Sometimes we need to do scary things just to prove to ourselves that we can. At the tail end of my teenage rebellion (when I was actually an adult), I used to jump off things just to prove that GIRLS CAN and I think I gave people the impression that I enjoyed it. Let me tell you, I never enjoyed it and never got this so-called adrenalin rush that turns daredevils into adrenalin junkies. But what I did enjoy was the feeling that I did it. I really did it! I survived. I’m proud of the crazy things I did, especially because I can speak about the person I was with stars in my eyes, like a proud parent, and from the comfort of my couch, warm and cozy and secure. I don’t need to jump from high places anymore.
Except the truth is that every time we take a step in the direction of the person we are becoming, the person we want to become, it feels a little scary. You are literally standing on a ledge, looking down, weighing up the possibility of death (or dying of embarrassment) and then you either have to take that leap of faith and jump or walk back down, taking the stairs, making up excuses to keep your ego in tact. But we all know that really the only way forward is to jump.
When you are following a desire, there comes a point when you have to go public with it. To a private person like me, this feels like a big jump. I could happily follow my desire of being a writer by working on my novel for four years and only really talking about it with a select few and only when I thought the conditions were right, when the stars and the moon were lined up and the chosen one was truly listening. That felt safe. I was cocooned in my dream and that kept it alive. Perhaps this was a necessary part of the process.
But now I am taking more steps towards what I want and I find myself practising the art of feeling uncomfortable more and more. And it’s pretty easy because I am a shy girl at heart. I have done dancing for years but I won’t be the one in the middle of the circle (believe me, I have suffered through this at dance classes in New York). I want choreography or a crowded dance floor. I want to feel the adoration before I step into the spot-light. How about this blog? I know I must seem like a lay it all out on the table with wine and a cheese course kind of girl, but I started writing this blog with no intention of telling anyone about it for months. At least I could get strangers approval first before I even considered telling anyone I knew. And not just one stranger, but lots. You see strangers are great, because they feel no obligation to stay till the end, they don’t have to suffer through with polite applause like friends might.
But getting back to making dreams come true. I suppose building confidence is a part of the process. Embarrassment is too. If we can cope with feeling embarrassed, and put it into perspective, we will get a lot further in life. We have to be prepared to fail a bit on the way. An actor could never get a job without risking looking stupid sometimes. The stories of successful people who did not fail along the way are few and far between. In fact, I don’t know any. But a failure is just experience anyway, isn’t it? We have to be able to not only cope with it, but to also work with it, to add it to our CV and share it when we speak of our achievements too. The most progress I made when I was studying creative writing at university was when I exposed myself to the group. Whenever I shared with them what I’d written, my soul expanded and my confidence grew. Even when it was really embarrassing – like when they didn’t see what the point was or that time I read out the dream I had about a sink full of pooh. I survived. We have to be able to take embarrassment and then override it. What would they think of someone who dreamt about pooh? We have to let go of how people are going to see us.
If what we want is not as simple as studying and applying for a job, we have to be willing to become visible. And the more we expose ourselves to others, the more vulnerable we are prepared to be, the more chance we have to grow, to leap even, into the person we want to become. So that’s why I find myself gravitating towards discomfort lately, to add it to my resume, to gain confidence and fearlessness, so that I am prepared for the really big jump into the life I really want.
The things I have done lately that felt uncomfortable, made me nervous but allowed me to let go are…
- Joining an acting group on a whim and each week when I go there I am allowing myself to override embarrassment and just have fun.
- Announcing on Facebook that I have finished my novel – most people didn’t even know of course and I immediately wondered if it was a good idea to do it but I am still riding that wave of support I felt.
- Speaking about my novel to more people because of announcing it and not deflecting or shying away from interest.
- Telling a few friends about this blog, enough said.
- Jumping from a diving platform at the swimming pool. It is supposed to be five meters but it felt higher. I did it just to know that I can.
Question : What have you done that has caused you that wonderful feeling of discomfort? What would you love to do if you could override the embarrassment?