This was orginially posted in my friend Julia’s blog “Growth Spurt”
WHAT IS STOPPING ME FROM DOING X, Y, OR Z?
I think we’d all do well to ask ourselves that question, to truly explore ourselves, and figure out the answer. What am I really so scared of? Why can’t I do X? Why is Y so freaking evasive? Why is Z hiding from me? I realize that this sounds silly, but how much sillier is it than being unable to accomplish whatever it is that X, Y, and Z represent? You can fill in the denotations yourself. X for me might be…singing in front of people, for example? And I mean really singing, to my fullest potential, as if I were performing. Why can’t I do that? I’m physically able to of course. At any moment, I could decide to bust out in song, singing at the top of my lungs, in the most beautiful singing voice that I am capable of. Anyone of us could, but we don’t. I don’t. Even if I feel like it, I don’t. Why is that? This is a question that must be asked? Why am I so embarrassed to be the first one to dance at the party, especially if I really want to dance? And I always want to dance!
I have come to believe that we create these fears that hold us back by mindlessly going through life being manipulated by subtle unobtrusive messages coming from our environment; from the people in that environment; from the corporations in that environment; from the government in that environment; from everything in that environment.
A somewhat dramatic example, but also a very useful one: The television program American Idol, a show supposedly about encouraging people to really and truly go for their dreams, runs an entire side series making fun of the very people who are doing that very thing. They straight up make fun of people and put them on display to be laughed at. And we do laugh. As we are told.
We laugh so much that we miss a very subtle thing that is happening. We don’t even notice it.
The thing that happens is this: Somewhere inside of us, the fear that we might also be deceiving ourselves, takes root. “Am I really as good at X as I think I am? Or, like these people, am I just deluding myself? Am I really just a big joke? Is everyone laughing at me behind my back? Are they laughing to my face? The subtle message coming from American Idol’s “worst of” videos is “Don’t go for it because you will fail, and we are all going to make fun of you when you do.”
Many might argue that I am making this up; that my perception of this subtle message is the result of my own paranoia. I, of course, would argue that it is not a fabrication; that it is real; and that it is affecting all of us, in ways that aren’t always evident. We are constantly surrounded by these kinds of subtle messages; from the media; from the movies; from advertising; and more importantly, from each other. On a daily basis, we are constantly affecting each other. When we pass each other on the streets, do we hang our heads and stare at the ground? Do we pretend to be preoccupied with something, so as to avoid the moment of passing? Do we smile; and make eye contact; and greet each other???
No matter what we do, our behavior is laced with all kinds of subtle messages. If I smile and say hello, I’m sending out a message that says “It’s ok to exist. I don’t know you, but we’re both human beings. And, I respect you enough, as a human being, to acknowledge your presence.” Visa Versa, to ignore the passerby is to say “ you’re not worthy of my time. I don’t know you, and I don’t want to know you. You’re very existence offends me, for I have been made to feel awkward and uncomfortable by it.” Or perhaps a little less dramatically, you simply send out the message that says “I’m scared.”
As we all wander through life, mindlessly sending out these subtle messages to all of the people around us, we are also being bombarded by them. They are coming at us from all sides.
Perhaps the way to combat the negative effects that might occur because of these subtleties is simply to pay attention to them; to observe the way that they affect you; and to choose not to act out those behavior. For example, I can choose to recognize the fear of singing in front of people, and I can choose to ignore it. I can choose to sing! We all can! Let’s join hands and sing!