Don’t text first – you don’t want them to have the upper hand. Don’t take part in that talent show – you might mess up and become a laughingstock. Don’t ask for a promotion at work – what if they say no??
How many things do we, every day, prevent ourselves from doing because of the “what if”s? And the better question: why do we let them stop us?
We’ve begun to put too much value in the idea of being “chill”. It’s not cool to let people know you care. Letting your guard down and showing your imperfections has become taboo in this world of “cool girls” who don’t give an eff.
I can see the allure in building those walls around yourself. If you don’t let anyone in, they can’t hurt you. You can’t fall victim to heartbreak, humiliation, or rejection. It’s a good defence system, but it’s not just the painful feelings that you’re keeping out. With those self-preserving defences on high alert, you’re also keeping out the joy.
Just think of the things you’ve avoided doing out of fear of the “what if”s. The time you chose to sit out while everyone else sang karaoke, because you didn’t want to be laughed at. The guy you never asked out because you were sure he’d say no. The job you never applied for because surely the manager would think you were delusional for efver thinking you were good enough. Okay, so you might have avoided a few tears along the way. Sometimes you crash and burn, sometimes things go wrong. But what if things hadn’t gone wrong? You could have had a fabulous night, a beautiful romance, or an exciting new career. But hey, better safe than sorry…
By staying safe and avoiding the sorry, you’re missing out on the best parts of life. One of the most amazing parts of the human existence is the full range of emotions that we are capable of feeling. In order to experience that though, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Vulnerability is key. No one benefits from pretending to be invincible; you simply limit yourself to a small, safe life.
Take a chance. Tell people how you feel. Make an idiot of yourself. The worst-case-scenario isn’t always that bad. Every heartbreak, every humiliation, every rejection of your life so far – you’ve survived. And you’ve likely learned from every one of them. The chance that things could go right for you is just a bonus.
Every yoga class I teach, I’m setting myself up to be judged by a roomful of people. Granted, yogis are generally nice people, but for all I know, they could be sitting there judging every move I make. My imperfections are out there waiting to be picked on, any time I wobble in a pose, or stutter my words. There’s a plethora of ways I could mess up and embarrass myself, and I do – often! For someone who used to be terribly shy and self-conscious, that’s terrifying.
That vulnerability that opens us up to failure is also what makes wonderful, rewarding things happen. I continue to teach my classes because I get such joy from it. In life, we sometimes need to do the same – do the things that we’re afraid of doing – in order to experience that joy. If you don’t accept that risk, you’ll miss out on so, so much of life. No one is perfect, no one is immune to hurt feelings. We might as well embrace that, and open our hearts to the good and the bad.
Let yourself feel all the feelings, and don’t worry about being chill. There’s no joy in chill. Be silly and imperfect and brave and embarrassing and all the other things you’re too afraid to be. Be vulnerable. That’s what invites the joy into your life.
Sending you all the love and good vibes,