What does it mean to get out of your own way? We’ve all been met with internal exasperation when it dawns on us that what’s standing between us and what we want is most often ourselves. Even though the roots of this behavior and mindset vary for each individual, understanding and sitting with the why is the first step to change. Ultimately, getting out of your own way means becoming familiar with and accepting our internal world and seeking to identify the ways we perpetuate our own suffering. Once we can name what suffering we give space to and why, we open up the possibility of choosing peace in the face of fear.
I remember when I first started engaging in healing work that called for me to see the ways I was contributing to my own unhappiness. It was bewildering and I was wary. Why would I be blocking my own path to liberation? What was fueling this cycle of self-deprecation? And then I learned about my ego. The ego is the part of our conscious mind that houses many of our inner voices of doubt, worry, and anxiety. Although the incessant chatter of our ego more often than not robs us of peace in the present, its evolutionary function is to protect us. But when left unchecked or unnoticed, the ego mind continues to take up more space and what was once a function of survival becomes a burden of limitation. When we’re faced with uncertainty or doubt or a challenge (which is inevitable) our ego mind kicks into fight-or-flight mode, and in response to fear it will keep us in our comfort zone and ultimately stunt our growth.
When I got to know my ego better, I started to feel angry and embarrassed. How could I have let this go on for so long? Why is my ego so loud and how can I quiet it? But again, this is a function of the ego. The goal of controlling our ego and the narratives it spins is not to fight back, but to surrender and observe its commentary with curiosity rather than judgment. Our ego gains its power from fear. And this fear fuels self-deprecating behaviors like isolation, self-sabotage, weighing resentment and judgment, and overwhelming self-criticism that cripple our motivation and keep us stagnant. Our task, then, is to open the blinds, get a comfy chair and sit beside our fears.
The next time you hear familiar deprecating narratives from your ego, take a step back. First, observe what thoughts and feelings are emerging. Try to get out of your mind and into your body. What emotions are coming up for you? Where and how do these emotions show up in your body? After you open your mind and body to observation, accept the present state you are in and remind yourself that it doesn’t have to control you. In this state of acceptance you are acknowledging that the only thing you can control is yourself, and in that mindset you let go of everything outside of this present moment that is not in your control.
Lastly, once you observe and accept, you can let go. Let go of the suffering that is holding you back. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your fear of failure. Let go of narratives that come from places of trauma or that others have made you believe about yourself. Let go by deeply listening, holding compassion, and surrendering to the unknown. By becoming better listeners to our internal chaos, we can begin to identify the ways in which we stand in our way own. The space that opens up in the mind, heart and body after acceptance—even if only for a moment—is what it feels like to get out of your own way. With that knowledge and commitment to mindfulness, we find relief and ultimately internal peace.
The poet Rumi reminds us that our task in life “is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Remember, it’s not a race. This is a practice and a process of rewiring our internal frameworks, and it will be a lifetime endeavor for all of us.