Self-empowerment in disguise: embracing your fear

Sometimes, creative self-empowerment looks different than what we might imagine. Sometimes, it comes in a fear-shaped package.

During my recent trip to beautiful Bali, one of my most memorable experiences was receiving a massage from the local holy man in the small village of Tabola. Mangku Mastra had an undeniable wisdom and power, and he laughed a lot—it was sort of like being massaged by an intense Buddha who liked to spout his joyful advice:

“No practice, no perfect!”

“Positive thoughts today make positive life tomorrow!”

“Smile with your heart!”         

“You come back tomorrow!”

The chakra massage was his own creation: he combined traditional massage with medicinal oils, energy healing, mantra, reflexology (holy ouch!)—all punctuated with his sage wisdom.

It was so amazing, I did come back tomorrow.

The most transformational moment for me was this:

As he was massaging the muscles in my back, he arrived at my left scapula where I’ve had an achy, painful knot for years. Not long ago, I’d had the thought that this is where I carry around all my fear, tamped down underneath my left shoulder blade.

When Mangku came to that spot, he laid both warm hands on my scapula, pressed down firmly, and began to sing.

I hadn’t pointed out the aching knot to him, and I didn’t understand his words—they may have been Balinese, perhaps Sanskrit. To me, his singing sounded like a gentle, soothing lullaby.

And that’s when it struck me.

For so long, I have attacked that knot to try to eradicate the pain—I’ve dug at it, massaged it, foam rolled it, stretched it, trigger-pointed it, iced it, heated it, and tried to numb it with painkillers. It’s still there; still painful.

As Mangku sang to that spot, I thought:

What if, instead of fighting our fears, we sang them lullabies?

What if, instead of trying to get rid of my knot of fear, I embraced it, soothed it, made it feel safe—made it feel welcome in its home beneath my shoulder blade?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that every “devil is a god who has not been recognized.”

What if this pain point, my fear—that devil—was just a god I hadn’t yet acknowledged?

Another lightning bolt: For years, in an effort to self-empower, I’ve worked to tackle my special collection of fears, often successfully, sometimes not. What I thought I was doing was learning how to move through fear—and I was, to a certain extent.

But I was also ashamed of having that fear in the first place.

I was trying to banish my fear—not just move through it.  

I didn’t want to acknowledge it.

I didn’t want it to exist in the first place.

How... inhuman.

You see, I need my fear: Fear is information. Fear offers motivation. Fear has power--that can be used for something else. Fear is a roadmap to what is holding me back.

Fear is something to push against—it offers the hope of propulsion.

My god. Fear is so very human.

And so, my work is to acknowledge and love another dimension of my humanity—that inner devil of my own creation, my fear.

~ To stop fearing the fear, and to embrace it—only then can I hope to transmute it into its rightful, godlike status. That is true empowerment.

~ To love that the presence of fear means I’m stretching myself into a new shape. Creating a new version of myself.

~ To embrace that the feeling of fear means I care so, so deeply.

~ To revel in the fact that fear gives me the opportunity to test my own power.

~ To marvel at the fact that that knot of fear lives adjacent to my heart—that infinite reservoir of love.

"Smile with your heart!" 

Poor devils: they’ve been huddling up to my heart, looking for love all along.

I can relate to that.

Love + courage,


>> Need a little help seeing your devils’ inner gods? Every shadow has its light—let's connect and amplify your light together.

Related content: Finding self-empowerment in freedom.

Can you love your fears? Sometimes just naming them transmutes their power into energy we can use to propel us where we want to go (remember He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Lord Voldemort? Name it.). I’d love it if you shared what devils you’re acknowledging today in the comments. I'll go first.



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