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.


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.