This is my mantra.
I’ve not always been a particularly fearful person. I climbed trees as a kid. I hike alone. I frequently travel by myself. I don’t avoid airplanes. I talk to strangers and approach dogs.
Yet when it comes to opening myself up, I’m a coward. I’ve been that way most of my life. One of my ten defining moments (thank you, Dr. Phil) was in a middle school class called “Creativity” when my teacher Mrs. Marshall wanted to hang my poem on the gallery wall. I was proud of that poem. It came from my heart. But because it came from my heart, my heart would be pinned up on that wall, exposed to all.
I said no.
I’ve always wondered if the trajectory of my life would have been different had I said yes. It’s an easy thing to say no. It’s safe. Nobody can hurt what they don’t know is there. But what if I had said yes? What if my poem being on display would have resulted in support and true praise. Would I have been inspired to keep creating for others, instead of just for myself?
I’ve written before about my first blog post, how my finger hovered over that enter key for what seemed like hours. My stomach did flip-flops. I knew I would feel exposed, all my tender parts wide open to the predators. But that’s not what happened. People were supportive and encouraging. I became a part of communities. And gradually I built confidence.
My battle with fear began after a battle with cancer. There’s nothing like facing your own mortality to help you reevaluate your life and choices. That’s when I took on the mantra, “what would you do if you were not afraid?” And I started doing those things. I went back to school and became a teacher. I took on my first class. I spoke up at meetings. I created a blog. And life became deeper and richer. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my life of being a mom to my kids. I’d just been doing it from a blind, a bunker, looking out and staying hidden.
To this day, my kids know me best. It took a lot for me to open up to my adult friends. It took a long time for me to participate in book club conversation. (I wear anxiety like I’m holding a squirmy toddler.) But every time I did it, every time I let myself feel the flip-flopping of my stomach and the hot flush of embarrassment, it got a little better. Brick by painful brick, I built my confidence.
I still battle fears. I don’t like opening myself up to being judged. That’s my kryptonite. But I find joy in my journey and where I am now on my life’s path. I have a blog. I have my art in a gallery. I have art online. I still hope to write a book.
Good things are out there.
What would you do if you were not afraid?