Blossoming Beyond Our Crutches

Tending to our Achilles heels and overcoming fears

May 07, 2023

Growth Self-Improvement Fear Change Battles
brown wooden cabinet with mirror

Photo by Gaelle Marcel

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.


I watch her as she struggles to wrap the overstuffed burrito, smiling awkwardly. She motions for her coworker to come to her rescue. I’m guessing she’s new, hasn’t gotten the hang of the wrapping part yet. I’m sure it takes a while. This one looks impossible to me, personally, no matter how much training you’ve had, based on the amount of the ingredients. It’s not rocket science. It seems no matter how much emphasis you place on the “only a little bit of…” part, they somehow manage to do the opposite at Chipotle. I can’t tell where exactly it started to go sideways. Maybe at the mild salsa section, where I was already concerned about the size. But at this point, I had let it get too far already so I stay quiet. I’m berating my husband in my mind, blaming him for wanting too many ingredients in his burrito in the first place. Always easier to blame the spouse.

The coworker comes over, with an air of pride and an eagerness to impress. I almost want to look away so as not to put any pressure that he do it perfectly, but I can’t help looking at the soggy, pitiful mess that is this burrito that I’m about to pay for. Every fiber of my being is asking me to speak up, say something, ask him to please get a new tortilla and rewrap it, or take some of the stuffing out. The words make their way from my brain down to the roof of my mouth, but remain there. I stand, frozen, watching yet another opportunity to speak up pass me by. What to some may seem like a perfectly normal thing to do, without giving it a second thought, to me is climbing Mount Everest, and I’ve given it a million thoughts in those few seconds.

The cashier places the two burritos in a bag and hands them to me, I pay, fill up the drinking cup with berry agua fresca, and leave. The bag weighs 10 pounds it feels like, but the weight of the guilt and disappointment I feel weighs much heavier. Guilt for willingly bringing home food for my husband that is not only visually unappealing, but most probably not edible in burrito form. And disappointment in myself for, once again, being afraid to speak up in a situation that called for it. From the moment I saw her struggle, that familiar anxious ache began to nudge me, sending a message that I clearly refused to listen to.

My fear of speaking up has been my lifelong Achilles heel.

I have tried working on it, succeeding only a handful of times. But it persists, permeating every area of my life. It has settled into my bones and made itself comfortable, knowing I won’t question it too much. For those of us who struggle with this, it is crippling, and so inconvenient. And for those who don’t, it is incomprehensible. It’s easy to see, however, that this fear is tightly linked to a few others: caring too much about what people will think of me (fear of judgment), the fear of conflict and confrontation, and the fear of setting boundaries. It’s the perfect recipe for a small, confined life.

But there was something about that moment at Chipotle that felt different. It shifted something in me. I found myself moving in the direction of wanting the fear gone, for good. Seeing how my angst around speaking up was affecting not just myself, but also my husband, was very revealing and convicting. This was not something I wasn’t aware of already, but it’s as if I saw it through his eyes for the first time instead of just my own. How the actions I was taking (or not taking) based on my problem trickled down and affected him adversely, through no fault of his own, was a hard pill to swallow this time around.

Our fears lead to ways of operating that have ripple effects that extend beyond ourselves.

This is easy to see when those ways are intentional—criminal activity, abuse, causing others harm. But even when we’re not aware of it, those fears can unintentionally hurt others. Sooner or later we are faced with the choice of whether we will continue to do harm, or finally face the discomfort of growing in areas we struggle in. And often, we have to keep making this choice, over and over, as we slip back into old patterns and mindsets. I may be brave enough to speak up this time but not next time. Progress, not perfection.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

~Anais Nin

In the span of a single life, we are given countless opportunities to face our fears, to grow and blossom beyond our crippling crutches. The question is, will we take full advantage of them? Will we muster up the courage to face them and dare to break out of our comfort zones? What may appear to be so seemingly miniscule and insignificant in the grand scheme of things can have the power to transform us, one bold act at a time. We just need to be willing participants in this process, eager to live fearlessly. As terrifying as change can be at times, pushing through is the only way that leads to freedom. Freedom to be fully ourselves. Freedom from depending on anyone else for our sense of identity. Freedom to create the most magnificent life we can envision.

When Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), I’m sure he did not intend for us to live in fear, of any kind. But we cannot arrive at a truly abundant life without tending to our Achilles heels and all the bruising we find there. For some it may be a fear of speaking up, for others it may be an inability to set boundaries, or having aggressive traits. Whatever the issue, there will be opportunities to course-correct and make a different choice. This is how growth happens—one new thought/action/behavior/decision stacked on top of another and put into practice in real time.

I wish I acted more bravely every time I felt that ache in my chest. I wish I never had to walk away with that feeling of self-disappointment ever again. But alas, I am human, and scared, and comfortable with the status quo, as unhealthy as it is. My emotional muscles have more growing to do. And I can sit with that and forgive myself for another missed opportunity to evolve past my shortcomings. And I can take that disappointment, that fear, that grief and allow them to serve as the catalyst that will embolden me to speak up next time I have the chance.

Because that is all we can do with the experiences we have, isn’t it? To find a way to string them together that they become an exquisite patchwork we are proud of.

With the hope that each block we add is inching us closer to that abundant life Jesus invites us into. One that is abounding in courage, and grace, and love. One that is richly saturated in truth.

Maybe I will change when I am more afraid of remaining silent than I am of speaking up. When staying quiet costs me more than speaking my truth. Because our fears always cost us something. There’s a price being paid for choosing the path of least resistance. We lose out on growing, on stepping into our full potential, on expressing our most authentic self. And I, for one, no longer want to pay this hefty price. I don’t want to carry the burdensome weight of guilt and failure stemming from missed chances to flourish. I want to step over onto the other side of my fears and see what world will open up before me. What freedoms will be available to me. Because sometimes, the only thing standing between us and our highest self is a Chipotle employee, trying to wrap a burrito with way too many ingredients in it.