Monday Meditation: Worry versus Fear

The Man and His Two Sweethearts

A MIDDLE-AGED MAN, whose hair had begun to turn gray, courted two women at the same time.  One of them was young, and the other well advanced in years.  The elder woman, ashamed to be courted
by a man younger than herself, made a point, whenever her admirer visited her, to pull out some portion of his black hairs.  The younger, on the contrary, not wishing to become the wife of an old man, was equally zealous in removing every gray hair she could find.  Thus it came to pass that between them both he very soon found that he had not a hair left on his head.

Moral: Those who seek to please everybody please nobody.

I used to be a people-pleaser in my younger days. I had very low self-esteem, and believed that I had to pretty much make up for existing by being of service to the world. It took me a very long time and a lot of work to overcome that self-sabotaging sickness. What I learned from the experiences is similar to what the man in our fable discovered. We actually cause more harm than good by attempting to please everyone, and the person we hurt most of all is ourselves.

On a conscious level, we all seem to get this. We understand from a purely intellectual perspective that you cannot please everyone. I've never met anyone who believed otherwise. So, why do so many of us continue with this kind of behavior? Of course, the immediate answer is the one I gave; low self-esteem. But, is there more to it than just that?

I had a friend who owned an online shop. She was in her crone years and this was her main source of income. She created some of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry I'd ever seen. She was truly gifted at her art. But, this friend was so absolutely afraid of  losing her business that she wouldn't take a public stand on anything. She would quietly and privately agree with someone on an issue, but would make it clear that she couldn't choose or say anything publicly because someone who disagreed with her might not buy from her again. She lived in a state of fear so much that she would work herself into a frenzy. I cannot tell you how many times she called me on the phone in tears because of an issue in which she felt she would not be able to support me or someone else because she was afraid of losing customers. I felt awful for her, until I realized that this was a choice she made out of worry... and worry is the bigger cause at stake.

We worry that we won't be liked. We worry that we won't be able to sustain a business. We worry that we won't be able to pay our bills or we'll lose our home or we'll lose our job or .. (insert your favorite worry here).

Ly De Angeles wrote about Fear as an entity versus worry (which is what a lot of us actually mislabel as fear). Fear comes from the Old English word "faer", which is related to the word "faerie" and means, "to cast enchantments". This also links to the word "faith", derived from Latin, which means "to trust".

Fear is that prickly sensation you get when something is about to go very very wrong. Fear shows up in the fight or flight syndrome to help you decide whether to stand your ground or flee for your life. Fear is your friend. She describes Fear as a beautiful entity. Fear is an instinct that is there to protect you.*

Worry, however, is what most of us do regularly. And, it's all about assumption and expectation. We can't seem to live in the moment very well. We're either living in the past tense by remembering how good we once had it or we're living in the future with the nightmare scenario. Worry produces distress (as opposed to eustress, which is good stress) and distress does a serious number on our physical and mental health. You can literally worry yourself to death.

In my friend's case, she was worried that if she actually took a stand on something publicly, she'd lose customers. She worried that if that took place, she'd not be able to support herself or her child or her husband. She worried that she wouldn't be liked. She worried that she wouldn't fit in. She worried so much that it was almost impossible to talk to her at times because she was so busy with her worries.

Mindfulness is really a practice of staying in the present. It takes a lot of discipline to do this, as it's not something we're conditioned to do. Did you know that there is no present tense in Hebrew? It's only past/future, so this mindset goes back a long way.

In Aesop's fable, the man was worried he'd be alone. The old woman was worried about what others would think of her being with a younger man, and the young woman was worried about what others would think about her being with an old man. None of them were in a state of blissful present. They were too worried about others and what might happen in the future to enjoy this moment.

Just for today, try practicing living in the moment. Don't worry about what's going to happen in five minutes, an hour, tomorrow, etc... just enjoy being here; right now, present in this particular moment. Worry has no way of messing with us that way. Enjoy who YOU are, and not what anyone else THINKS you are... just for right now. If you find yourself beginning to worry, just snap out of it and come back to this moment. For now, you have all that you need and want, and there is nothing else to be concerned with. It may take some practice and some adjustment, but you may just find that you feel much freer and happier by practicing this state of mind.


*Source: Witchcraft: Theory and Practice by Ly De Angeles, pages 32-33.


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