I have no doubt that the fear of ridicule, getting it wrong, or being misheard stops me from taking risks and therefore stunts my growth.
I have been playing it safe.
As often happens in times of reflection, a thought will just come out and I need to find one of my many notebooks to quickly jot it down.
Last night I had that thought, that moment, that urge to reach for a notebook. But I knew it was a change in direction. I knew that I needed a new notebook, one that would capture more ideas and thoughts like this and less like the ones of my immediate past.
I opened the new book, enjoyed the possibilities this new book would bring me, the challenges I was now setting for myself, and penned, “I think it’s time to take more risks.”
I had been afraid of late to stretch the boundaries. I had been recoiling, and it was like a little jolt of lighting hit my inspiration in sight of this.
A few months back, I wrote an article whose meaning got completely twisted, resulting in some awful accusations thrown at me. I was ashamed of a meaning I hadn’t even injected and pained by a voice put in my mouth. I had done what I know we shouldn’t do: I let the ridicule of others get to me and bring me down, even when accused of something I hadn’t actually done.
I let it make me depressed. I began to consider carefully all my actions for fear of being taken out of context once again.
It struck a core piece of me. I am the type of person who sat with the kid in primary school that didn’t have any other friends to sit with to give them company. I have given up free time to work for charity on weekends and given away what I can to help others. I am the person who has stopped in the street when a frail, older gentleman walked slowly home and offered a lift. I am the person who, while quiet and shy, if given the chance to help others, jumps at it. I do this because all I really want to do, in my heart, is help. I really do. And I don’t do it for any other reason than to help—to the point it is even difficult to share these actions with you, as noting them goes against why I did them.
I know that my introverted nature results in a quiet, shy behavior that has many times been interpreted as stuck-up, rude, and cold. I have worn these badges over the years given to me by many people who have watched me from afar and have chosen to not to actually get to know me.
And so it hurts. It hurts me when people hurt others, themselves, and me. It hurts me at my core.
So when accused of giving advice that puts people in harm’s way, no one could have looked more harshly on me than I did. I grilled myself about all the weakness I had allowed into my work to give it a chance for this fate. And I recoiled, fearful to share, fearful to continue to do what is the one true occupation in my life that I feel I was born to do.
We are our own worst critics eh.
So I went on—but slowly, wearily, and cautiously—stunting the expression that is the key to my writing.
I spent months over-analyzing my words, changing anything that could possibly lead to a similar fate.
Then a kind, smart person came into my life. He read my articles and talked me through the ridicule I faced from the misinterpreted article. Then he asked why I let that change my expression. I was trying to avoid any possible further ridicule; I was trying to avoid offending anyone by dulling everything. It was like I was a painter afraid of using any color, because there was someone who disliked each color, and I was therefore finding nothing left to paint.
Like I try to do with all the situations in my life, I then looked for the lessons and sought the silver lining. I learned that, yes, I do need to be more careful with my words. I need to make sure I am clearer to my true meaning, not so much as not to offend anyone over every small thing, but so that I can share my experiences, thoughts, and feelings as they are—not as they are perceived to be or possibly misread to be, which may be entirely my fault if I am a poor wordsmith.
It was the ultimate gift in the situation, to learn to look constructively at my work—to not paint a psychologist’s blob, but rather a Mona Lisa that is less open to misinterpretation but that still has an emotion to which people can relate.
I needed to use this experience for growth, but instead I let it eat away at me, allowed myself to recoil and ultimately go backwards as a writer instead of taking the lessons and continuing to push the boundaries of this form of expression as I desired to do.
I woke up last night when I reached for the new notebook. I could see the dark cloud I had allowed to form over my writing desk, a cloud that dimmed the light in me and my potential.
I realized I was holding back out of fear. The fear was controlling me. I was allowing it to hold me back and too easily forgetting that without risk there is no reward.
I reminded myself that to make it in a writing career, a career about which I have read on the website Publishing Explained. More than one million manuscripts are currently searching for a U.S. publisher, and one percent of those will get the nod. Furthermore, only thirty percent of published books turn a profit, and to date I have only spent, not earned, money on writing. It costs me money and earns me none—so I know I am truly here for the love of it. I am paying money to share my words with you for proofreading services, maintenance of the website for my blog, and time each day in front of a laptop writing or learning how to write more clearly. So holding myself back from standing out isn’t something I want to do. I want to make you feel, share, forward, Tweet, Pin, and point me out to anyone who knows a publisher—and that is absolutely not going to happen unless I do something different.
So in summary, I need to take the risk.
I need to find ways of growing through everything I write. I need to find ways of continually encouraging the thoughts behind my words to come out, to flow from heart to head, to arm to pen to paper. I need to find the challenge not just in writing but also in all aspects of my life so that I have more to write about, more to share with you, and more to help me grow.
I need to understand and accept that not everyone will like my work and sometimes someone might even misread it, even if I do pour all my experience into it, writing with a warm heart.
And most of all, I need to accept that during this journey in life, mistakes create growth opportunities, chances taken can prove fruitful, and I would rather have taken the chance than live with the regret of holding back from what I can be.
I know in my heart that I have done my best with good intentions. Even during those times when I am the only one who knows it, I still know it.
This post originally appeared at www.senseofyou.com. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: flickr/Krissy Venosdale