I am Stronger Than That Which Holds Me Back

At a luncheon for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado I had the great pleasure of listening to a presentation by Shiza Shahid, the co-founder, along with Malala Yousafzai and Ziauddin Yousafzai, of the Mala Fund. At 25 this soft-spoken young woman has already been a force for change in our world.

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Towards the end of her inspiring and humbling talk, Shiza said something that really hit a cord with me. “I am stronger than that which holds me back”. That statement zinged right through me and has lodged in my mind ever since.

The week prior I had been in New York City for an event with The Hunger Project, and had listened to other inspiring transformational leaders share their own stories, or the stories of those with whom they work, on how they transcended their original situations to achieve something that had once felt so out of reach or near impossible.

What was common amongst these people was that they had aspired to something greater, believing in a different future for themselves and for others. They had pushed the envelope, stepped intrepidly out of their comfort zones, and moved through fear, uncertainty and doubt to reach that different future. What they had done was to prove themselves stronger than that which held them back, whether that thing be a history, a culture, a community, another person or just the voices in their head.

Contemplating these various stories has given me pause to reflect on how I have owned or disowned my power to create the life I want. Without a doubt, I have let the naysayer in my head hold me back at various times in my life. I have let that voice tell me I can’t do something. That it’s too much…it’s too hard…that I don’t have what it takes. During those times I feel scared, unsure and insecure, and I forget that I am, in fact, stronger than the negative voice in my head.

And yet I know that at many other times in my life I have proven to myself that I AM stronger than that which holds me back. I have overcome those negative, limiting, unhelpful voices and have done and achieved things I never imagined possible. I look back sometimes and think “wow, I did THAT?!”

Perhaps at the core of being stronger that that which holds us back is the degree of intention and drive we put behind something along with the ability to really imagine and believe in what’s possible when all outward signs would have us believe otherwise.

4 Ways I Connect With My Power:

  • Get clarity on what it is that I want and how invested I am in bringing that about.
  • Identify and acknowledge the obstacles (internal and external) that may arise and figure out a way to maneuver around them…there is always a way.
  • When I get the naysayer stuck in my head, reflect and recognize that I have been in this place before and have overcome what I once thought I couldn’t.
  • Remember that with intention, passion, and trust in myself, what may seem impossible is actually possible.

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Lessons From The Car Wash

For a long, long time I have had a serious phobia about the drive-through car wash.

You are probably rolling your eyes and asking yourself, “She’s afraid of the car wash?  Seriously??!”  Yup, seriously!

I used to love going through the car wash as a kid.  I loved the sound of the water raining down on the roof…the thump, thump, thump of the long cloth “fingers” as they moved up and over the car…the “WHOOSH” of the dryers sending water droplets scurrying away.

5 Lessons on Overcomign FearAll that changed one cold, winter night about 14 years ago.  I was living up in the mountains of Colorado running Verbatim Booksellers, the independent bookstore I owned in Vail, CO. My mum was flying in from the East Coast, and I was to pick her up after work.  Since I have a tendency to try to cram too much into a short amount of time I was running late by the time I left work.  I took one look at my car, however, and although I was behind schedule I decided I couldn’t pick my mum up in a dirty, winter-grime streaked car.

I pulled off the highway and raced to the local gas station and car wash, figuring I could get a quick wash and be on my way again.  It was dark that night, really, really dark, and the car wash was set up so that you had to make a super awkward left turn to get the wheels inside the guide rails and onto the conveyor belt.

I tried and missed.  I reversed and tried again, still not managing to get the wheels aligned between the rails.  I tried once more, over-correcting, and ended up getting my left wheels wedged between the outer rail and the payment kiosk.  Please note, I am a good driver, really I am!

No ifs, ands or buts, I was stuck, seriously stuck….and fairly panicky!  I tried to pull forward, I tried to reverse out but nothing worked.  Finally, I just had to gun it.  I can still hear the sound of metal on metal, scraping, crunching, grinding.  To add insult to injury my now mangled car was splattered with soap as I drove through the wash in an attempt to get out.

I finally made it to the airport, picked up my mum and explained what happened.  When we walked out to my car she just started to laugh…there at the curb sat my car covered in a splotchy, foamy mess of frozen soap with a crushed back left side.

With my tail between my legs I went back that evening to determine what damage I had done to the car wash. Amazingly enough there was not even a scratch on the kiosk against which my car had been wedged.  I seriously thought I had broken the car wash and was going to end up on the front page of the Vail Daily newspaper as the dumbass who had had an accident in the car wash.

Grateful that I wouldn’t be the laughing stock of my community I was still traumatized by the event, and since that night I had NEVER again driven through a car wash, preferring to pay the extra few bucks and hand over my keys to the attendant to drive it through.

 Fast forward to yesterday.  I had just driven down to Denver from the mountains, and my car was grubby and dirty. Once again I was picking someone up at the airport, and I didn’t want to show up with a filthy car.  Perhaps that’s the Virgo in me??!

It was a gorgeous day, and it looked like the whole city had turned out to get their cars washed.  The line was ridiculous.  I pulled up and told the guy I just wanted an exterior wash.  He told me to get into the relatively empty self serve drive-through lane rather than the full service lane I usually go through.  I looked at him with wide eyes, and with panic in my voice said, “But I don’t want to drive through!!”  He gave me a “hey crazy lady do whatever you want” look and just shrugged his shoulders!

Rationally I knew this fear was silly but it was still very real for me.  But, with the alternative being having to wait behind a boatload of cars for more time than I had, I decided to feed my fear a “suck it sandwich” and just go through the damn self-serve lane.   (credit for the term “suck it sandwich” goes to Jen Sincero, author of the fab book You Are a Badass)

 Taking a deep breath, I pulled forward following the directions of the attendant.  Managing to get my wheels easily into the track, I shifted my car into neutral and waited.  The conveyor belt started to move, the soft pitter patter of the water began and all of a sudden the little kid in me who had loved going through the car wash was behind the wheel.  I started to laugh!  This is what I have avoided for all these years?

While I may never, ever, go back to the scene of “incident” I know now that if I need to I can drive myself through the car wash without fear…a liberating thought indeed!  I also know that I still love the soothing feeling of being cocooned in the car as it is nudged along through the wash.  A simple pleasure that is now available to me again 😉

5 Things I Learned from the Car Wash:

  • Fears and phobias will be my loyal companions until I am ready to let them go.
  • The tighter my hold on my fears the more inhibiting they become.
  • Sometimes having to face my fear unexpectedly makes it easier to let it go.
  • Remember that it is up to me whether I allow my fears to hold me back or face them head on and let them pull me forward.
  • Things that I didn’t even know I was missing are available to me again when I let my fears go.

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