When I was a kid, I thought being famous had to be the best job in the world: everyone taking your picture, clamoring for your autograph and hanging on your every word. Never a moment of insecurity or doubt about your self-worth or inherent awesomeness.
I remember my last night as a grade-schooler, unable to sleep as I pondered my upcoming first day on the big bad junior high campus. Instead of the same familiar pack of munchkins I’d been running with since kindergarten, I’d now be forced to meet an entire legion of new students.
And I was terrified.
In this age of people sharing everything from their lunchtime burger to their family vacations on social media, it would seem that none of us have a problem being seen.
But being looked at isn’t the same as being truly seen.
It’s not a big risk to share a meme or join in the latest Facebook argument over whether we just swore in the savior of the free world or a misogynistic Cheeto. But revealing your whole, true self to the world (and no, half-naked selfies don’t count)…that’s an entirely different animal.
And it’s easier said than done. I know, because I wasn’t willing to do it for a very long time.
Like, oh…for about four decades.
“I’m only human.”
I used to say that all the time. Usually when I was failing miserably at something and wanted to deflect any suggestion that I should step up my game.
“I can’t write a book. I’m too busy. “
“I can’t create a website. Technology hates me.”
“How am I supposed to eat a salad when a perfectly good pan of brownies is in grave danger of going stale?”
I’m only human.
But while those three little words provided me with a handy-dandy hall pass for avoidance, it always felt wrong. Like I was using my status as a mere mortal as an excuse to not rise higher. To achieve all that I knew I was capable of.
So, what’s wrong with declaring yourself to be human?
“You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.”
I’m not sure who originated that quote, but I’d always accepted it as true. After all, there are lots of ways to create more cash.
Invent something the world can’t live without.
Find a better job.
Have a garage sale.
Beg, borrow or steal (not highly recommended unless you want to stand on a street corner, pay interest or get arrested).
But there can’t possibly be a way to make more time, right?
I still remember the day that I gave notice at my last corporate job. I was nervous, shaky and borderline nauseous. Yet I was also elated to be starting a new (and definitely comfort zone busting) stage of my life. When I explained my situation to my boss, she was thankfully awesome about it. We moved forward amicably and set about arranging for me to wrap things up before my last day two weeks later.
And then I had a totally bizarre experience with one of my co-workers that completely befuddled me.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Normally, that phrase is said with irony after some outlandish statement. (“This cake contains anti-oxidant laden dark chocolate, plus protein rich milk and eggs. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me to be shoveling it in my mouth at six-thirty in the morning. Pretty sure Jillian Michaels eats a slice right before she bench presses a truck.”)
I have definitely used sticking to my story in defense of breakfast cake (and will continue to do so). But I’ve also employed it in some less frivolous scenarios. Like sticking to a story I really wanted to write when it just wasn’t working.
We all have a back catalogue of things we regret doing or saying. And unfortunately, it’s all-too-available for us to use against ourselves when Life uses our self confidence as a piñata.
When we’re already low, our monkey minds go to town…blowing up minor missteps into irrefutable proof that we are complete idiots:
The time you choked during your presentation and forgot the name of your own company.
That stellar moment when you asked your co-worker when she was due. And she wasn’t pregnant.
The night where you had one (or three) too many at cousin Barb’s wedding and assaulted the dance floor with gyrations that looked like MC Hammer on peyote buttons.
One of my favorite things to do is encourage people. Especially those with long harbored creative dreams. Probably because they are usually the first ones to sell themselves short.
My mother was a beautiful poet. I still have one of her journals filled with some of the most touching verses I’ve ever read.
But she never shared her gift with the world. In fact, she once told me a long time ago that she had started a novel. But after 165 pages of hand written text, she stopped writing.
And tore it all up.
I am firmly convinced that each of us is here for a very specific reason. To share a precious gift with the world that only we possess.
But how many of us act on that conviction?
I’m not pointing fingers. Well, except maybe at myself. Because I have had a rich history of nodding my head in agreement with the concept of living your dream, yet fleeing like my ass was on fire when faced with the action steps that go with it.
I confess, I am a sucker for talent shows. Okay, so they’re cheesy, overproduced and hosted by vapid mannequins with serious self tanning issues. But I can’t help it. Every time I see one of the hopeful contestants take the stage, I am drawn in. Not just by their stunning voices, but the bravery and backstories that got them there. As I listen, I am praying that they don’t have to go back to anything that involves a cubicle or wearing a giant rat costume for a herd of screaming five year olds eating pizza. Considering my own shower-and-car-only voice, I believe each and every one of them should be the next world dominating superstar.
But then they’re eliminated. And I fall prey to the same insta-thought that nearly everyone else does:
“Well, they didn’t make it. Back to obscurity.”
But really…says who?