I’ve put a lot of limitations on myself in my short lifetime. I’m a fearful person. I’m afraid of going too fast in a car. I’m afraid of having to talk to people I don’t know and of speaking in public. I’m terrified of heights. I’m afraid of discomfort, awkwardness, vulnerability, messing up, offending. I’m afraid of having any opinions about politics or social issues. I’m afraid of embarrassing myself. As much as I can, I try to stay quiet so I don’t say something stupid or ignorant. I apologize for everything—for my words, my presence, for having needs, for being a person. I have an overactive guilt complex that gives me anxiety over any little thing. I’m afraid of being seen, heard, disliked, judged, made fun of.
I’m not trying to say these things in a woe-is-me, ingratiatingly self-deprecating way. I don’t think being an obsessive, navel-gazer-of-a-person is cute. I’m just learning how to be honest with myself and where I’m at. Ask my husband. I made him read this and confirm that every word is true.
At the same time, I love the person that I am and the potential that person has. I’m great at appreciating the little things in life. I’m great at listening to people. I can be selfish, but I can also care about others deeply. I’m smart. But I think the best thing about me is that I’m always seeking to grow and improve. I have grown already, little by little, for the last 26 years. Although all of the negative stuff above is true, it rules my life less than it once did.
Of course, progress is not linear and lately seems to have come to a complete halt. Some of the things I need to work on seem too daunting to tackle, and I don’t know where to begin. I’ve started to get complacent, to settle for living in fear and insecurity, and it’s driven me to a place of depression. (Another one of my fears is using the “d” word. I feel the need to caveat that I am not making any claims of having clinical depression. Is that necessary? Am I playing into mental health stigma by making this caveat? I digress.) I’m pacing the comfortable rut that I’ve dug for myself: keep your head down, do your duty, try not to ruffle feathers, try not to draw attention, stay out of things.
Early this week, I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast with Hugh Jackman. (Yes, I know, it sounds funny that the reason for this is Hugh Jackman. It is funny, and I’m owning it, okay. Go listen to it, it’s great. Although you may or may not see how I got from that to this writing project. It’s a mystery to all). Whatever cheesy stuff he was talking about, let me tell you, it gave me this crazy sense of clarity that I needed to do something drastic. That I need to start living with more awareness and more purpose. I knew that I wanted to do something, and that I wanted to write about it, and that I wanted to share it.
So, I came up with this project. The goal was to set very clear expectations and accountability, because Lord knows that otherwise I would weasel my way out. After a lot of journaling and thinking, I decided on a weekly, year-long challenge that would involve (1) action and (2) writing. A structured effort to be more engaged with the world, to think more, be more open, creative, and articulate.
Each week, I’ll choose one thing to do that’s out of my comfort zone, and I’ll write about it here. Yes, “out of my comfort zone” is subjective. I will do my best to choose things that are really out of my comfort zone, according to my level of discomfort and fear about them. There are certainly going to be some limitations due to the fact that certain things will be impossible or irresponsible due to the pandemic, but I believe I will be able to find something each week. Then, I’ll write about things I noticed and felt and learned. That’s it. Pretty simple.
For example, this week, sharing this blog on all my social media accounts and sending the link to my family and friends is the action. Because yes, I really am terrified about this kind of commitment and particularly about the vulnerability involved in sharing it with others. In fact, I’ve wanted to change my mind about posting this so many times. Thoughts include: Seriously, I am going to write publicly about like personal stuff, and emotion and other cringey stuff? Who exactly do I think would even bother reading it? Either way, it’s embarrassing. If some people read it, gross. If no one reads it, that’s just pathetic. So why do it? Stay in your lane. Stop trying to be someone you’re not.
Here’s why. I’m never going to be comfortable speaking and writing if I don’t do it. If I don’t challenge my assumptions about myself through action, I’ll never stop withdrawing from opportunities and relationships because I think I’m not up for it. If I want to contribute creatively in this life, I need to do things even if I think they have the potential to embarrass me. I can’t just read Pinterest quotes about taking risks, trying things, not being afraid of failure… I have to actually apply it and do something. Ugh.
And… here we are! This is me, doing something, putting myself out there, taking up space. I’m a person! If you made it this far, maybe you relate. Or maybe you’re just friends with me and feel obligated to read my nonsense. Either way, I appreciate you and welcome any input or thoughts that you have. We are all walking around trying to figure out how to best live our lives, and I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for reading. Please leave comments if you’ve got ideas for my list of 52 actions, which is currently hovering at a sad 17.