I DARE YOU To Be Who You Are

Originally published on The Women’s Conference.org:

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

This quote from Lucius Annaeus Seneca is one I’ve found repeatedly true, whenever I’ve worked up the courage to dare. But too often that courage has remained elusive.

How, then, can you find the courage to dare?

I’ve discovered the critical factor in this process is recognizing that what you’re nervous about isn’t failing — it’s succeeding. You’ve had an amazing idea, been spurred into action by a cause, or felt an urge to throw yourself headlong into a commitment, and suddenly, your creativity, your idealism, or your passion are on fire — and you’re a bit taken aback by how strong they are.

The fact is that most of us aren’t firing on all cylinders at all times, so when we suddenly kick it into high gear, it can feel a bit like we’re working with rocket fuel. And mucking around with rocket fuel has the potential to end very well, or very badly– and that’s nervous-making.  So, rather than feel nervous, (which is something our culture is intent on removing from our lives– not recognizing its power) we begin to doubt ourselves. We tell ourselves someone else has more to offer—something better.

But in the same way that that your friend Susan’s chocolate chip cookies are absolutely worth blowing your diet for, while your Aunt Ellen’s are not—despite the fact that they’re made with exactly the same ingredients— you have a unique blend of skills, intelligence and insight that will make whatever dream you’re bringing to reality someone’s idea of a heavenly indulgence.

So, what can you do? Is there a way to change this mental habit?

What I’ve found is that it can be easier for me if I work from the outside in. So rather than focusing on changing a mental habit, I try changing a physical habit and see what it does to my mind.

What kinds of physical habits am I talking about?  Well, a few simple things can be, waking up at a different time, or getting my coffee at a new spot, or going to work via an unfamiliar route. All choices force me to remain present and to take in many, many new impressions. I’m forcing neurons to fire, neurons that have been on auto-pilot every other morning…. (And this is just from changing my breakfast routine.)

The critical piece in all this is to recognize that new experiences can be uncomfortable, and uncomfortable things are going to make you anxious, BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re “dangerous” or that you shouldn’t do them. Rather than label emotions such as nervousness or anxiety as “bad,” see them as reminders that you are alive.

Having changed some physical habits, and seen that there were no violent repercussions, you should now find it easier to consider changing some mental habits—particularly the story you’re telling yourself about how someone else has more to contribute.  The fact is that at the end of the day, habit, doubt, and fear are our greatest barriers to success. The more you are able to break free from self doubt and test your perceived limits, the more you will see those limits fall away. And every time you brave, and surmount barriers, your confidence will grow — allowing you to move through the world with a freedom that, until now, has possibly only lived in your imagination.

Because only you can be who you are.

So go ahead—I dare you.