In high school, I was the popular girl. Co-captain of the cheerleading team. Senior class president. Voted "most school spirit" and active in the church youth group. I played the good girl role well, and sometimes when I look back at her, I cringe. I was, outwardly, a stereotype. I joke that I was a cross between Sandy and Patty Simcox, and my inner Rizzo was clawing to come out. The part of me that wanted to shatter the facade, tell it like it is and live a little.
But inside that bubble of "small town popular girl" I felt safe. That protective wall shielded me from a lot of pain. Inside that wall, I felt loved. I felt like I mattered. I felt like people saw me, if only a part of me. And somewhere along the way, I began to rely on that praise and positive attention. I felt like I didn't exist without it.
Just days before I quit my job in TV news, I had coffee with a friend of mine. He's a personal trainer (so actually he had a green tea with no sugar, and I had a high calorie foamy yummy latte), and he's also one of the most good-spirited people I've ever met. When I told him I was thinking about changing careers, he recommended the book Who Moved My Cheese? I bought it the same day and when I flipped through the pages, this question jumped out at me:
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
I decided to take a walk. Once outside, I shifted my focus to the sky. I could feel the quiet rising up all around me. I knew what I wanted—really wanted—was to use my gifts and talents in new and more creative ways. And that's when I came to terms with my biggest fear:
I was terrified of becoming irrelevant. Insignificant. If the proof of my work wasn't broadcast live on the evening news, then what would that say about me? About my success? Did stepping out of the spotlight make me a failure? Unimportant?
That day, I heard a voice. Let go of the struggle.Let go of the quest to be somebody.You aresomebody. You are enough. You are whole. Regardless of who sees you. Even if no one sees you. I knew those words were coming from someplace bigger than me. Someplace honest and someplace safe. And it gave me the courage to break through the chains of fear and move on with my life.
Here's one of the biggest things I've come to realize: the voice of my soul wants me to use my gifts of writing and communicating with audiences just as much as my ego does. My soul reminds me that I am an artist. It assures me that the need to express myself creativitely, to tell stories and connect with others is a calling, my purpose.
My ego warns that my gifts don't matter if they aren't accompanied by a round of applause. That the days I till the soil aren't as significant as the days I harvest a crop. That if I can't measure the impact, then the work is pointless. A waste of time. Irrelevant. My ego says if I'm not producing, climbing, winning, succeeding right now, right this instant that all my hard work will fall away. So I hurry up and stress out and forget to trust and believe.
And when I'm losing faith, I ask myself: what would you do if you weren't afraid? The voice brave enough to answer is the one I—eventually—listen to.
What would you do?
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