Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” It is simple yet profound advice.
Getting out of our comfort zone is, of course, the way that we grow. When we perform an act that scares us we are exercising new muscles, perhaps taking baby steps toward cultivating new skills. But the benefit goes beyond the obvious skill that we are putting to use.
Taking a step toward the uncomfortable builds our courage and our confidence. It puts our entire system on alert, and the universe too, communicating that we are serious about meeting our goals, about growing.
What is scary one day will soon move into the box of ‘been there, done that.’ With daily practice, you will watch your mastery grow and you will find that the definition of what scares you now applies to things that you could not even imagine yourself doing just a month earlier.
Here’s the part of the article where I should tell you a story about myself. But, well, it’s just that I’m scared to do so. You see, this is my first blog article, ever. For writers, overcoming self-doubt is one of the main feats of writing. I’m trying to follow my own advice (or, rather, Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice), trying to do one thing that scares me a day.
Transforming from a private writer to a public writer is one of those things. I’m worried that I’ll spend all this time and in the end I’ll feel like the article isn’t good enough and it will just end up stranded on my hard drive. Or worse yet, I’ll post it and it will get bad reviews, or maybe no one will read it at all.
I’m trying to overcome my fear by pushing through, making myself do something. I’m telling myself that it would be worse to not post something than to post something and have people react negatively. If I don’t post then I’m letting the fear get the better or me, which would be far worse than some stranger telling me something that I already know: my writing could be better. Of course it can!
Does anybody remember Santino Rice from Project Runway? Even if you haven’t seen Project Runway, you know the reality-show type. He was the annoying guy who seemed self-centered and oblivious to what others thought.
Then I saw Santino on a show post-Project Runway. He said something to the effect of “People out there can’t be thinking anything worse about me than I’m already thinking myself.”
Wow! That changed my whole perspective of the guy. Santino wasn’t oblivious to what others thought. Not only that, but it seems he was subjecting himself to the worst kind of internalized criticism. Suddenly he became relatable; I respected him.
I love that someone struggling with their own self image could hold themselves up for the kind of public scrutiny entailed by being on a show like Project Runway. Santino really knew how to do what scared him.
When we become vulnerable, we allow others to see themselves in us. It is a more authentic way of being that opens us to connecting with others.
Having trouble doing what scares you? It may help to know what’s at stake if you don’t take a risk.
To paraphrase beatnik writer Ambrose Redmoon: We tend to take courageous action when we decide that our desired result outweighs the fear. For example, you may be afraid of water, but you’ll probably jump in if you needed to save your child.
If you are clear on what you will have if you don’t do what scares you—then you’ll have a better understanding of the possible benefits of taking a risk. It may just be that your “alternative” state is actually scarier than the risk itself.
If you are someone who is shy, pushing yourself to be more outgoing at a social event might be very scary. But what would be the alternative to pushing yourself? Going to the event but hiding out in the corner? Staying home and eating ice cream? And then where would you be? Certainly without the benefits of having actively engaged at the social event, without the possibility of meeting others or having a good time.
And you would have missed the opportunity to signal to the universe that you are ready to take steps to conquer your social fears. Instead, you’d just be building up the walls of social anxiety.
So, how about it? What’s one thing that scares you that you could challenge yourself to do today?