Hannah ActonPublished in October 2019 / Updated in January 2021
I know that it’s what’s written on all the guidance counselor’s inspirational posters in your high school. I do know this.
However, I have nonetheless elected to title my article today on that very statement. Do what scares you. Why, you ask? Because we still haven’t done it yet, for the most part.
Most of us, myself included, still have much to learn. when I was feeling really down a year or two ago, I explicitly remember watching a trashy nameless romcom on Netflix and they said something that really changed the way I go about my daily life. You have to be willing to fall flat on your face and fail.
For all of you perfectionists and ‘never enoughs’ out there, I hear you. I feel for you.
I am one of you, through and through. That said, this statement was damning, even in that knowledge. I thought I was getting better at being vulnerable and putting myself out there and ensuring that I was living my life to the fullest – even without the bounds of my comfort zone. Apparently not.
Despite all my self delusions and perceptions of having been more open minded, I still realized that I lived my life under the main prerogative that I didn’t fail. Exactly the opposite of that. It’s all well and good saying that we don’t mind not being great at everything. That it doesn’t matter if not everyone always likes us. Or finds us funny. However, it still leaves us with the feeling in our throat that we don’t care to describe. It’s not a fun feeling, the feeling of failure. Truly, it isn’t.
Therefore, I take you back to the mantra of being able to fall flat on your face.
It’s one thing to be able to embarrass yourself on a night out. Or in front of your parents or in the private of your own home. It’s quite another to make yourself vulnerable or susceptible in an academic sense. Or athletic. Or even an economic sense, because these are the standards by which you are judged. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying to think about, much less to do in practice.
But that’s largely because we build things up in our head to be much bigger than they actually are. As such, the things that we let ourselves get stressed and scared about become part of our brain. Always fixed in the back and ever present – always lurking when you have other tasks you should be getting on with. Indeed, we put so much pressure on ourselves to always push ourselves.
To compare to the people around us.
People that we perceive to be more successful, or in better relationships, or more interesting. More happy, even. That’s the real kicker, when you start this toxic backslide – the cycle into negativity. It can truly corrupt your mental health and the headspace in which you conduct yourself.
Okay, so I’ve started to make my point – we need to take more risks. I mean, I’d also like everyone present to take this with a pinch of salt. The insistence on getting out of your comfort zone does not mean you ought to fling yourself out of them or burn your previous threshold to the ground. It does exist for a reason, and you do deserve to feel comfortable. That said, here are a few low level ways you can start to push the boat out a little. Small steps everyday is what we’re looking for here, not a great big hurdle!
Firstly, try and make some new friends or hobbies.
This branches out your social circle and oils up your skills at trying new things out. Generally, this will cause some form of positive reinforcement. Either you can join creative classes and have made something at the end of the hour, or join a team sport and have that sense of support and hard work in the same direction.
This shared, communal activity with a common goal generally ensures that you can start to figure out what your personal goals might be. What feels good. Things that you start to realize you might want. Next is the tough part. Acting on those impulses.
Right, so now that we’ve tried a few things here and there that tickle our fancy and we’ve settled to a way we may take that hobby or interest further.
In the back of your mind you know that it would be fun to try sky-diving.
You probably also know that you need to tell the person you like that you actually do like them, rather than just admiring them from a distance and giving no other indication of affection other than stolen glances.
You may even realize that you should move out. Or move in. or leave the country. Or come back. Maybe you just want to go to a night class and get your GED. But because we put these things off for so long, they have become part of our brain and register only as something inaccessible, impossible and unachievable. Brace yourself for another cheesy guidance counselor poster message. Ready?
Since when did being impossible stop us from doing anything.
Things in life are supposed to hurt a little. We are supposed to feel things. We can’t go through it unscathed. Well, frankly, even if we tried to, how could we really be said to have lived? The way I live my life I sometimes reflect on the degree to which I actually life. Or do I just continue to exist. And not die.
Okay, I’m getting a bit gothic here. Edgar Allen Poe who?
I’m not saying that you need to drop everything and jump out of a plane. But also, you might need to just drop everything and jump out of a train.
To borrow a very politicized and over-egged phrase: if not now, when?
‘I can’t do it’ needs to be replaced with ‘I could do something’. It doesn’t even always need to be the solution to that specific problem. You don’t always need to fix what’s in front of you.
Sometimes, you can just compromise, or simply do something different. If your accounting job is getting you down and you don’t see a future there any more. Quit.
I mean, what can you lose? There will always be something to lose.