Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm a Coward

Oh, yes, I’m a coward. I’m terrified that if I do something new, step outside my comfort zone, or speak up too much, people will verbally rip me to shreds.

Now any of you who have ever seen me give a workshop or heard one of my tapes are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about! After all, I get up there and tell you about my flaws as a human being and as a writer.

The thing is, I think I’m not the only one who gets scared or has self-doubts. I suspect I’m not the only one who can’t stand the thought of someone making fun of me or criticizing what I love best. And that’s why I share what I share. Because I don’t want anyone else ever to feel alone with the self-doubts or fears or worries we all have, in one form or another.

No matter what we do or how well we do it, someone will always be dissatisfied. No matter how nice we are, there will always be someone we rub the wrong way.

That’s important to understand because otherwise it’s too easy to let fear keep us from doing what we want to do or what we need to do to create the lives we want to have. It’s important to understand that not taking those steps doesn’t protect us—not really.

I’ve tried it both ways, you see. For much of my adult life I tried to play it safe. I tried to fit into the roles others expected of me. I tried to be as invisible, except for the books I wrote. I made choices that I thought would keep me safe. Until I couldn’t do it anymore.

Looking back, I can see that these choices, little by little, not only ate away at who I was, but one by one eliminated options I might otherwise have had. These choices didn’t keep me safe. I still got criticized. All I did was cut myself from knowing what I truly could achieve. I cut myself off from knowing people who would have valued who I was and what I did. I cut myself off from experiences that would have enriched my life in so many ways!

I try not to play it safe anymore, but I’m still working on breaking old patterns. I’m still learning how to handle criticism so that one dissatisfied voice doesn’t have the power to drown out all the voices of those who do respect and value what I do. I’m learning the things that make stepping outside my comfort zone a little easier and that I can survive even if something doesn’t go as well as I hoped it would. I’m discovering the good things that can come into my life when I take the risk of doing something that scares me but which will move me closer to my goals.

It isn’t easy putting myself out there when I am such a coward, but it beats the heck out of trying to play it safe! So....

Any of you out there who are also finding the courage to take new steps and try new things—GOOD FOR YOU! Celebrate each new step you take, no matter how small. Celebrate the person you are and the person you are becoming.

A few things that make it a little easier for me to stretch outside my comfort zone:
1) Asking for support from friends or family
2) Mentally rehearsing what I’m going to do
3) Reminding myself of past successes and good things that happened because I took risks
4) Wearing clothes I love
5) Doing something that makes me smile after each challenge
6) Choosing to consciously focus on what went right
7) Allowing myself to be angry about any negative feedback and then, after I’ve calmed down, looking to see what I can learn from the experience and the feedback

It can be scary to do new things but I truly believe that the riskiest thing we can do in life is try to play things too safe, especially when our world is changing so rapidly.

So I’m raising a virtual toast to all of you out there who are finding the courage to step outside your comfort zone and do new things. Because as scary as it can be, it’s worth it.

April

PS I finally began assembling bookcases this weekend to hold all my research books. They are in a "white maple" finish so they will help to keep the room feeling light and airy.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this. i really appreaciate it.

April said...

Thank you for reading here. As you can probably tell, I feel passionate about no one having to feel alone about how we all sometimes feel.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, April. Its good to know there are others who have went through the same problems. And its never too late to change. I applaud your bravery in putting these intimate ideas in front of others. God bless you!

April said...

It's so easy to feel alone with our fears. I think I feel almost a fierceness about wanting to help others know they aren't alone, that so many of the negative messages we tell ourselves are mistaken, that having fun as we move forward in new ways is the optimal strategy in life and that who we are is good enough to create happiness and success in our lives!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I really liked your post. I too have fear of whatever situation which isn't already part of /who i view myself to be/. I think this is the case with EVERYONE in the whole world, except those which are so stupid that they can't imagine what could happen to them in the future if they do x or y.

I found this post by searching on google with the words "im a coward" and found that a LOT of people, just like me, are afraid...

Now i don't feel so afraid anymore... To me - iv'e come to - fear is part of the biological makeup of human beings; it's inherent in our genes from the time when avoidance of new situations meant safety from danger. For example, if i go away from the fireplace at night, i MIGHT survive and find a safer hideout or whatever but most likely i'll be killed by a sabre-tooth... In todays world, it's not so dangerous to go out at night(well atleast where i live), write a book, speak up in public, say what you mean... whatever; but you still have that hereditary fear which stop you from doing those things!

April said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by! You're absolutely right, of course. Fear serves a purpose and we're genetically programmed for it. The challenge is for us to find ways around that fear so that we can live the lives we want to live. Often that means in a sense tricking ourselves--maybe by working on something for so short a time we can't get overwhelmed or focusing on an aspect of the situation that doesn't trigger fear so that we can move forward and discover it's not so bad after all.

Good to have the reminder that fear is part of who we are. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

common what is the point in knowing that we are not alone instead of aiding in the resolution

April said...

Anonymous,

My belief is that the better we feel about ourselves--the more accepting we are, which happens when we know we are not alone in how we feel and react--the more likely we are to find the courage to step outside our comfort zones and do the things that scare us. Every time we do that, our comfort zone expands. But it begins with accepting ourselves and our inherent strengths. Knowing there is an evolutionary benefit to fear, just as there is to foolish bravery makes it easier to do that.

Anonymous said...

I've been a coward for most my life,playing it safe with people to fit in,avoiding risky situations,making decisions out of fear,afraid of what people think or say because i want to protect my feelings, avoiding challenges! Continuing like this has destroyed my confidence and my relationship due to fear controlling my life and with me being oversensitive to people I've made my life worse with my complaining and bearing my soul to anyone has totally destroyed my social circle! I've also tryed to cover my tracks abwt things I've said to save me from persecution! Now ive come to the point in my life that I have to change in order for me to carry on with life! Living a long life of a coward is worse than living a short life if a hero!

April said...

Anonymous,

Fear begins with the stories we tell ourselves--about the world, others and who we are and/or can be. Healing comes from challenging those stories and letting go of the ones that are lies. It's amazing how life can change when we do. It also begins with learning how to love ourselves and realizing that we are lovable--often NOT something we were taught.

The irony is that when we challenge the stories and let go of the lies and learn to love ourselves, then we have so much more to offer others and life becomes FUN. Good luck with the changes you are making in YOUR life.

BipolarBowler said...

When I step outside my comfort zone it makes everyone else uncomfortable

April said...

Well, granted, one needs to step out of one's comfort zone judiciously. It's a good idea to mentally run through whatever it is we plan to do and be alert to our own likely negative behavior so that things go as well as possible. If we don't and repeatedly cause problems, others will be wary. I am NOT saying I think that happens in your case, only that I have seen it happen with people in my own life.

Thing is that even when our experiences do go well, when we step out of our comfort zone, it can trigger negative reactions in those closest to us--particlarly if they have a vested interest in us NOT changing. So...how do we handle that?

We can look at our past experiences. If problems have occurred because WE handled things badly, we can mentally rehearse handling them in a better way. If things went well but those closest to us reacted badly then we can choose to ignore those reactions. We can choose to move forward anyway. And we can gently encourage them to move out of their comfort zones and grow. But it's their choice, not ours, how they feel and act/react. Not always easy and sometimes relationships do suffer but limiting ourselves to make someone else happy doesn't really help anyone.