We ease our way into comfy comfort zones and nettle under metaphoric warm covers telling ourselves, “I’m not ready”, or “I shouldn’t say anything”. We switch conversations in our heads and recite long lists of reasons for holding back. It’s all so easy and natural, undetectable because we’ve been doing it forever. It all makes sense though, considering that we are built to stay away from anything we judge as “scary”. And I’m not talking about a walk in the dark woods or fighting off a shark in deep waters. As a young girl, I was afraid of saying something dumb or feeling embarrassed after making a mistake. I used to be scared of asking questions in class and asking for help from teachers back when I was in school. I was afraid of tall roller coasters and new foods. I was afraid of the dancefloor and many other social settings. Worst of all, I was afraid of expressing my thoughts out loud.
My shield was reminding myself, “I’m shy”. It was always easy to hold back because, “I’m shy”. It was the perfect guard because it’s true. I was being honest with myself, but I was missing something important. During a conversation with my mentor, she said, “everything you’re saying comes from the fear of judgment, not being shy”. I still didn’t understand what she meant, but she then asked, where exactly is the fear of judgement? “Everywhere”, I said. People are so judgmental, ready to laugh, point fingers, and ridicule. People can be mean and even cruel. I was being honest, but my mentor asked again. Where is the fear of judgement? Then she made the details clear for me.
All of what you’re saying is true, she said, but have you noticed that many people dance as if no one is watching, express their thoughts effortlessly, and do all sorts of scary things? They ask questions before, during, or after class. And most importantly, they are fine with asking for help. Why? Because the fear of judgment is in our own thoughts – not out there, anywhere. People do scary things because they’re not allowing their own judgmental thoughts to get in the way. Progress, pride and growth come from calculated risks and asking for help because life is difficult and complicated sometimes. Doing so makes aiming high and getting what we want even more possible. Mean people do exist, but should they stop us from going after our most ambitious desires? It’s obvious and natural to say “no”, but I did for as far back as I could remember. It made me mad when I thought about it, but that anger also pushed me to never allow myself to go there again.
I learned to care less and less about what others might be thinking. I learned to understand and care more about me. I kept thinking that I needed to move beyond being shy. I thought that being shy was holding me back, but I realize that being shy is who I am. What I took from many conversations overtime is that I can be shy, and voice my thoughts. I can be shy, and move forward alongside others who will help me. I can be shy, and go after what I want with ambition. I can be shy and expressive. I can be shy, and also courageous. Since then, I’ve learned to choose courage over comfort. It’s still uncomfortable to do scary things, but I’ve become obsessed with that feeling of pride that comes after doing scary things. I don’t mind being shy anymore. I like the idea of being shy and still moving beyond comfy comfort zones. Sometimes, I’ve found myself in scary situations, but now I do what’s in my heart and mind anyway.