I will start this blog with a personal story that happened to me about 10 years ago.
We are taught that appearances are everything. We should watch what we say and we say it or people will think ill of us. The person with the most toys wins. We learn these things as children through our parents when they say things like ” Children should be seen and not heard”, “Watch what you say or I will wash your mouth out with soap.”, “What will the neighbors think?” and on and on. Thank God I didn’t say those things to my kids and I hope other parents don’t say them any more either.
What I learned from those statements was that people judge and are judgmental. It is human nature to judge, it is how we figure out what is going on in our world. We compare ourselves and our experiences to those around us. From those comparisons we tell ourselves a story and that story becomes our reality.
Ten years ago I was in a week long workshop in Hilton Head SC for Mind-Body Skills training. On the second to the last day the facilitator had what is called a “Fish Bowl” exercise as a way of training us how to lead groups. He formed a group of 8 people and actually lead a group while the rest of the 150 participants watched.
He told us the day before that he was going to do this exercise and I felt that I was going to be one of the participants and I didn’t want to do it. Public speaking scared the shit out of me. I have gotten better but it still makes me nervous. What bothered me the most was that I felt like everyone would be judging me.
The following day when it was time for the exercise Jim asked for volunteers and my hand went up! Damn I didn’t want my hand to go up and yet it did. I knew deep down that I wanted to bust this issue of feeling judged. Luckily he didn’t see my hand! I thought I had managed to put the signal out that I wanted to be in the group, he didn’t call on me, so it must not have been meant to be.
When the second call for volunteers came, I had just witnessed the first person go through an interview in front of 150 people and I was sure I didn’t want to do it, yet my hand went up as if someone else was lifting it! He SAW me and asked me to stand up!
I talked about how i was afraid to look foolish. This thought came to me after I went brain dead in front of the whole group and couldn’t put two words together for a few minutes. That is what usually happens when I have to speak to a group. Believe me when I say the minutes seemed like hours as I stood there looking foolish. The very thing I was afraid of. I was out on a limb and I knew it. There was no turning back.
I won’t go into the details of the group but to say that the eight of us sitting in the circle all had the same issue, fear of being judged. I did and said what I thought were a lot of foolish things during the group and when it was over the nine of us danced in front of everyone.
I had a breakthrough that changed my life…
Once I was in the space of the group I didn’t have time to think about what people might be thinking of me and I was able to be totally myself. That is the key. Our authenticity is all that is called for. To be in the space was great! It was freeing and I loved the feeling.
I didn’t get tomatoes thrown at me or stoned to death afterwards, nor did anyone come up to me and tell me what an idiot I was! If anyone had those thoughts they were kind enough to keep them to themselves. What people think is none of my business anyway because it has nothing to do with me, or who I am, it is a reflection of who they are.
After the group was over several people came up to me and said how courageous it was to volunteer and how I was talking about what they were feeling. I realized that most people in the room probably had the same issue and that is why there weren’t 150 fighting to be part of the group of 8.
The break through that happened that day was that my perception of other people’s judgment got busted. The story I had made up in my head was not true!
I decided to stop making up stories about what people might think about me and become totally who I am, not just 85% of the time but 100%. I had settled for 85% because it was such hard work to get to that point. I thought I had done so great just to attain that. I had cut way down on my story telling and didn’t think I could stop it completely.
It is a life long journey. Some times I do better than at other times but it is still my goal to be as authentic as I can be.
All of my life I have been a risk taker and I have never let fear stop me and I have found myself out on a lot of limbs. But it is so important to me to be visible and not hide any part of me that I will continue to go to those scary places to uncover what ever it is that gets in my way.
I am sure there will be more limbs that I can go out on and transverse with grace in my future.
Have you ever gone out on a limb and transformed because of it? Say something about it in the comments section.