something I should be doing that I am not…
So in that instant, how can I pause and choose to see myself, the situation, the experience or the other people through the lens of love and compassion?
This has become my ritual: how can I surrender to letting Love be my teacher?
When I think back to when Fear was my teacher, I can feel all the tense emotions rising back up. I know it is not a place I want to live. I know that is not my best self, it is my worst self.
I think about how much more alive I am today.
I am no longer chained down by the fears of needing to look a certain way to be considered beautiful and deserving of love.
Today I know I am beautiful because of the person I am, not because of the person I look like. I know I am deserving of love simply because I am a human being.
Without the chains of perfection strapping me down, I am able to fully explore who I am.
I am able to uncover my most authentic self.
And when my goal is to be my most authentic self, I don’t have to worry about being perfect, because that is not my goal.
Today, perfection is never my goal, and in that space, I don’t worry if I make a mistake. I also don’t worry if other people don’t like me, because my goal is not liked by everyone.
My goal is to be myself in the most loving way I can be.
Today I strive to live in love.
Love for myself.
Love for my body.
Love for others.
Love for life’s beautiful imperfections.
Love for the messy, for the opportunities to learn.
Author: Julie Wojno
Author Bio: Julie Wojno is a body positive, intuitive eating health coach, yoga teacher and indoor cycling instructor based in Columbus, OH. Her mission is to empower women who have struggled with eating, exercise and body image to love their bodies and live their best lives, without another restrictive diet. When she’s not coaching, down-dogging or cycling, you can catch her snuggling her massive Bernese Mountain Dog, hanging at local breweries and spiralizing her favorite fruits and veggies (sweet potato pasta, anyone?). Follow along on her adventures at @julie.wojno.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @julie.wojno | http://www.juliewojno.com