When we think of prison, we think of criminals. What we don’t think of is that sometimes we can put ourselves in a prison cell just by our thoughts. We can constrict our lives to the point that we are virtually living in a space about 6 feet by 10 feet. And the thing that puts us there is usually fear. There are many kinds of fear but one is the fear of what others think of us.
It took me years to quit worrying about what others think and what a liberating feeling that was. Sometimes we agree to do things that we really do not want to do because we are afraid of what they will think. And so we will not say no. The day I learned to say no was an eye opener. Yes, the people got mad for a little while but they got over it. I had taken spots at church or fundraisers when I really had plans I wanted to do. It was not until I realized I was being pushed into doing it because the other person had plans they wanted to do that I broke down the prison cell wall.
We also put ourselves in that prison cell because of fear of failure. We will not attempt to do things or go places because we are afraid we will fail or people will laugh at us. And what is ironic is that it is not just our friends or family we worry about, we worry about what complete strangers may think. I sit here now and think why would I care what complete strangers thought? They do not care what I think.
Fear can be immobilizing. It can stop us in our tracks and derail us from life. Fear makes us say we like things that we can not stand and all because we do not want anyone judging us or laughing at us. I can remember eating snails one time for that very reason. And let me tell you that to me snails was like trying to eat a piece of DuPont tire in a butter sauce. Nasty and the more you chewed, the bigger it got. And yet I, because I had myself trapped in a prison I had created, sat there and ate some of them. Now, how lame is that? Now, if I do not like something, I say so. I climbed out of my prison cell.
Fear of what people think makes us hang with the wrong people, marry the wrong people, work with the wrong people and even go to the wrong churches. And if you do not think so just start paying attention. Some people marry because they do not want people saying things about how old they are and have never been married. Marriage, one of the most beautiful and life filling events in our lives, and people will marry someone they do not love because they fear what others think. And some people begin to fight to get out of their prison cell and go on to divorce and find happiness.
Many people with chronic illness will hide it because they fear what others will say. They will push themselves to go places when they are really too sick and in too much pain to do it. And they do that because they fear what others will say about them. I can remember doing that many years ago. Yes, there goes those prison walls going up all because of fear of what others think.
I pray all people learn to step out of their prison cell they have created around them and step out into the world. So what if you fail? You get up and you try again and again and again. So what if you are thirty something and not married? I learned that if I can not live alone with myself, by myself, I will never live with anyone. So what if people laugh at you? Learn to laugh at yourself. As I was struggling to eat those snails, I looked like a re-creation of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as my snail in the shell flew across the room. They got their laugh even though I was pretending to like those things.
Stand up for you and start taking those walls down one by one. Realize that it will not kill us for someone to laugh at us. I find my self hilarious all the time and it is over dumb stuff. Like the day this disabled and chronically ill grandma here decided to be Rambo on a crutch because I heard someone in my house and son was gone. I hung on to the grab bar by my bedroom door, balancing on my one good leg, and swung out into the living room with the other leg thrown out and waving my forearm crutch at the supposed burglar while yelling “AAAHHH YAHHH”. It was my son and as he reached over to balance me, he was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. And I had to laugh too.
Realize that you are of value, that you have the right to have different opinions and likes and dislikes and that you do not have to follow the norms that so many do and look like the Stepford Wives because they all have the same hair, same makeup, same clothes and same laugh. Liberate yourself. Knock down those prison cell walls you have inadvertently put up.