Dear Chris (age 28-39), Trust your inspiration. Say yes to your own ideas and no to fear.
See, I have this problem. I’m not sure exactly when it started (probably have had bits of it my entire life), but it definitely grew in intensity starting in my late 20s and over the following decade. It’s called “I am my own worst enemy and a terrible self critic.” I’m sure no one else can relate. One of my friends once told me that all my decisions have tentacles, and he wasn’t wrong. I have one good idea or something new I want to try and instantly have twenty plus reasons why it won’t work.
I think to myself, “Hey, why don’t I do that?!” And that inspiration is followed by a series of thoughts like… “There are so many other ________ already (bloggers, actors, screenwriters, or any number of other fill in the blank things that I’ve considered or tried…). Why would anyone care what I have to say? What if someone already said it first? What if people think my work is no good? What if people think I’m stupid? What if no one ever reads me? What if no one cares? What if I try that new job and hate it and realize I should have just stayed put? What if I fail?”
The truth is I’ve never really failed at anything, but I have an enormous fear of failure. So I often don’t even allow myself to start because my tentacles get in the way. The odd thing is, though, that I’d have to say that most things I’ve tried in this life have succeeded. (Now, I’ve quit some things, but I’m not sure it’s fair to say that those things are failures.) I almost always have people encouraging me in anything I’ve tried or expressed interest in.
Why, then, is it so difficult to listen to and hold on to the positive?
I’ve been reading and listening a lot to Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown and Rob Bell lately. They’ve become the trifecta of inspiration to me. I have learned lessons like: Do not walk in shame. Fear does not get to sit in the driver’s seat. If you let inspiration sit inside you without giving birth to it, it will rot; it will cause dis-ease and unhappiness. You must let old things die for new things to live.
I have felt the deep truth of these gifts of wisdom over the past two months. (Plus I have the most amazing tribe of inspirational and encouraging friends who I’m trying hard to trust as they encourage me.)
I no longer want to let my ideas and my inspiration rot away inside out of fear that they or I won’t be well received. The truth is, I have learned through experience that when inspiration wants to give birth to something and I demand that it stay silent, it’s painful. It rattles around inside until I let it out into the world. It doesn’t go way until I deal with it and let it live.
But what do I do with all the years that I feel I’ve wasted? I first acknowledge the truth that they have not been a waste. I must choose to stare at the reality of everything I’ve accomplished and done instead of the lies I tell myself about how my life and my creativity have been dormant. That isn’t actually true…and that might be for another post.
In advice to a writer on Liz Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” podcast, Liz encouraged this woman that all the years up until now have been her runway…and now it’s time to get off the runway and take flight.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my absolute best to trust my own ideas and let go of fear to see what happens.