Every so often, I occasionally feel compelled to write something truly personal. To confess. To shove all of my thoughts out into the universe. To be vulnerable. Because while you know me through my posts about where I've been, what I wear, and what I've eaten, those are clearly the things I'm most comfortable blabbing and writing about.
This week, I had a bit of a personal epiphany, and it has shaken me up in a way that I did not expect. I realized that I am too often afraid. And I realized that I am brave.
That sounds like a bit of a contradiction, given my background and the way I appear to most people. But I am filled with irrational fears. I tend to be risk averse. I like the bad news first. I read the Wikipedia summaries of scary movies before I'm forced to watch them, so I won't be spooked. My nightmares are filled with a myriad of common and uncommon fears, of physical harm, emotional harm, inadequacy, and shame.
What makes me feel able to overcome these fears? Other people. I seek approval, I seek support. I fear rejection, but I applied to and survived West Point, went after a new career, started my MBA. I'm terrified of heights, but I have jumped out of airplanes and zip-lined and climbed towers and obstacles. I'm afraid of guns, but I learned to use them and went outside the wire in Iraq. There have been so many times in my life where I have been afraid, but somehow persevered and achieved something I thought to be impossible. And in every single instance, I had people that I trusted and cared about encouraging me and reassuring me that I was capable enough to do it. I needed them to feel I was good enough to do it. Because I apparently didn't believe in myself.
Last December, I was in a course for women designed to teach us to lead powerfully. It was an emotionally exhausting journey, and at the end of it I had a realization: I am brave. I walked away from that course feeling on top of the world. I was able to look back at my accomplishments and realize that I did not achieve them because other people told me I was able to... I achieved them because I always had the innate ability to do so.
But ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on... and I forget that I'm brave. I seek approval everywhere. I lose faith that I'm good enough to do something.
This week, I was in Colorado with my team from work, including my boss. The activities planned for us were a surprise, another one of those things I don't tend to like due to my irrational fears. You should see how sweaty my palms were! One of the planned activities was a 9-hole golf scramble, something I had never participated in before. I was beating myself down the entire time, feeling like I would let my team down, embarrass myself, and ultimately be a failure. But my team was encouraging, coached me the entire time, and my confidence grew. I even contributed a few good strokes that helped the group, in between slices.
Then the next day, I was told we would be riding ATVs into the mountains. I don't like to go fast. I am afraid of motorcycles, four-wheelers, and basically anything else my mother told me was a death trap. I've never even ridden a riding lawn mower, because I'm irrationally afraid of the blades. But my entire team was riding up the mountain, and I was going with them. I trust them and love them, and I didn't want to hold anyone back.
I was afraid. The slopes were steep, the course rocky. But I pushed on. And then I went faster. And then I let go of the fear. The guide, sensing the change in his only real novice rider, led us to bumpy, muddy mess and blazed on through. I was first in line behind him, and he looked back to see if I would follow. I gunned it. I let go of everything I was afraid of: getting dirty, getting stuck, falling off, being hurt... and I just went straight in at full speed, the way I always do when faced with a sense of "fight or flight". I fight.
Later, I would tell my boss just how afraid and uncomfortable I was during the trip. I would also tell him that what made me feel able to face my fears was knowing I had my trusted team behind me. And I couldn't stop thinking about it after I said it aloud.
I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten that while having the support of others makes me FEEL able to face my fears, I was still the one facing them. Alone. By myself. In spite of myself.
I'm brave. I'm fortunate that I've had such good people in my life to remind me that I'm capable, but I hate that I've relied on them so much, instead of relying on me.
When it comes to my life, I need to put my foot on the gas and stop riding the brake. I need to believe in my own abilities, because the hard work and effort and passion I have put into my life are what have made it what I have today. It's not because everyone else told me I could, it's BECAUSE I COULD DO IT ALL ALONG.