Is your glass half-empty most days or half-full? Depends on the day, you say. Well, on average we lean one way or another, either jumping off preverbal cliffs or staying way too far inland to even have a view. Where do you think you fall on the risk continuum? Well it may have to do with what you’ve experienced so far.
Our perceptions shape how we see things, and more importantly how we respond to situations. If we have any history of trauma, betrayal or deep loss, we will probably see the probability of being hurt again instead of the possibility that one who has never experienced any of that. Fear is what is obviously driving this, with our subconscious protecting us from more loss, more betrayal, more abandonment and therefore more pain. You just don’t want to experience that again, and I completely understand that as I have had to heal from my own.
But what if I told you that as long as you allow the fear to hold you back from letting people in, from taking healthy risks and experiencing life more fully, then you actually fulfill the very prophecy that you are trying to avoid? No way you say. Yes way. If you spend your life protecting yourself from being hurt, you WILL experience loss and betrayal, and pile on the extra layer of regret you get to have in old age. Here’s why.
Loss. I know it may be difficult to imagine at first, but if you hold yourself back from opportunities you will lose out on SO much more than if you took some healthy risks. Think about it. By not letting people in closer so they can really love you and connect with you, there is no belongingness or closeness that is actually what you need to heal the past pain. The opportunities you don’t take advantage of are the other arena of loss, as you will miss out on the dreams you’ve had, the things you’ve always wanted to do and the happiness and zest for life that goes along with that. The new job with better pay in a new city, the side hustle you turn into a thriving business, or the bucket list items you’ve had written down forever. You are the one who pays, since by avoiding the possible pain you are also losing out on so much more. We have no idea how much time we have to kick the can on taking risks. We do have a choice in putting things off.
Betrayal. I know, I know. Having been betrayed can feel like the most awful kind of loss, as it makes you question your decision making in select who to put your life or not. Your self-esteem took a huge hit, and it has taken forever to glue yourself back together from that. Talk about gun-shy. By not allowing yourself to risk again – even with groups of people, you are actually perpetuating the deceit, because now you are just betraying yourself. You are not allowing your own self to have the opportunity to choose. To figure out what might be a healthy, calculated risk. You’ve been robbed. Again. But this time it’s you who are the thief.
Abandonment. Deep loss – especially those of caretakers or spouses, can make us feel left and alone. Fragile. There is an existential “buffer” we subconsciously feel when those who are older are still around to protect us from the inevitable. But once they go, we are left to fend for ourselves. We often glean from being left that we are not as lovable or loved. Maybe we weren’t enough to stick around for. So we spend our life protecting ourselves from ever feeling that again. We keep others at arm’s length. We avoid risk so we can avert failure. But we then just abandon ourselves. We become so disconnected from who we really are that we might as well be dead inside, because it certainly doesn’t make us feel lovable when we don’t love ourselves enough to let the light in.
I know playing it safe is what you may need to do right after a hurt or loss, but after some time of healing, remember. You have a choice. You can perpetuate the pain where only YOU lose out in life, or you can slowly choose to take small risks and let life in. A little at a time. You can’t avoid the anxiety and the possible pain, but at least this way you can scrape off the icing of regret.