I have been stuck on a topic for my first true blog post for, well, nearly a month. Why? I’m a self-diagnosed perfectionist. I have at least 3 different drafts of posts that I’ve started because I had a really great idea on an interesting topic that I just. couldn’t. put. together. The writer in me wants to have several rough drafts, proofread at least a dozen times, and only release my thoughts to the world when they have been perfectly combed through and curated. But that’s honestly NOT why I started this blog in the first place. Yes, writing is a part of it. But more importantly I wanted to put my thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned out into the world to help others along their own life journey, while simultaneously creating something that my future daughter (or son) will be able to read and be proud of. So, what better topic to start with than being perfectly imperfect.
If you know me personally, you know that I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person. I believe that the Universe speaks to me in ways that I need to hear in the exact moment that I need to hear them. The Universe spoke to me when I came across this quotation: “Perfection is stagnation.” I had all the momentum and JOY of starting a blog, but it quickly fizzled out. I let my perfectionism cause me to become stagnant in my pursuit of my purpose. Why? We can deep dive into a psychoanalysis of some deep seated reason from my childhood. But I think I have a better answer.
FEAR. I have so much fear around being vulnerable and about speaking my truth about my view of life. I always like to keep my thoughts close to myself because there I can process them without speaking something out loud that someone will then have the opportunity to judge and give meaning to. But let’s be realistic, we all have fear of some kind. Career speakers and writers may look at my fear of hitting the “publish” button at the top of my screen and chuckle because it’s so simple and something that they do every single day. Fear is something that will literally paralyze you if you let it. It will keep you bogged down like quicksand. The incredibly beautiful thing is that you have the ability to greet your fear as a friend and embrace it. You can instead give it another meaning and allow it to motivate you and give you the push to start the ball rolling down the hill. After quite a bit of time and introspection, I have learned the following things about fear and how to give it new power in your life:
1) Fear is often caused by a lack of confidence. Confidence is something that you can practice and build over time, no one is born perfectly confident.
2) No human being on this Earth is without fear. It is a valid emotion and part of the human experience. To live life thinking that other people just have something that you do not have because you think they are fearless is simply naïve and doesn’t serve you.
3) Being brave is not the absence of fear, it is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Emotions do not have to be mutually exclusive to be valid and true.
So what are some tangible things that you can do to help you work through your fears? You can work to gradually build confidence over time through a variety of activities. First, sit down and journal. YES, I do mean an old school journal with pen and paper. There is something psychological about handwriting your thoughts rather than typing them out. It gives them much more weight and meaning than something you can easily delete with the touch of a button. Journal about something that you are REALLY fearful of, no matter how silly you think it sounds. Write about what that feels like inside: do you feel your muscles tense, maybe you’re sick to your stomach, do you clench your teeth? Write about what thoughts this thing makes you feel about yourself. When you are able to recognize the physiological response to something, you become familiar with it. I’ll give you a personal example:
I loathe public speaking. It makes me anxious, makes me sick on my stomach, the muscles in my upper body tense. I feel like I’m going to say something silly and stutter over my words. I worry people will think that I’m a fraud or won’t actually know what I’m talking about. What if they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to?
Over time I have become very familiar with what the fear of public speaking feels like in my body. I recognize it when it happens and while I have worked on this skill, it still happens every. single. time. I have practiced this skill and sought out opportunities to work on this quite a bit. When I first started speaking, I was downright terrible. I stammered, said “ummm” way too often, fidgeted with my hands. After quite a bit of practice and learning from people that I felt were very good speakers, A.K.A. “fearless” people, I have fine tuned this skill. But the greatest lesson I have learned thus far is that you should never want to stop feeling that fear. Fear is your body’s way of giving you some kind of information and your big, beautiful brain wants to search for the meaning of that information. Instead of saying, “Wow, I’m really scared to do this thing,” what if you said, “Wow, I really care about this thing. I am EXCITED about this thing.” You get to decide what it means to you when your body sends you those fear signals. You get to build your confidence in your ability to do the thing you are afraid of and each time you feel the fear, it will paralyze you just a little bit less.
Disclaimer: please do not fall into the trap of thinking that you will magically wake up one day and automatically exhibit these behaviors. Please do not give into the lie that you are failing if you know this is a specific area that you want to work on, but you catch yourself falling into familiar thought patterns. These emotions are deeply ingrained within you and frankly are a biological response. They are there for a reason to keep you safe. You shouldn’t want to override the system completely. But what is something you can do today that will move you a little bit closer to building your confidence and embracing your fear? What is one step that you can take in the right direction? You have everything within you that you need to become the perfectly imperfect version of yourself that you want and are meant to be. All it takes is that first step….