I've been thinking about vulnerability lately. I suspect that's because this blog just passed one million views, I'm working with my editor on my book and recently did a reading of a chapter for an audience of about 100 people. All this is wonderful and I'm so grateful but it also kind of feels like standing naked in front of a football stadium.
Therefore, I've been thinking about what it means to put yourself out there, letting yourself be seen for the truth of who you are, and standing courageously to take whatever comes - praise, criticism or a sarcastic slow-clap of indifference.
I don't know about you, but that sounds scary as hell to me.
I doubt I'm alone with this. I see people struggling with perfectionism and fear of failing all the time.
Not wanting to ask for the raise or promotion at work.
Not wanting to try a new yoga class because other people might be more flexible.
Not wanting to bring up the difficult conversation that needs to be discussed.
So, what do we do about it? It's easy to look at someone else and tell them to go for it and no one at yoga cares what you look like and communication is important. But how do we do that for ourselves when we are terrified to fail at our jobs, fail with our friends, fail at being perfect?
I don't know the answer, but I wonder if there isn't peace and beauty to be found in the ordinary. In America, we are obsessed with the extraordinary. We think we need to be famous, or be in the top 1% of whatever, or do something that no one else has ever accomplished.
It doesn't have to be that way. We don't tend to expect that from anyone other than ourselves. It is possible to let go and enjoy our imperfection. Because in our imperfection, we find our individuality, our spirit, our joy. The people I love and respect most are the ones who embrace their beautifully flawed human-ness.
I had this thought recently:
When I'd rather fail than quit, everything becomes possible.
I've been held back by being afraid to fail for too long.
What if people think I'm a terrible writer?
What if I really am as washed up and irrelevant as anonymous HuffPo commenters say?
What if I make spelling mistakes in my blog posts?
I'm tired of living in fear that I might fail or look stupid or fall on my face.
But on the other hand -- I might not.
(Okay, when it comes to spelling in blog posts, I definitely will make mistakes, but luckily you readers are kind enough to gently point those out without too much ridicule.)
The point is that I might be able to reach people and connect and make some sort of a difference somehow - and that possibility is too valuable to give up just because I'm feeling like a scaredy cat. It seems that lots of people have an opinion about my life. I just need to remember that my opinion counts, too. In fact, it counts most.
So when I saw this sign while I was out for a walk, it totally stopped me in my tracks.
What would I do if I were free from worry and fear and self-doubt? What would I do if I stopped being so concerned about seeming perfect? What would I do if I had faith that I was fully capable of picking myself up even if I did fall on my face?
But it just might be fun.
(For more on perfectionism and vulnerability - check out the staggeringly insightful Brené Brown.)