Face your butterflies (not just your fears)
We all know what facing our fears means. It’s something many of us struggle with, but it’s not an unfamiliar concept. Facing our fears means grappling with the hard stuff. Feelings that cause us pain, terror, and grief.
The purpose of facing our fears is to stop letting them control us. Usually what we notice when we face them is that they aren’t quite so powerful. We face our fears so we can move on from them.
But what if we don’t have somewhere to move on to?
And if we believe it is important to face our fears then why don’t we put the same amount of energy into facing our butterflies?
Our butterflies are ‘the other place’ that is sometimes unknowable or out of reach when our fears control us. It’s where our sense of possibility lies.
It’s not the place in your head where you ‘know’ the fears aren’t speaking truth about who you are. Yes, intellectually you know that you won’t end up in a ditch if you don’t get that project done on time to an exceptional standard, and intellectually you know you are a kind and decent human who deserves as much love as the next person. All that cognitive knowledge isn’t much use if you don’t really believe.
Your butterflies are the place in your body where you BELIEVE that you are a worthy human and can have the things in life you want. The things you’ve worked hard for, on any level. But they can be hard to find and even harder to spend time with.
That dark yucky place can become so familiar it blocks anything else that feels good or hopeful or positive. It cages your butterflies. It makes your hopefulness and strong sense-of-self feel fake when in actual fact they’re just as real as every other feeling you have, and which would you rather be guiding you? Your dark self-hatey feels or your bright self-worthy hopeful ones?
Just as it takes practice to allow yourself to tolerate difficult feelings, it also takes practice to spend time with your joyful feelings.
Here’s how to face your butterflies
Next time you find yourself pulled into a dark place, try to locate that place in your body and give it some kind of sensory descriptor. Don’t push it away if you can help it. Just allow it to be because we’re going to try put a container around it with naming and describing it. Maybe it’s tight and in your chest. Maybe it’s heavy and on your shoulders. Maybe its squirmy and in your stomach. Call it a simple name (‘sad’ ‘scared’ ‘lost’ ‘too old’ ‘insert bully from highschool’ ‘chatterbox’ ‘Eeyore’).
Notice when that feeling is powerful, it usually comes with a story about you. How you are not good enough or how you are a failure or how you don’t deserve XYZ (things you’d usually say most people deserve) or how no one would like you if they knew the ‘real’ you. Blech.
When that story is stuck going on and on, it’s time to move around your body and find somewhere else that you do NOT believe that story.
Locate a physical place where even the tiniest part of you knows that story to be untrue, or at the very least unfair. Find a spot which feels in some way different from the dark place. Maybe it’s warm and in your heart. Maybe it’s light and in your hands. Maybe it’s butterflies and in your diaphragm.
Shift as much of your attention as you can to this new place. A bit like meditation, you will be pulled back to dark places or yucky thoughts, so be gentle with yourself, but keep bringing your attention back to the new place. Stick with it (because we all know the benefits of sticking with meditation and this is similar). Gently gently gently keep bringing your attention to the butterflies and noticing what is there.
Are they a bit excited? Are they tired of being caged by the dark place and old self-doubts? Does this other place inside your body believe in you? Is it on your side?
Maybe, in this place, you do kinda sorta give a shit about yourself. In this place you can believe that you are clever or kind or talented or pretty. How fabulous! Seriously hang the fuck out here. What grows?
What becomes more possible in your life when you set the butterflies free?
Go hang out in this new place whenever you feel like it- and sometimes when you don’t feel like it. Just because it isn’t as familiar, it doesn’t mean it’s any less true or real than the painful places.
Face your butterflies.
Get to know this other place inside yourself where the life you want is a lot more possible. Nurture it so it can be optimistic for you. Then let those butterflies take the reins and guide the way toward feeling so much better about yourself.
Do you have any experience, troubles or advice on how to face your butterflies (not just your fears)? I’d love you to share anything you’ve learned in the comments below so other readers can benefit- there’s nothing more refreshing than unique mental health advice.
If you’re curious about counselling or coaching with me, start a conversation here.
Image by Pete Linforth on Pixabay