When I woke up this morning it was dreary, rainy and cold. I felt tired, lethargic and sleep deprived. Fast forward a few hours and I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, relaxed, fulfilled and stimulated. All because of one little choice I had made earlier in the week. A decision to 'put myself out there' so to speak.
Earlier in the week I contacted a family friend I hadn't seen in years, but had known quite well when I was younger. We had chatted sporadically on social media, but not face to face in what could easily have been 10-15 years. I asked if she would like to catch up sometime. This act itself always gives me anxiety; not just with new connections, old friends I haven't seen in years or loose acquaintances. I often get nervy asking well established friends to hang out or catch up. Sounds ridiculous right?
To me, not so much. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I am quite an unconfident person (I'm getting better!!) and I regularly second guess myself. So whenever I go to pursue a social gathering, a meet up or attempt to create a connection there's this a little voice inside my head that makes we wonder whether they actually want to see me, whether I am worth someone's time or whether I'm too 'boring'. The list of ridiculousness is extensive.
However, lately (particularly in the last 6-18 months) I have begun getting far more comfortable with putting myself out there and just 'going for it'. I'm not sure where it has come from exactly, but I' enjoying the ride it is taking me on. I haven't yet read 'The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck' by Mark Manson, but I genuinely look forward to the day I do. Because I think that is one hell of a message! And somehow, I think it's starting to sink in. I'm starting to worry less about what others think of me and more about what I think of myself. And with that has come less of a concern with how I am seen by those around me as compared to how I see myself.
There's a really beautiful freedom in that notion. I can't say I'm an expert at it, the confidence ebbs and flows like the tide, but those moments of grit, sheer determination and self assurance are amazing! I really think that the most important thing in life is to be authentic to who you really are and what you are really about. And I will openly tell anyone who will listen that I could talk under water with a mouthful of marbles and that I really enjoy meeting new people, making new connections and learning new things. There are few things in life I enjoy more than a stimulating conversation where you have NO interest in looking at your phone, you lose all track of time and you are just genuinely, unequivocally in the moment.
So, embracing that fact and continuing to pursue friendships and experiences that grow me as a person, I sent the Facebook message and was met with a 'that would be lovely'. Always a lovely thing to hear when you're unsure of what the outcome will be! Consequently, we met up with this morning I grabbed a take away coffee and went on about a 7km walk in Malabar and Maroubra with a friend. At different points it was windy, drizzling and raining, but we decided to commit to the walk anyway. And I am beyond grateful that we did!
Not only had I visited the beach properly for the first time in quite a while, but I hadn't been on a good long walk. I hadn't stood or walked in the rain without caring. I hadn't had a conversation that I couldn't tear myself away from or that had my mind whirring with possibilities or that made me consciously neglect my phone. I got all of that this morning and more. I was simply buzzing with positive energy and gratitude by the time our lovely walk sadly came to an end.
Before lunch time I had:
· Reconnected with an old friend
· Driven to a beautiful location I rarely visit
· Had a lovely time outdoors walking
· Meandered a new track/path to any I had done before
· Enjoyed the rain on my face and skin
· Talked intensely and passionately about a wide range of topics
· Been completely mindful of my present circumstances and not been living in the past or future (how rare!!)
· Completed my entire 10 000 step count
· Not been able to wipe the smile off my face
What a Sunday morning! All because I put myself out there!
Funnily enough, that was somewhat of a common thread/theme to our conversation throughout the morning walk. Discussing self confidence whether socially, professionally, athletically etc. Backing yourself, your personality and your abilities is such an important thing in life....yet it's something I struggle with so much in life. And because of this, and my mental health issues, I find it really hard to put myself out there.
If someone was to examine my life they would see just how safe I played it for so long. And anyone who has really known me over the past years would know how often I stayed in the 'box' because it was easier, safer and more comfortable and I feared the judgement of others. Consequently, it was relatively easy to put me back in my 'box' and make me stay there. However, playing it safe, staying in my box and going with others' flow never grew me. Being comfortable never made me a better person. If anything, it just made my personal development plateau....
There are many quotes and saying about comfort zones: "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone", "success happens when we leave our comfort zone", "the magic happens when you step outside your comfort zone" and "everything you've ever wanted is one step outside your comfort zone". All with the same message - don't play it safe! Take a risk! Do something that scares you! Get out there!
It's taken me a long time, and I will admit that I regularly regress, but I realise now that life isn't meant to be lived 'safely' and 'securely' all the time. We aren't here to merely work, eat and sleep; as many fall into a pattern of doing. There's no one, 'right' way to go through life. And there's so much more to be gained by cutting your own path in life, rather than following the path of everyone else....
As Robin William's character reminds us in 'Dead Poet's Society' - 'Carpe Diem'; seize the day! We live so that we can suck the marrow out of life and live life to its fullest. To breathe, live, love, see and feel deeply. To explore, investigate, ponder and examine fully. To find what creates a fire inside us and throw ourselves whole heartedly into it, whether it is a mission, hobby, passion, vocation or profession. To discover who we really are and wish to be, then set out to become that 'best' version of ourselves.
Equally as relevant, is Matthew Broderick's character Ferris Bueller. He reminds us that "life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." So many of us live our lives pay cheque to pay cheque, or bill to bill. We repeat a series of daily routines like robots, drifting through life almost with our eyes closed.
It's a sad indictment on society how busy and bustling our lives are, how quickly our weekends become a time in the past and how frequently we cut out the things we love due to responsibilities and restrictions. I am repeatedly reminded of all the things I used to love to do that I feel like I never get time for anymore- reading, writing, (blogging!), outdoor adventures, art, photography....
As we get older we become so focused on having 'the life' in whatever version we have been sold it e.g. husband, house, dog and 2.5 children, single and travelling for years at a time, multiple property owner. And somehow, over a period of time and before we really notice what is happening, we've traded who we were as children, who we are at heart and who we are really destined to be for someone else's dream and someone else's ideal of 'perfect'. Society sells us what we 'should' be, have, want and need.
For so long I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. I hid my intelligence to make and keep friends. I felt awkward about participating in traditionally 'male' sporting pursuits. I felt inadequate next to others due to the way they dressed and what they owned. I cut time from things I loved in order to work, study, meet each deadline and ultimately fit in. Over time I attempted to shave my square edges to fit that damned 'round' hole. And I stayed standing with both of my feet planted firmly in my comfort zone and ultimately the 'box'.
That was until I started addressing my O.C.D, Anxiety and Depression. The more I talked about the issues, the more I effectively discussed myself and the more self aware I became. As a chain reaction, I found myself talking about my issues more openly and identifying myself by them, not in a negative sense but as a part of myself. I owned them and I was even able to identify positive effects that came from them.
Consequently, the more these conversations occurred and the more I reflected, the more I realised I was trying to make other people happy. The more I realised how often I had stopped my own progress or created my own 'glass ceiling' because I was worried about what might happen if I took the risk/'leap of faith'. What others might think.....
But why does it matter? As 'The D.U.F.F' gently reminds us (I'm on a movie roll today, bear with me), it is not about what others think of us. First and foremost, it is about what we think of ourselves. Our lives weren't created so we could make others happy and follow all of their rules. We're on this Earth for our own purpose, to find our own truth and to venture towards our own version of happiness.
If it's one thing I'm learning in all of this, it is that this life is MINE and that ultimately, I should answer to myself and not others. It's my mind. My body. My journey. And my decisions are my own. I shouldn't have to feel the need to justify myself to others. (Yet I do!!!) I should just live my life to the fullest; however that may be.
However, for us to truly to do that, we need to own our life. Own our story. Accept what has happened, be mindful of what is happening and look forward positively to what is yet to happen. We need to know ourselves in order to grow ourselves. And a large part of that is putting ourselves out there! It is showing the world who we are and following our hearts. Authenticity is the essence of true happiness and a fulfilling life.
As a wonderful work colleague of mine regularly reminded me; 'your beliefs, values, actions and visions should all align. The vision will pull you forward.' And it is so true! The more in tune you are with your morals, values and beliefs the more fully you are able to follow and manifest your visions. And sure enough, because it is inevitable, your actions come to reflect your true soul, self and spirit.
So my message is simple. Don't be a sheep! Be a shepherd. Find your own path to travel in life. I have distinctly distasteful memories of Advanced English in the Senior years because of the theme of 'journeys' and having to memorise and decipher Robert Frost poems. Yet, ironically, here I am at 28 (11 years after graduating High School) finding that I understand the concept and the poems far better than I ever thought I would. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-, I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference."
Don't settle! For safety, for security, for someone else's dreams, for second best, for being an option instead of a priority.....for any of it! Get out there, back yourself and go for it! No matter how much it scares you, 'make it happen!'
I'm not going to lie, you'll be nervous/anxious at times. You'll feel sick to the stomach and possibly want to throw up your lunch at times. You'll worry yourself sick or stop yourself sleeping soundly at others. It'll take more mental strength than you thought you had sometimes. People will try to talk you out of it. Others will try to convince you that it's safer to stay where you are. Some may even venture as far as to try to knock you down a peg or to undersell your abilities and experience.
Don't listen. Don't take notice. Stay the course and you'll be glad you did. There's going to be rejections and they'll hurt - they'll sting like hell and make you second guess EVERYTHING. But people aren't successful the first time; 'Rome wasn't built in a day!' People are successful because they failed again and again until they found the best way to do something.
As a less confident and self assured person I marvel at some of the marvels of the human race - Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Vincent van Gogh, Albert Einstein and Walt Disney. They persevered despite the opinions of others, countless setbacks and many obstacles. Almost impossibly, they stayed their course and look what they now have to show for it! Look at all they have created and where it has taken their respective fields, let alone society!
So whatever you want to do right now or in life, throw yourself into it whole heartedly! Own yourself and your story - the good, indifferent, bad and mess bits! You are a work of art - don't EVER forget that. Find you passion and your mission in life and work towards it/make it happen! Stop worrying about what others think, do and say and do what makes you happy. Take that solo trip overseas. Go back to University. Get that tattoo. Quit the job that makes you unhappy. Hold out for the 'dream' job. Keep perfecting that manuscript. Start painting again. Unpack your camera. Say yes to that date you were offered. Wear that 'bold' outfit. Ask that long lost friend for a coffee date. Try that new gym class that scares you. Sign up for a new hobby. Book in that new piercing. Pick up your life and move. Cut out the toxic people that surround you. Start that business that's been a 'pipe dream' for half your life.
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Be you. Do you. 'Those that mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind.' You get one go round, at the end of it do you want to be asking 'what if?' and regretting, or do you want to smile at all the silly mistakes you made, laugh at all the times someone underestimated you and celebrate all of your wins and all of the times that life rewarded your hard work.
I'll never forget the day I was discussing 'precepts' with my class. We were brainstorming all of the positive quotes we knew and all of the wonderful things to remember as we travel through life. I asked for students to suggest some sayings they liked. Straight up went the hand of one of the most anxious, non-confident students I have ever taught. Confident and clear as ever he said "Challenge your limits, don't limit your challenges." I could have cried. I hope one day I come across him when he's all grown and I can see/hear about how he put that into a practice. It's funny how we seem to get it all as a child and somehow we forget it all as we become adults.
So what are you going to do? Stay precisely where you are or start to push the boundaries? Zig Ziglar has a beautiful quote that sums it all up beautifully - "The Three C's of Life: Choices, Chances, Changes. You must make a Choice, to take a Chance or your life will never Change."
By Carly Jeffrey.