My family used to do this thing during Family Home Evening where we would take turns getting the "praise spotlight," and everyone else would share what they like about that family member. When it was my time for the spotlight, most of my family's comments would involve them saying I was "brave" and "determined." They decided that I was good at going after things I wanted, doing my darnedest until I got there.
While that might have been true at one point of my teenage life (why am I reversing the order of progress most humans go through?! Why?!), the truth is that I am anything but "brave." The truth is I'm darn-right scared out my mind most of the time! Even mundane tasks can give me the heeby-jeebies.
Fear has stopped me from doing a lot of things and made me quit more times than I can count. Here's a short list, by way of example, of things I quit out of fear:
1) Ballet/Dancing: more on that to follow.
2) Flute: I didn't make the advanced band at BYU and I was afraid to try again, so I basically stopped playing except for the occasional church number.
3) Musical Production/Singing/Acting: I also didn't make something at BYU and I have never tried out for anything ever again.
4) Track: I participated for three full days of track as a sophomore in high school. I somehow believed that I should be able to do the high jump like my older sister, and after failing to clear the bR even once, I never came back. (In hindsight, I really should have done the running events instead.)
5) Piano: I wasn't going anywhere with it, so what was the point of continuing lessons?
6) See this post for a lot more on this.
The list of things I have wanted to do as an adult but never even started because I was scared would be miles long. They include things like racing triathlons, going back to school, starting new hobbies (sewing, photography, and up until now, blogging), swimming for exercise, submitting my writing to anything, a whole gamut of home projects, and on and on.
Let me talk more about ballet for a second.
I started dancing at three/four years old. I was at a local ballet studio, but one that was well respected, with really great teachers, most of whom were retired professional dancers and heavy on the technique. Throughout grade school and jr. high, dancing was a real passion for me. I thought about it around the clock. Each time I was in the studio, I pushed myself until my muscles shook through every combination and I was wet with sweat. I loved it too much to see that I wasn't particularly great at it.
High school started and other interests started taking up more of my time. It was also beginning to become clear to me that while I loved, LOVED dancing, I wasn't really going to go anywhere with it. (Darn you, bad turnout!) My confidence in dancing all but disappeared as I compared myself to others in my classes--they had better turnout, higher legs, stronger muscles, and more bones showing through their leotards. And actually, to be brutally honest, it was that last phrase that really stood out to me because although I couldn't get my hips to open up any wider than they were pre-destined to, I most certainly could control how bony those hips were. But to my intense humiliation, I was no longer able to keep up my pre-prubescent frame, nor keep away from the midnight jr. bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy's with my best friend.
My decision to stop dancing didn't come after a week or two of feeling that way. Rather, it was a slow, but steady stream of insecure thoughts, of shakily comparing myself with my fellow dancers in my peripheral vision, of feeling dread as my classes approached, and of a heightened distaste for what I saw in the mirror. During my busy junior and senior years, I gradually attended my lessons less and less, until just a few months before graduation, I stopped showing up all together. I blamed my schedule. I was too busy and I'd be on a trip and miss the final recital anyway; what was the use of having my parents pay for lessons that I was too busy to attend? But that wasn't the truth. The truth was I could not stand to see myself in a leotard one. more. day. Even the thought of looking at my reflection in the mirror while doing the barre combinations made me feel shaky and like a failure. So, instead I basically threw away a thirteen+ year long passion because I was afraid, afraid not only of not being good enough, but of not looking good enough.
My confidence is still completely shaken with dancing and I seriously have a phobia of if now. (Can someone verify that this is even a legitimate phobia? What could it be called? Danceranaphobia?) It terrifies me to even dance at a wedding. I'm like, "What do I do with my hands?!"
Now I am a full-fledged adult. (Approaching 30 with three young kids kind of proves that.) I have officially grown weary of being scared, and even more tired of letting fear win over and over, whether it's small (such as just tearing out the fireplace tile that I hate, for goodness sake!) or much bigger (such as having a difficult conversation with a family member).
I'd like to see some more of that Old Monica again, the one with passion and determination, the one who had grit and did things because she wanted to, dang it! I've been dipping my toes into facing my fears head on (faith post, I'm looking at you!), and so far, it's going surprisingly well. My life is by no means suddenly transformed and super awesome, but a weight is noticeably beginning to lift, a weight of angst and fear that seems to always get in the way of even imagining goals for myself.
So, I'd like to start something officially. And I'd like you to join me.
Do something that scares you.
Have you always wanted to run a 5K, but don't know where to start? Do that.
Have you thought about creating an Instagram account or blog devoted to your favorite past time? Do that.
Have you wondered what it would be like to ask for that raise, to have that hard conversation, to bring up that question, to try that hobby, to join that group, to sign up for that class, to read that book, to go visit that place, or to dream that dream? DO THAT!
Do something that scares you.
It doesn't have to be big; you can start with a phone call to insurance that you've been putting off. It can be buying some dang running shoes so you'll eventually try even running down your block and back. It can be deep-breathing instead of eating a pint of ice cream when you're feeling all the feelings.
It doesn't have to be life-changing, but it can be that too. It can be calling an important person who did you wrong, or who you even wronged yourself. It can be asking someone to invest in your idea, to invest in you. It can be signing up for that a new degree, pursuing that new career. It can be calling a therapist, because you are sinking more than swimming.
It doesn't matter what it is, just do something that scares you.
I'm doing it too. I strapping back on that proverbial leotard, I'm pushing aside the last 12 years of fear since I quit, and I'm stepping back into a dance studio.
I'll be attending an adult ballet class next Monday night and the thought of it makes me want to hurl. But it also makes me a little excited. It's small, I know. It's silly; this I know too. But dancing scares me, and I'm doing it. Fear, you are my b*atch!
I'm going to report back, and I want you to report, too. You can comment here or message me privately, even if it's just to share what you'd even like to do, or to share what fear you have faced head-on. I've set up an email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'd love to hear what you've done--however big or small--and include a picture too, if you'd like! Let's do this together, because there's less fear in numbers.
Do something that scares you!