In her new book, Michal Oshman, head of company culture, diversity and inclusion at TikTok Europe and former leadership expert for Facebook, recalls seeing a sign hanging in the reception area on her first day at Facebook that read, What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? The quote really hit home with her at the time and became the name of her inaugural publication released in May.
On the outside Oshman appeared to be Wonder Woman. She had three university degrees, held top public relations and tech positions at major companies, served as a commanding officer in the Israeli Army and was happily married with four children. But on the inside, she was severely afraid. She had the type of anxiety that pervades every part of your life and is all-consuming. It enveloped her with doom and gloom scenarios that would give any horror film a run for its money. Her grandparents on both sides were holocaust survivors, which left them permanently traumatized, and the generational trauma trickled down becoming an integral part of her life as well.
Oshman describes her journey from a life of angst and anxiety to freeing herself from internal brokenness. She began to flourish when introduced to the principles of Jewish wisdom or “Hasidut,” which espouses that we already have all the ingredients within us to live a purposeful, meaningful, fulfilled and joyous life. She utilizes these principles on both a personal and corporate level and emphasizes that although they are of Jewish descent, the principles are meant and encouraged for anyone who is ready to let go of being emotionally held hostage by one’s mind.
Anxiety can work for us in a myriad of positive ways. It can serve as a motivator helping us forge ahead effectively as public speakers and exam takers, and can be there as a formidable opponent in dealing with dangerous fight-or-flight situations. But, if free-floating anxiety creates interpersonal and social angst, fear and trepidation, racing thoughts and panic, fear of not being enough or measuring up, seeing yourself as not worthy, invisible or invaluable, then of course this type of anxiety can be debilitating. (A fear-based life does not have to be your legacy!)
Oshman quotes Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, the Kotzker Rebbe, when he posited, “There is nothing more complete than a broken heart.” How can this be true? Suffering from a broken heart can be a devastating experience if one is dealing with feelings of guilt, shame, regret, loneliness, sadness and fear. But, if we can understand that we only truly learn from our struggles, we can begin to see the riches that can be gained beyond the experience of a broken heart. As Proverbs 14:23 says, “In every sadness there is benefit.”
No one is broken; we only feel broken. If you are willing to take a risk, the other side of brokenness is an opportunity for growth. As Albert Einstein said, “If you change nothing, nothing will change.”
I have defined fear as a conceptualization of the mind. Since fear is a foreign entity to the soul, it cannot claim residence or create a home there. When I refer to the soul, I am not only speaking of a spiritual or religious experience. What I am attempting to convey is that we are far more than our mind and thoughts; there is another untapped part of ourselves, our authentic self, where fear doesn’t reside. However, fear can serve as a guise that helps enable us to live fully and purposely.
In her book, Oshman teaches (and I support my own clients) to fail harder! Trying out new, more mentally and emotionally adaptive behaviors may seem scary, but they are much less emotionally paralyzing than living with fear. Never be afraid to fail. Our failures can serve as opportunities for unimaginable growth.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone desiring to decrease anxiety and emotional pain in life. With a sense of vulnerable empowerment through sharing her own heartfelt experiences, as well as offering questions to ponder for reflective introspection that can serve as tools for increased awareness and positive resolution, Oshman’s message is, “the key is to never stop believing that we can improve.”
When one door closes, another can open and fear can serve as the invitation that’s knocking. Are you ready? You’re all invited to come along!
Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.