I’ve been sick with the flu most of this week. I finally started feeling better yesterday, thankfully. For a couple of days, though, I was totally focused on myself and my recovery. I stayed home from work, bailed on my weekly men’s group, asked my girlfriend to take care of the cooking and the housework all by herself, and was generally not present for others while I focused my attention on myself.
In the not-too-distant past, I would have thought of myself as a selfish bastard for acting this way. “Other people expect things of you; it doesn’t matter that you’re sick. Suck it up and do your job. You have no intrinsic worth; your only value to people is what you can do for them, so if you stop giving to them, they’ll all leave you and you’ll be alone forever.”
Sound familiar at all?
It’s taken some time, but I’m coming to accept some new beliefs: “I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. I’m human. I have needs, and I make mistakes. That doesn’t make me bad, it makes me normal. It is just who I am. What others think of me is irrelevant. What matters most is that I like myself and take care of myself. Whatever happens as a result, I can handle it.”
With beliefs like that, I can choose to give to others because I want to, not because I’m afraid they’ll leave me if I don’t. If I have a bad day, or if I get sick, and I need to focus more on myself for a while, I can do it without fear. To quote Virginia Satir, “I am me, and I am okay.” Illnesses and all.
Of course I still feel fear sometimes. I do worry about what others think, and I worry that I’m somehow not good enough. While I was sick and focusing on myself, I was secretly scared to death that my girlfriend would decide I wasn’t the person she wanted after all, and leave me. Even as I write this, there’s a part of me that’s worried that I’m not writing it “good enough”, whatever that means. Writing articles like this is new to me. I don’t know if I’m good at it or not. I do know that the more I do it, the better I’ll get. I also know that if I let fear keep me from doing it at all, I’ll never be any good.
The point is that even though I do still feel fear, I no longer let it rule my life, neither the fear of failure (because it doesn’t really exist) nor the fear of what others think of me (because it doesn’t matter).
If you’re reading this and thinking that you’re somehow broken or “less than” because you still let fear get in your way sometimes, I have some good news for you. Even the process of becoming the man you want to be doesn’t have to be done perfectly. There’s no right way. The important thing is to just start. You probably have something you’ve felt in your heart that you wanted to do, or become, or learn, or say. Pick the smallest baby step towards that thing, and just start.
You’re going to make mistakes. Don’t worry about that; it’s how you learn. Just start.
Some people will judge you. It doesn’t matter; the only one you have to please is yourself. Just start.
You’re going to be afraid. That’s okay; everybody feels fear, but you don’t have to let it control you. Just start.
If you want someone to help you start, and keep you on the path you’ve started down, I’ve got mentoring slots open. I’ll be happy to give you that push. Email me. Or find someone else that you trust to do it. It doesn’t matter. Just start.
Whatever it is you’ve been putting off because of fear, just start. And then keep going. And keep going some more. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get to where you wanted to be, and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start. And that’s okay too.