Ride Your Butterflies Through Life

In Jonathan Field’s book “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance”, he brings up an incredible point about the butterflies that exist within all of us, and how people tend to constantly run from those internal flutters of anxiety, uneasiness, and uncertainty. He states:

"If only we’d learned how to harness and ride rather than hunt and kill the butterflies that live in the gut of every person who strives to create something extraordinary from nothing."

Though one sentence, this point stuck with me and was in the forefront of my mind for a few days. How true. We look at our anxiety, depression, and other emotional and mental ailments as things to resist and fight as hard as we can to not experience. What if we actually explored those things with an open mind and open heart? What if those parts of us could lead to discovering the best version of ourselves? In any struggle and challenging state of being, there is an opportunity to grow and expand.

Think for a moment what your butterflies may represent:

  • Fear of failure, fear of judgement
  • Feeling inadequate (shame)
  • The big test coming up
  • Gaining weight after the baby/babies
  • Divorce
  • Getting fired

Keep making your own list. Give them names. Now, can you see them as butterflies? Though they flutter and may constantly pester you with their wings, what beautiful colors do you see? What about the critter fascinates you and gives you a sense of wonder? Where is the growth in your current situation? List those out and let yourself process the opportunities you have identified ahead of you.

"The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be able to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations."

Fields’ statement reminds us to let ourselves lean into our fears. Not to accept them, but to get to know them and to understand them. This will allow you to understand the parts of you that are still growing and that can continue to expand.

One of my favorite exercises when I am experiencing butterflies or more intense anxiety than usual is to take the Self Compassion Break, developed by Kristin Neff, a self-compassion expert at The University of Texas in Austin. Using these three simple steps, I allow myself to lean into what I am feeling. I connect to the greater world through my own suffering and discomfort. Once I recognize it as an experience and not an all-encompassing “this is just how I am” belief, I permit myself to go forward and gain something out of my setbacks.

So, have you been trying to hunt and kill your butterflies? Or, are you ready to let them fly around you, noticing the beauty of their struggle and allowing yourself to tame those beasts and ride them into a world of opportunity? I hope you do.

Liz Higgins, MS, LMFT Associate

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate in Dallas, Texas. I help millennial couples and individuals cultivate the best relationships and lives possible! I am also a relationship expert blogger and contribute relationship posts to Today.com, The Gottman Institute, Huffington Post, and more. I look forward to an opportunity to work with you on your journey towards growth, healing, and change. I am supervised by Dr. Ken Bateman, LMFT-S, LPC-S.