Since graduating from college, I’ve been cycling between feeling grateful for how awesome my life is and feeling overwhelmed with fear that I’ll suddenly wake up, 20+ years will have flown by, and I will be still be in the same small town doing the exact same thing that I am doing now.
I recognize that I am doing better than several of my peers. I have a good job that provides us with health insurance and helps us pay for the beautiful little house we rent, and I am married to one of the best men ever. He is also meaningfully employed in a position that could launch his career in a variety of different directions. So, why the fear?
The majority of my most life shaping decisions were motivated by fear. I graduated early from high school because taking a few extra classes was less scary being the new kid my senior year of high school. I settled on my college major because it was the only one of the options I was considering at the time that was available at the small university I attended and that was less scary than risking throwing all of my hard work away by transferring to another school to do something else. I went into banking because that was the only job option I could find that paid enough that I could work it while waiting tables and almost make enough to support DH through the end of his bachelors program, and then I accepted a “promotion” to another branch with a considerable commute and stayed in that position despite being so miserable because “having a better attitude” or willing myself to be happy there seemed less scary than trying to find a different job that may not be any better than where I already was. I don’t want my legacy to be a legacy of fear, nor do I want to wake up in 40 years and realize that I failed to live the life I wanted because I was too afraid. So, what can I do to combat the fear?
Napoleon Hill once said that “strength and growth come only through effort and struggle.” meaning that if I want to become more than I currently am, I need to be willing to be uncomfortable. Most things worth doing have an element of discomfort to them, weather it’s hand cramps from crocheting, muscle aches from working out, or a cut in pay to accept a new job that’s otherwise more satisfying. Obviously maintaining a healthy risk and pain intolerance is important, but I need to start inviting opportunities to learn new skills or do new things even if they make me uncomfortable.
I need to challenge any thought of not being good enough. Most of my negative self-talk boils down to being afraid that I am somehow am not good enough. I don’t know when that started, but I have been paralyzed by my own feelings of inadequacy for years. Knowing for sure that I will never be good enough to accomplish something I want to do will keep me from trying to do that thing, which guarantees that I will actually never be good enough to accomplish that thing in the first place. Embracing failure is an important part challenging these thoughts. Want to know how many very successful people failed at something on their way to success? All of them. Are setbacks or failures indications that those people were never good enough? Absolutely not. Why then would failure be an indication that I was never good enough? It isn’t. If I’ve failed at something, I’ve just learned how not to do it, which is part of the process to become good enough to actually do the thing.
I need to ask for connections. One of my favorite things I learned in college was that we are not turtles. (Well, yeah, we aren’t turtles. That should be pretty obvious well before college, dummy. Keep reading). Turtles go through their whole lives almost completely alone, but the communities and social connections they lack are an essential part of the human survival mechanism. If we are going to live meaningfully to thrive than we need each other. I was recently moved by this TEDx talk about getting the perfect job without sending in a single resume. Spoiler alert: She landed that perfect job because she overcame her discomfort and asked for professional connections. Networking is pretty important professionally, but this also applies outside of work as well.
I know that inviting opportunities for growth, embracing failure , and asking for connections are much easier said than done, but these can be broken down into more manageable smaller steps like trying out more difficult crochet patterns and food recipes, being more open about my shortcomings on this blog, or inviting someone new over for dinner.
Did this post resonate with you? Maybe you have some other ideas for overcoming your own legacy of fear. I would love to hear about it in the comments below!