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Fishbowl Fears

We have a handful of fears that just won't quit. When we are up to something new, when we are taking a chance, our fear sends up a cast of characters in the form of thoughts. Our thoughts try to convince us that whatever it is we were planning to do is going to kill us.

That is because fear does not know time. Fear reacts as if the threat it perceives to our life is a real and present danger.

I've seen those characters show up this week in my recent conversations with new clients.

Our neurobiology, our physiology and our fear are so intertwined that it's hard to distinguish our true Self from the messages that our fear is feeding us on every level.

When I was training to be a coach 25 years ago, I showed up at the in-person trainings (before anything like zoom existed and before smart phones). I took a train from New York City to D.C. and spent five weekends in a hotel for monthly intensives. I participated in dyads, in triads, in group games and group coaching sessions. I did it all with vigor.

Except for one thing. One thing triggered my fear of judgement with such intensity that I froze every time.


Do you know what a fishbowl is? A fishbowl is a training tool in which two people sit across from each other to demonstrate a new skill while everyone else WATCHES.

I was a theater minor in college. I played Dionyza AND the Bawd in my college production of Pericles. But this was different.

In this performance, there was no script, and it triggered a TERRIFIED part of myself that had a BELIEF that I was not smart enough to "get it right." The risk of stepping into the fishbowl to BE OBSERVED was like a death sentence to that scared part.

Unfortunately for me, at that time, I didn't know what was causing such profound and painful resistance to jumping into the bowl.

It was a really sad time, because it left me feeling that something was wrong with me. IT MADE NO SENSE to my rational mind. I was making EVERY OTHER EFFORT but this one. WHY?! The only conclusion that my mind could find was the thought, "Look. Proof. This is proof that you are not ready enough to coach."

Unconscious beliefs and assumptions about ourselves are SO POWERFUL AND SO EFFECTIVE at keeping us small.

I took hundreds of thousands of baby steps over the past twenty-five years until my husbands death CATAPULTED me into a space with so MUCH LIGHT. I could see EVERYTHING - the sweet, the strong and all the wounded parts.

I could see that the belief that was keeping me in the shadow was the belief of a MUCH YOUNGER Naomi. That the fear that fueled that BELIEF was SMART AF because that's what her little-kid self had to believe in order to do the things that would keep her safe and secure. Not only that, but she was BRAVE.

Now (seven years later) I have busted out of that fishbowl and am swimming in open waters. Parts of me are still scared sometimes. But know I can see that part and reassure her that the proof I have is certified by my big "S" Self.

It's a skill to become aware of all the parts of us that are still afraid of so much. It takes courage to look at why there was so much fear and to understand what we came to believe about ourselves.

What fear can you wrap in your arms today in order to brave open water?

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