There are times when your dreams are put to one side. You might tell yourself that life is fine just the way it is, that you don’t need to constantly strive for more. But as aspirants of self-growth will know, putting yourself off can only last for so long.
Perhaps for now, you’re in a happy little cocoon, just waiting for the right time when you can pop out and show the world your colours. But if you’re not careful, you’ll stay in there for longer and longer, until you’ve forgotten just why you were so keen to get out in the first place.
It took me years to kick-start my life coaching business. Why? Because I was afraid. I was afraid of getting out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t quite realise it at the time. If you’ve been holding back from trying to achieve your own dreams, then you might find some truth in what I’m going to share with you.
Cracking the shell
What keeps us in our cocoons, afraid to burst forth and show the world how amazing we are?
For many of us, it’s the fear of never being quite ready. We tell ourselves that we’ll launch our business, go for that dream job or start that new project some day— when our website is just right, our CV is perfect, and when we have enough time or money to really get going.
Don’t wait to be perfect. The truth is that you might never have enough time or money, and your website/CV will never be perfect. When you wait to be perfect before getting started, you find the wait never ends. Nobody is perfect, and the universe is not going to line up the perfect set of circumstances and say “OK, NOW is the time to start!”
This doesn’t mean that you should release a half-baked idea out into the world, or publish a website with no content. What it does mean is that you stop holding yourself to impossibly high standards before you start to make your mark on the world. Start small, and improve along the way. My website has changed a lot from when I first published it, and I’ll continue to change it along the way —but I published it way back at the beginning, because I knew I never would if I kept waiting for it to be perfect.
Get rid of assumptions
So what is this fixation with being perfect that seems to have holding us back? It appears that from somewhere we’ve got the idea that all the other successful people out there have ‘cracked it’—that they’re perfect, flawless, and know what they’re doing.
It’s important to question these thoughts. Do you really think that those people you admire don’t have fears and doubts, too? That they didn’t start from a similar place, wracked with nerves, wondering what the world would make of them? Remember that all you know of other people is what they show you. They may appear confident, but you don’t know what happens in their heads.
A friend of mine once told me, “Don’t compare your inside to other people’s outsides.” You might be afraid, you might not feel talented or beautiful enough, but those people who seem to have it all might have the same thoughts. If you act confident and smile, few people will be able to tell how you really feel.
Many of us are kept in our cocoons by our self-limiting beliefs. These are thoughts like “I’ll never be good enough”, “nobody will buy my product” and “how can I be as good as she is?”
You’ve probably heard plenty about how to deal with these thoughts. Ignore them. Recognise where they’re coming from—whether they’re your mother or the entire media taking up home in your head without your permission. I say that you should add a new thought to them, which is—“so what?”
Perhaps you won’t be the best at what you do. Some people might not like you. Maybe it will all go wrong. But so what? What is the worst possible thing that can happen if you get out there and just TRY to get noticed, to publish your book, to get that new job or to move somewhere new? Yes, it might all go wrong. But isn’t that what makes life interesting and exciting?
Yes, some risks can be too much. I’m not saying that you should use your kids’ college fund on a business venture that you haven’t even researched. But weigh the risks, and if you find that the worst case scenario is that you feel a bit embarrassed and rejected, then do it anyway— because the alternative is staying in your cocoon, regretting that you never tried to taste the sunlight.
One of my favourite ways to get out there and do something daring is to imagine that it isn’t really me doing it. I become a character in a story, I play somebody who is far braver and more confident than I am, and I go along with her and see what will happen. If she trips up, I laugh with her—realising that it isn’t the end of the world if things don’t go her way.
Finally, learn to have some compassion for yourself. If you don’t succeed straight away, don’t beat yourself up or feel angry with yourself for getting it wrong. Recognise that you are just a human being, trying to do your best in the world, and treat yourself with the same love and compassion that you would give a friend. And remember that if things don’t work out straight away, you have not failed—‘failure’ just means that you haven’t found the winning combination yet.
So get out there and step into the sunlight. For after chrysalis, from every cocoon emerges a beautiful butterfly.
This was first published in the October 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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