Today my beautiful eldest daughter came home from school after taking part in her class assembly where she had to stand up alongside her class mates and speak in front of the whole school and parents.
To me she was the perfect and as I watched on with dewy eyes at my darling little girl flourishing and growing I felt overwhelmed with pride.
However when she arrived home I began to praise her for how well she spoke and how proud I was of her. She told me that she was scared and really didn’t want to do it… That it had made her nervous enough to have a tummy ache all day…
I wrapped my arms around her and continued to praise her and go onto tell her about all the things that have scared me so far in life, but that sometimes it’s good to be scared and face the fear…
My little girls admission about being scared got me thinking about one of the scariest moments in my life so far and continues to be!
4 years ago I decided to do something I’d always longed to do: I started my own business. Not only was it a new venture, my business would be based around myself—my skills, knowledge, and experiences.
My emotions swung from terrified to awkward.
It’s been exciting, but not in the least bit comfortable.
But I had my secret weapon. Over the years I’ve gathered a group of people who “get” me. People who love and approve of me and what I do. I’ve always felt like this tribe insulated me from the feelings of exposure and judgment I might get from others and myself.
One person in particular, who’s been my teacher on one of my courses, is someone I particularly admire. I basked in the warm glow of their encouragement and positive feedback; I felt approved of, nurtured, and safe.
I was utterly clueless about starting a business I find myself stumbling my way through blindly, learning and correcting as I go along.
But one thing I learned is that I was much more tenacious than I’d first thought. There were lots of challenges, but I overcame or circumnavigated them. I kept moving forward. I felt a little bit proud of myself.
I am gradually becoming more courageous and starting to share more of the real me- complete with opinions, imperfections, and history.
Work started to come in—a trickle, but definitely a move in the right direction. As I took my wobbly steps one after the other, I started to feel stronger. My tribe was great supportive and really encouraging. It felt good.
Apart from one thing.
The teacher I admired so much didn’t seem approving. In fact, they seemed critical and dismissive of what I was doing.
And I felt crushed.
When we’re trying something new we can feel fragile, and any little thing can dent our confidence and break our resolve. It’s even more acute when we’re putting ourselves out there, whether that is through our creative work or our personal stories.
When someone doesn’t approve of our work, it’s like they don’t approve of us. And this is painful—especially when the person in question is someone we admire and crave approval from.
I so wanted them to get it—to support and champion what I was doing.
Their response was somehow harder to deal with.
They were dismissive and uninterested.
I bundled up my courage and asked if something was wrong.
“No,” came the reply, complete with furrowed brow and an edge of confusion in their voice. “I don’t really get what you’re doing. For me, it doesn’t work.”
Because all of this self-growth stuff is a journey without a destination (the journey is the destination) I know that I would have responded in different ways at different times in this journey. Here are some past options:
1. Stop completely. This feels too hard/scary and unsafe. I am obviously not good enough and certainly not strong enough to carry on.
2. Stop, retreat, and go back to my original, “safe” world. Try and replicate whatever advice my teacher gives me, encompassing their philosophy, beliefs, and experience. I disappear but at least I don’t risk feeling unloveable.
3. Rationalise their behaviour; put it down to envy at my emerging success, or insecurity on their part for moving on from their teachings. I mean what’s their problem?
4. Carry on, feeling the pain but moving through it anyway.
To be honest, all of these were tempting. Having an excuse not to be “out there” feeling exposed and vulnerable was very enticing. I could go back to being safe, anonymous, and totally invisible.
Even though it would be like silently dying inside everyday.
So that wouldn’t really be a viable option then! I needed to do something different. I needed a shift of perspective. My teacher isn’t a cruel or vicious person, and it wasn’t meant to wound me. So why was I hurt that what I was doing didn’t work for them?
That was it; that was the shift I needed. Instead of beating myself up and falling into a pit of “what’s wrong with me?” I realised it wasn’t about me at all.
So this was the response I chose instead:
Realise that we’re on different paths. I don’t need to be approved of and 100% of what I do to be liked. It’s my thing.
I don’t need everyone to appreciate the same things as me. My sense of self isn’t entirely dependent on what other people think. I’m still human; of course it still feels great when other people affirm me, but I don’t need it to still be okay with myself.
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway