You’d like to start presenting to clients, but you’re afraid of looking like a deer in the headlights if they ask questions you can’t answer. So you keep thinking about it, waiting for a time when you feel more prepared. More ready. More in control.
You’ve considered telling your friends you want to publish your novel, but you can’t stand them knowing you failed if things don’t pan out. So you keep it inside, protecting your ego but reinforcing to yourself that you likely can’t do it.
You’ve decided you don’t want that job you dreamed of as a kid, but the thought of everyone thinking you gave up makes you queasy. So you keep chasing a rainbow that no longer excites you—half in it, half curious what else is out there, but wholly sure you’ll look better if you stay the course.
The potential for embarrassment motivates people to do and avoid all kinds of things against their better judgment. Statistics show more people fear public speaking than death—meaning they’d rather be hit by a bus than potentially look foolish in front of a crowd.
Research also indicates a majority of the people who get divorced had a strong feeling before getting married it wasn’t a good idea but honored their promise to avoid embarrassment.
You may not have made a lifetime commitment to save face, but if you’re like most people you’ve limited yourself to avoid that palm-sweating, heart-racing, demoralizing feeling of vulnerability at least once in your life. And you’ll have countless other opportunities to make that decision again—all moments when you can choose control or possibility.
Your boss will ask your opinion in a meeting, giving you a chance to clam up or shine. Your colleague will ask you to speak at a fundraiser, giving you a chance to cower or inspire. Your friend will ask you to join her in volley ball, giving you a chance to limit or stretch yourself.
Every day you’ll have a chance to put yourself out there to get something you want, or may not yet realize will change your world for the better. Something that could change your feelings about your potential. Something that could infuse your life with excitement, passion, and meaning.
Of course there are no guarantees when you take a risk. You could put yourself out there and find people unimpressed—but that’s actually a good sign. Everyone who has ever changed the world stood awkwardly, on sea legs to a radio-silent reception at least one time in their lives. The willingness to look foolish is a veritable prerequisite to being happy and fulfilled.
You can reject all opportunities to avoid being judged, only doing what you’re sure will impress—if you don’t mind creating a predictable tomorrow that looks a lot like yesterday. Or you can let yourself be awkward, uncomfortable, gawky, uncoordinated, unpolished, and imperfect from time to time to find out what it feels like on the other side of vulnerable.
If you’ve been there before, you already know: What’s on the other side feels like being alive. Credit to Lori Deschene