Get out of your way

Once upon a time, a twelve-year-old girl hid whimpering under the dining room table. She had gone there to hide from her dad, who had commanded her to do the nefarious task of *gasp* calling the local department store to see what time it closed. The more she protested, the more firmly her father insisted. If she wanted whatever item had caused her to ask for a ride to the store, she could call first to make sure it the trip wouldn’t be wasted.

No way, no how.

Not only was she shy, but she also didn’t want to look stupid. What if someone recognized her voice when she arrived at the store? Hey, are you that kid who just called? So she stomped her foot, staunchly refused, and crept under the table to hide. After all, how was she to know that people make these calls all the time?

That silly girl was twelve; she wasn’t a little kid. She was paralyzed by shyness and fear. She held a distorted view of how the world worked and probably her value in it. Twelve years old and hiding under the table from a phone call. *Insert face palm.*

I was that girl, of course.

I still don’t like to put myself out there. My aversion to risk, failure, and even just looking silly has made its way into many blog posts. I still feel it keenly, but I work really hard–constantly–to overcome it. At each stage of life, I’ve gotten a little better at it. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. You don’t learn anything by sitting on the sidelines; you have to get in the game.
  2. Failure is the world’s best teaching tool.
  3. You’re not nearly as important as you think you are. Few people are going to remember that you did it in the first place, let alone the outcome.
  4. Life is too short to wait.
  5. My lens is often distorted.

Recently I sent a message to someone I know professionally, but not particularly well. I gave an unsolicited endorsement of a friend who had applied for a job at his company. It’s a huge firm and he’s not close to the hiring process, or even the department in question. Before I pressed <send>, all those phone-call feelings came flooding back. What if he thinks I’m crazy? He barely knows me. Why should he care what I have to say? I’ll look stupid.

My friend deserved the recommendation. The person I messaged would either pass it along or delete it, and then he’d go about his day. In a week, he’d barely remember it. People do this all the time; like my phone call, it’s normal.

So I pushed my twelve-year-old self aside and asked the only question that really mattered: Why not?

Then I pressed <send>.

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