"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So, what the hell, leap."
- Cynthia Heimel
I recently read these words and instantly fell in love with their message. Many of the women I work with have struggled with this inability to “leap.” They hold themselves back, creatively and otherwise. They consider and reconsider their next steps, often second guessing themselves. They worry and try to predict what other people might say. They walk right to the edge of growth and then turn back because it seems too risky. They doubt themselves, and stay in their safety zone, primarily because of the fear of being criticized or judged.
Obsessively worrying about what others think can be a difficult thought pattern to break, but with a bit of awareness, a plan, and some support it is completely doable. The truth is we all struggle with this particular type of fear at different times in our lives, regardless of age, emotional maturity, or self-confidence. We all have mental blocks, blind spots, and unconscious social conditioning. Our human brains were wired by evolution to want others to accept us socially. After all, social disapproval in pre-historic times could quite literally spell death. If you were kicked out of your tribe or shunned, there was no way you would survive.
On top of this biological drive, we women are often conditioned by society to be people pleasers and rule followers. Yes, we've come a long way, but women in particular, because of their ‘tend and befriend’ conditioning, are more sensitive to social rejection and harsh judgement. We may tell ourselves that we don't care what others think of us, but we are deluding ourselves. We do care. A lot more than we want to admit.
This fear of judgement is what makes us feel slightly uncomfortable about eating at a restaurant alone. It’s what makes so many people terrified of public speaking. It’s what makes parents care a little too much about how many AP classes their kids take and what colleges they get into. In its most extreme form, it compels some people to get married before they are ready to a person that they are not in love with, because it seems like the right thing to do. Whether it’s deep down or right on the surface, we all have an insecure social survival instinct that we need to be aware of so we can make a conscious effort to lessen its power.
Before I started Walking Your Talk, I had to have an epic battle with my worry brain, because it came out in full force. What I call ‘the bad thoughts’ would creep in and start to grow louder and louder. I would start to worry about what other people would think of me and my business. This worry would bring any progress I had made to a standstill. It especially inhibited my creative side, which I rely on for so many things from working directly with clients to designing my website or writing a blog post.
Thankfully, I have a loving and supportive family. I feel safe enough to take this risk, and to really put myself out there. Inherent in this risk was the fact that, yes, at times I may appear to others to be a complete idiot. Like the time I proudly announced on Linked-in that I was a personnel development coach instead of a personal development coach (I blame autocorrect). I know I will continue to make some mistakes, but I plan to learn from them.
Nowadays, when I feel myself holding back, doubting or hesitating, for fear of what others may think, I am usually able to get past this obstacle by telling myself the following truths:
#1. I started this business because I truly believe it helps women in deeply powerful ways.
#2. People don't think about what I'm doing half as much as I think they do.
#3. What matters most is that I stay true to myself and use my authentic voice. I will walk my own talk and embrace the hard things in life.
#4. Thinking too much about how others may perceive me will only shut down my creative channels and limit my capacity for growth.
#5. People who worry too much about pleasing others often lead exceptionally boring lives.
#6. There are certain key figures in my life who will always trigger my primitive fear-based brain, but I am aware of this dynamic, and I can protect myself by limiting my communication with them or more directly, telling them to bugger off.
#7. I tell myself to just LEAP, already!
Over the past year, my 14-year-old daughter has become enamored with all things makeup. She loves watching make up videos on YouTube and learning different techniques from makeup artists or MUA’s. She is not afraid to wear bright colors and create dramatic looks and I'll admit, she is rather good at it. At first, I was very resistant to and critical of this new interest. I would tell her, as we were on our way to school, that I thought she was wearing too much makeup and that she looked beautiful without make up. She would get upset, say she wasn't wearing it to look pretty. She would become defensive and shut down. Giving her my unsolicited opinion was a surefire way to start the day off on the wrong foot.
My wise sister brought it to my attention that wearing make-up was actually a really safe way for a teenager to express herself. Her comments helped me to take a step back and look at what exactly it was that was really bothering me. The truth of it is, I was worried about what other people would think of her. Once I realized that this was the root of my concern, I told myself to get over it and I stopped bugging her about it. I began noticing the artistry behind her application and complementing my daughter on her skills. I still prefer her sans makeup, but she knows that, so there is no point in repeating this opinion.
One day in the car, I brought up the fact that others may judge her negatively for wearing make-up. She was quiet for a second and then said, “Well, that sucks.” “Yup,” I agreed. “I guess it does.” This acknowledgement did nothing to dissuade her from her artistic make-up experiments. She is expressing herself in a very authentic way, and that makes me extremely proud. My daughter is a creative, intelligent, unique and kind person. She holds herself to remarkably high standards in her academic and athletic performance. What the heck do I care if other people judge her for wearing artsy make up. Go ahead, Elise, express your amazing self. What the hell, Leap.
Want more info about walking with Elaine? go here: WYT