Recently I had a conversation with my coach about safety. I went on and on about wanting to fit in with significant friends and family. These were the areas in my life where I feel vulnerable, and have worked the hardest to stay safe (even though it may have looked different to others). I reflected afterwards, and realised that I hadn’t even considered things like money, or physical safety.
Safety. You’d think it’d be the same for all of us, but in truth we each have our own take on what it means to be safe. We each have things we believe we need to obtain in our lives, in order to feel safe. We each have things we believe we need to do, in order to feel safe. The story behind these things is unique to you, even if you share the beliefs with others.
It can be emotionally safe, physically safe, financially safe, being safe in our job or relationship, the list goes on. In the extreme, keeping safe can become OCD.
When I dug a little deeper into my “safety issue” I started to see how it effected many, many things in my life. Opportunities I hadn’t taken because it was too risky, too much chance I’d be rejected, not “enough” in some way. Events I hadn’t enjoyed because I was running around trying to “get it right”, and didn’t know how to just be me and enjoy it.
Sometimes I would see people acting in a way that didn’t fit with how I thought I “should” be, and I’d think, how can they do that, how can they be so carefree? Have you ever thought that of someone?
I’ve never needed a job to make me feel safe, because I know it’s not the job that creates the income. It is me. I had my first job at 13, I was the Saturday girl in Naff, a tiny clothes shop on a suburban road. My first boss, Carol, was in truth my first coach. She believed in me, and all my possibilities. She often said: “You’ll do well, you will”. She would also give me quite a strong, playful punch in the arm as she said it, which I never quite understood. Perhaps the physical emphasis made it stick, because I see how powerful her championing me was. I was “let go” at 17 when trade was slow. I cried a lot, I felt sad and rejected. The next week I got another job on the same row of shops. I have never feared being out of work.
For some having a job means safety, and they feel anxious at the prospect of losing that job and having to find another. Not me. I’ve left several “good” jobs, and I remember people’s comments of how brave I was to take such a risk. I wasn’t being brave. I was just leaving a job I no longer enjoyed to go and find another one. I don’t relish being out of work, and I don’t enjoy mundane jobs. I enjoy finding jobs I want to do, doing them well, and getting well paid for them. The job doesn’t make me safe, my belief in myself does. It’s easy to me, in the way that being themselves and not caring what people think of them, is easy to other people.
What comes easily to you, that you are aware doesn’t to everyone?
For me taking a risk was (and often still is): saying things that I think won’t be approved of; complaining or returning things unless I’m 100% sure I’m right to do so; standing out from the crowd; going to a place where I don’t know the social rules; publishing this post. The list goes on and on. I had a few opportunities to model when I was younger, it terrified me because I feared standing out, even in what can be perceived in a good way. For me it had too many associations with loving yourself, and I saw modesty (false as it was) as more safe. Secretly I’d have loved to do it, but it felt like too big a risk. I feared humiliation, being fully seen, exposed, vulnerable. I much preferred playing safe and pretending I didn’t want it. The risk involved was just a story; my brain conjuring up an outcome based on my deepest fear.
Have you ever convinced yourself you didn’t want something when really you were keeping safe?
If I’m not approved of I’m not safe, I risk rejection, loneliness, boredom, sadness, isolation. So I seek approval to keep safe. I make sure I don’t stand out too much and risk losing the safety of the tribe. I seek my parents’ approval of my life choices. At the bottom of every single fear we have (if we can face going deep enough into it), is dying alone. Which of course we all will anyway!
There are areas in which you know you are safe, you are confident. There are things you have in your life that help you avoid the feeling of being unsafe. Use them to notice where you are limiting yourself today. NB, you can limit yourself and support yourself in both areas!
Is it money in the bank? Status? A house? Success? Attention? CCTV? Cool clothes? Holidays? Marriage? Praise? Knowledge of current affairs? What makes you feel safe? How does choosing safety affect the way you live your life?
What comes easily to you that you see others worry about?
What do you do to keep yourself safe?
What does risk mean to you?
Use the comments below as a safe space to share your safety secrets! We’re fascinate to see what comes up.
And if you want to discover the thrill of moving past the safety of your comfort zone and feels powerful, responsible for our own motion and in the flow, check out the Wild in The City retreat.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
Attributed to Mark Twain