Getting over the fear that I have of making a call to someone who could create a situation where I either fail or succeed, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t even have to be something so dire; it could be the thumbs up or down for a preliminary decision or even more simple.
It could just be that I’m afraid to ask for what I want.
That. That is really hard for me to do.
Fear of failure is strong with this one. And this one.. and this one.. and so on, on and on. We’re all afraid of failing, of looking bad, of being less, of losing the respect of our friends and families and even worse sometimes – complete strangers. We want to be loved – not pitied. We want to be heroes, not villains. We want to be good.
I hit that crossroads in junior high school and I remember clearly the turn I took and the path I travelled when I realized I wasn’t doing so hot with quick, zingy come-backs or just standing up for myself, so I decided to just shut up. It was deliberate. I remember deciding to play it safe – that if I didn’t say anything and just kept my mouth shut, I would disappear into the noise of a 7th grade existence. That’s what I did, and it worked.. kinda.
We can’t go back. We can’t undo that turn like flipping through a choose-your-own-adventure book and explore an alternate reality. We can’t rewind. No mulligans, no take-backs.. nothing. And just as an aside – this is one of those life lessons that stings a bit; You don’t get second chances. I’m not even going to argue this point here – you know what I mean. You don’t get do-overs – period. Once something’s out there, it’s out there. Employ all the damage control you want, a bad first impression, a drunken tirade, a hasty decision in the heat of the moment – they all have consequences and that’s life. Whatever happened might not destroy what you have, but it won’t ever be completely forgotten and it will defnitely add a shade of color to your relationships moving forward.
But even that’s not always a bad thing.
I tried out for the speech team in Junior High. Looking back now, I feel like I should have been a shoe-in. I’m fairly comfortable in front of crowds (now), I’ve spoken and spoken well at times, sticking to an outline – when leading my 5k groups or talking to a group of friends or even adult Sunday School in my twenties; sure! I was nervous, but I wasn’t horrbile. No! I’m not really that bad, but when I tried out for the speech team, I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t think I even told my parents. They handed me something, I read it extremely nervously, and that was it – I didn’t get in. The only reason I mention this is because I want you to know that I wasn’t happy being a wall-flower. Despite playing it safe, I didn’t want to be relegated to the background. I wanted to matter. I wanted to be on the speech team; a place that I earned and a place that I belonged to. They didn’t want me.
When I tried to matter – I didn’t get picked.
And I still remember this thirty-five years later- I don’t really remember moping around about not getting on the team. Maybe because it was confirmation of what I already knew about myself – I can’t be ‘that guy’. You know the one. The guy who has a ready answer in any situation. The guy who all the girls like to be around. The guy who has earned the admiration of the other guys – he’s the Guy of all Guys!
I guess I’m just writing all of this to say that I’ve always tried to be whatever everyone else wants me to be – or what society thinks I should be, or so I think. Sure! I’ve gotten WAY better at just ‘being myself’, but a lot of the things I do, I still do for other people – and I catch myself all the time. It all sounds so trite, doesn’t it? It does to me – but I ask myself a few questions and it becomes a little less weird –
Am I really living out MY life, unfettered from the expectations I percieve others have in me?
Guys! That kind of self-reflexive questioning is NOT a bad thing. When you add the word ‘really’ to any question, it not only casts doubt on what you have taken for granted for so long, it really forces you to examine why you did so in the first place. And again, if you’re first response is to defend that position at all costs without really thinking about it, reflexively beating your chest – you lose. Period.
Am I REALLY living up to my full potential?
How much of my life and how many of my daily actions are purely to curry the favor of someone else?
Or, what does a life look like – what does MY life look like – if it were acted purely from my own self-interest?
Is that (really) a bad thing?