I have a friend who is really good at something. She’s so good that she could, if she wanted, quit her job to do it. Easily. She’s been talking about “just doing it” for a year but still hasn’t just “done it” because she is afraid she’s not ready.
I can relate to her story. For much of my life, I’ve been afraid of branching out and committing to new things, too. Out of this fear, I have often, in my life:
1) Turned down or delayed starting really good opportunities that I didn’t think I was “ready” for
2) Prematurely quit at things that I thought I would one day fail at
3) Engaged in self-sabotaging behavior to control my failure at new things
Writing these truths about myself feels strange and kind of sad. But they are all true for me. And, I realize just in talking to friends and family (who are usually female), so many others.
It was these ugly truths and many others that inspired my commitment this year to courageousness. My vision for a courageous life included this, or a life in which I would be more open to allowing myself to take on new opportunities that I could be good at but that, at the same time, terrified me. I wanted not only to grow myself by branching out and trying new things, I wanted to be bold enough to see them, my new endeavors, through until the end, i.e., not quitting when things get tough.
So a month after declaring allegiance to “courage” for 2014, I got my chance to be courageous with a new opportunity via an email from a client with a long-term writing opportunity.
Without going into too many details, I’ll say that I very reluctantly said “yes” to the offer only after narrowing down all my reasons for why I thought I couldn’t do it (“I don’t have time,” “My kids need me more,” “I am not that experienced”). I told myself then that if anything changed in the future, or if any of my “reasons” really did come to fruition, then I’d stop. But until then I was going to, no, I had to, continue on with it.
I’m writing this almost a year later because I really did “continue on with it.” I stuck with that writing opportunity and learned some valuable things about myself and committing to new things in the process.
1. Most of us are so afraid to fail. I think one of the things that prevented me (and prevents so many others) from taking chances on new opportunities or potentially life changing events is that we’re afraid of failing. Failure, we think, or perhaps we’ve been told, is a sign of the weak. But, really? Failure is just a part of life. It’s the getting up part that gives context to our great stories. Rather than being afraid to fail, I’ve learned to be afraid not to try.
2. We are often are own biggest critics. I realize now that I’ve often said “no” to new opportunities in my life because I was worried what others would think about me. Like most, I didn’t want to look unprepared, stupid, or out of my league and more than that, I didn’t want to be called out for any of those things by someone else. But there’s an unfortunate and odd truth about this way of thinking.
Usually all the things we imagine “they’ll” say (with “they” being our bosses, strangers, peers, colleagues, friends, etc) are things that we have already told ourselves. These are things that we believe ourselves. We believe these things to be true, and we live in fear of someone else seeing and believing these things to be true, too.
Instead of being your biggest critic, I’ve learned (and am learning) it pays to be your biggest cheerleader.
3. It’s okay to be vulnerable. So a big part of the failing thing is this desire not to be vulnerable. We, or I, was a perfectionist who was afraid to try new things because I wasn’t comfortable living with vulnerable feelings. I wasn’t comfortable with not knowing everything, with possibly not always being prepared.
But this isn’t life. I’ve learned this year that it’s okay not to have all the answers when you start. It’s okay to admit when you’ve made a mistake or have questions. It’s okay to be imperfect and to work your way through uncertainties in front of others. It’s okay to be human.
4. Don’t count yourself out before you even start. All of my life, I’ve approached each opportunity with a list of conditions that had to be met for me to stay motivated to continue. If things weren’t going according to plan, I’d quit. I’d count myself out likely after a few weeks or months because all along I had in my head that “this opportunity” wasn’t meant for me anyway.
Now instead of focusing my energies on why an opportunity won’t work, I focus on why it will. Not every opportunity that comes your way that seems like a great thing will pan out as a great thing. But….you have to give yourself enough time in actually doing the opportunity to figure that out. You have to allow yourself to commit mentally to doing your best and seeing where your best takes you. If things end up not working out, that’s okay. But only make that determination after you’ve given each new opportunity your very best shot.
5. Patience and longevity bring reward. Because I’ve always been a quitter, I’ve never really had the joy of experiencing the rewards that come when you are patient and stick to things. I’ve always over-anticipated and counted myself out and made excuses. But this year when I decided not to do this anymore, I learned the true value of patience and longevity in life pursuits. And this lesson is one that I carry with me in motherhood, marriage, friendships, and so much more.
The client that I’m working for sent me an email last night saying how happy she is in working with me. I was thrilled to hear this not only because I like hearing nice things being said about my work. I was happy because it was not from being perfect that I earned this feedback. It was from what I’ve done all this year. It was from working hard, counting myself in, making mistakes and fixing them, believing in myself and what I was doing more than not believing.
Over to you. Do share in the comments below something you’ve learned by committing to something new.
Love, Jessica. ♥
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