I am slowly changing into a different person. I feel it. My old critical reactions to situations come into my mind sometimes and before I can voice the negative words, the feeling floats away. The feeling fades, the words don’t come out of my mouth and I see the beauty in a situation. I used to be critical and judgmental of people and their actions. Why are they doing that? Why don’t they do this? I felt that somehow I knew better. I wanted to let them know that what they were attempting to do may not work out. But the question I didn’t ask myself is, ‘What will happen if it doesn’t work out?’ Maybe they will take a few wrong turns. Maybe they will fail completely and have to start again. But everyone makes mistakes and grows from them. It is a part of life. There is no perfectly straight line to achieving our goals. We all make mistakes, we all take wrong turns, and we all make bad decisions. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t learn anything.
Just like when my daughter was learning how to ride a bike, I knew with 100% accuracy that my daughter was going to fail at first. I knew without a doubt that she would fall and hurt herself. I knew there would be tears from frustration and times that she would want to give up. But I also knew that she could do it if she kept at it. I didn’t tell her to not learn how to ride a bike because she might hurt herself along the way. Actually, I did the opposite. I bought her a helmet and some training wheels and I sat her on her little pink bike. I stood by her side and cheered her on with every forward pedal. If she got too frustrated we would call it a day. I would make her some tomato soup and a grilled cheese and we would watch cartoons and relax. The next day she would be ready to try again. Why does this change as we get older? When did I become so afraid of trying new things? When did I forget how to nurture myself along the way and take a break when I got overwhelmed instead of quitting completely? When did I stop rewarding myself for my small steps forward?
I don’t think it is just me. Sometimes when I talk about my ideas, people’s eyes glaze over and they offer their opinion of all the things that may go wrong. I understand this, because I used to do the same thing. I used to think I was being helpful. I was helping them to see the pitfalls that may happen along the way. And I was right, because they did make mistakes. Did I point this out ahead of time so I could tell them ‘I told you so!’ when they failed? Why? My judgement didn’t stop them from making the mistakes. My judgement didn’t change their direction. They tried something they had never tried before and they didn’t do it perfectly the first time. It is like when my daughter was learning how to ride a bike, no one said to me, “Well, you know she is going to fall and hurt herself so maybe she shouldn’t try”. Because it was obvious that was going to happen, and everyone accepts that mistakes will be made. So, why does this logic go away? Suddenly making a wrong decision or a mistake became one of the worst things I could do. And if I failed, I would beat myself up that I had even attempted to try. It made me feel stupid and wrong, and shameful. Sometimes, I would hide the fact that I was going to try something new because there was a possibility of failure. I wanted to keep it a secret so that if I failed no one would know. Eventually I became so full of anxiety and scared of making a mistake, that I stopped trying completely.
There are no mistakes to be made by staying in the status quo. If I didn’t take any actions, then I couldn’t make any mistakes. When I felt like I was going to burst from stagnation, I would distract myself by getting drunk or taking a trip. But these distractions never lasted, and I would be back to my stagnate life of living in fear of making the wrong choice.
All of this stagnation came to a climax a little over a year ago, and I started this blog. This is when my pain of not trying became greater than my fear of failing. It was scary. I didn’t do it perfectly with my first blog post. I was terrified of hurting someones feelings. When I first started writing I didn’t talk about people directly in my blog. It was always some ‘person’ did this or that. My friends would try and guess later who this ‘person’ was. Most of the time they would guess wrong and it led to more confusion. This would give me anxiety as I would try and explain what I was trying to say. In trying to minimize my chance of getting hurt, I was actually creating a situation that gave me more hurt and anxiety because I wasn’t being honest. I wasn’t fully putting myself out there for fear of failure. I was scared of making a mistake and it showed.
I have compassion for that person that I was. And I also have admiration for her because as scared as she was, she kept moving forward. I kept challenging myself even when everything in my body wanted to stop. Even when I would sit at my computer with sweaty palms and a churning stomach, I still did it. And I made mistakes! But instead of throwing in the towel, I learned from them and moved forward. When I am sitting alone at my computer typing away, editing and rereading, I still get scared that people will not understand what I am trying to say. I am still afraid of failure.
Some people may judge me and point out the mistakes I have made and will continue to make. Yes, I agree, I will make mistakes, 100% guaranteed I will. But in spite of that fact, I am putting on my helmet, getting on my bike and slowly pedaling down my path. I know I will fall again but that is ok. I have learned to make myself some tomato soup and a grilled cheese and take a break. And then the next day, I get back on my bike and try again.