So, I was supposed to go to a writing retreat at the beach this weekend. A month ago it sounded really good and interesting and as it got closer I thought of what it would mean to spend Friday through Monday focusing on my writing with a group of women that I didn’t really know and a coach to read my work. I tend to get claustrophobic in situations like that. What if I wanted to leave and the other ladies would think I was a wimp and couldn’t handle it. What if my writing was terrible and the coach told me to go back to the drawing board but that was the best I could do, and I had nothing better to offer. What if the other women had been doing this a long time and thought that my questions were dumb since I have only been writing a blog for a month? Was it worth the risk? I guess not because I didn’t go. I stayed home and had a great weekend with my husband but a part of me was wondering if I was chickening out. I had all the perfect excuses; it is cold and rainy at the beach this time of year, I am really busy at work right now and I need relax time, I am going to New York next week and I have to do laundry and pack. These are all valid excuses but I know in my heart if I wanted to go, I would have made it happen. That brings me to a question I have about writing and art in general. How do you know when you are just scared and when you really do need to pull back and reflect and not participate in some events. Of course, it feels much better to stay home in the comfort of my house then to put myself out there for criticism and possible failure. When do I know when to push myself and when to take a step back? There are plenty of excuses and more than enough people that will support you when you take a step back. But who are the people that are going to tell you that you need to move forward, including yourself. And when does the hard push send you spiraling backwards? Can you be pushed too hard and retreat from moving towards your artistic endeavor? Because writing is so close to my heart I wound easily when someone criticizes. My current career is in the financial industry, and criticism there is par for the course, sometimes it hurts my feelings but for the most part it is all business and there are rules to follow and certain ways to behave, so I know how to navigate there without too much hurt or distress. But when I am putting ME out there, it is stressful and obviously I take it more personally. I have let the slightest glance or negative word shut my creative side down. I never know when I am being too sensitive or someone is really just being mean and judgmental. For example at the end of last year I was listening to a lot of Tony Robbins youtube videos about “going for it” in life, and his words and exercises were extremely helpful to me in finally expressing my creative side and sharing it with people. He inspired me so much so that I wanted to see him live and sign up for his coaching. I called and got an appointment with a Tony Robbins trained coach. At the set time on the set day, the coach called me to go over my goals and to help me move forward. The call started out well enough, he asked if I was in a quiet place and had a pen and paper, I told him yes. I was nervous because putting myself out there in a creative way was new to me. I knew I wanted to write and focus on women’s experiences, and create a website and a blog. Beyond that I just had vague ideas of where it was all leading and that is where I needed help. After I timidly explained this to the coach he peppered me with questions as to why I wasn’t “getting off my ass and doing it” and asked why I thought I was an expert in the field of women empowerment, what experience did I have talking about this issue, and I shouldn’t pretend I was an expert when I wasn’t. His tone was harsh and judgmental. It hurt. At the end of the call I told him that I would have to think about if I wanted to sign up for coaching, he told me I probably wasn’t a good candidate for the Tony Robbins coaching if I couldn’t tell him right then on the phone if I wanted to sign up. I hung up the phone and was so deeply hurt by the conversation. This man, Tony Robbins, that had helped me change my state and get going on my dream of showing my artistic side to the world had people working for him that were abusive and condescending. Then I remembered all the times in my life before this, especially as a young woman how people had shut me down. Why did they seem so angry? Why were they so determined to quiet my voice? They had succeeded in shutting me down in my younger years, and I kept my head down and became very successful in my career, and only wrote in my journal and hid it for no one to see. My words were dumb and my thoughts were stupid and seemed to make people angry so I really should just keep them to myself, or so I thought. So I have a long history of being nervous to show the real ME to the world and a long history of believing people when they say what I have to offer is nothing important. That is why I am scared now of writing retreats, and showing myself to people that I am not sure whether to trust yet. It will take time. I didn’t let the negative words of the Tony Robbins coach shut me down, I am writing and putting myself out there still. And, I am not angry at this coach, because the anger just spins me in a direction that I have already been. Plus if I let his negativity change my direction then that means on some level I believed his words. I don’t believe him. I was one person in the 1000s of people he talks to over the course of a year. I am long forgotten to him, but he provided me with a window to my past and actually helped me to see how far I have come. I will move forward sharing my artistic side, and I will slowly learn who I can trust. Most importantly I will learn to trust myself.