Sometimes, you just have to push yourself.
When I first met my friend, Jessica* (my best friend in high school), she was a very shy girl. She knew she was and she didn’t like being that way. In fact, towards the end of high school, or maybe the first year out (I can’t remember – I’m old now, you know!) she pushed herself to do a modeling course. She did this because she knew that at the end of the course, she would have to walk a catwalk, raised above all the crowd that would be there watching her (including myself) – her greatest fear – and she thought the experience would help her let go of her shyness. You see, Jessica didn’t want her shyness to hold her back from anything. She didn’t want it to stop her doing things she wanted to do, and so she made a conscious (and brave) decision to do something about it. I couldn’t help but admire her for that.
I wasn’t what I would describe as a shy girl when I was younger. In fact, I was pretty ok about getting up in front of people. I remember dancing in front of my whole class when I was 7 (I have no idea why – perhaps I just wanted to), and playing the role of the Little Drummer Boy in my primary school’s Christmas production that same year (none of the boys could keep a beat like I could on a drum). In high school, I took Speech & Drama and loved getting up in front of everyone to act or sing or dance. I did get terribly nervous when I took part in speech competitions, but I managed to do get through them, and even progress from the heats to the Quarter Finals two years running (but bummed out after that – I was terrible at impromptu speeches). However, there were plenty of other instances that my fear would hold me back.
Take the annual Royal Show in Perth, for example. All my friends would jump enthusiastically on to the roller coaster, and I’d jump on the Tunnel of Love instead. The most thrilling it got was when my boat would raise slightly in the water on rollers and then gently swoosh back down in to the water. I’d always leave the Royal Show each year inevitably regretting that once again I hadn’t just put my fears aside and joined my friends. I’d listen to their animated conversation about how much fun they’d had on all the ‘scary’ rides, and would lie in bed that same night experiencing acute regret that I had missed out on all the fun. Again. The next year, we’d head to the Royal Show and I would convince myself that I would finally join my friends on the roller coaster, and once again, I’d find myself standing on the sidelines, holding their show bags whilst they had more fun together.
Something changed in my late teens. I didn’t want to miss out anymore, and one year at the Royal Show I took the plunge and jumped on a ride called The Western Roundup. You stood in a rounded cage, and it would spin so fast you would be pushed back against the cage, and it would then slowly rise and turn partly on its side – the force keeping you in your place. And it was thrilling. I loved it so much, I went on it three or four times. Then I went on other rides…including the roller coaster. I remember leaving the Show that year so happy that at last, I could contribute to the conversation afterwards about how much fun we had all had.
The older I have gotten, I’ve come to realise that sometimes you just have to say ‘yes’ – even when saying ‘yes’ at the time feels way out of your comfort zone. When my priest asked me to get up in church and talk about my faith earlier this year, I was anxious about doing it at first, but I said yes because at the end of the day, I really wanted to do it. I really wanted to share my story, and I also thought it would be great for my kids to see me get up and stand confidently in front of a crowd and tell my story. (Three times in fact!) I did it, and it felt great. If I had said ‘no’, I know I would have regretted it.
Just this week, I did something that I doubt I would have said yes to 10 years ago. I accepted an opportunity to talk to a company – on camera – about my parenting experience (to be used on their website – I’ll keep you posted). When I walked away afterwards, I was amazed that I had just walked in there, sat down in front of a camera with bright lights on me and answered questions without too much fuss on my part. I’m glad I said yes, because I just don’t want to miss out on anything. I’ve become good at asking myself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen if I say ‘yes’?’
I have learnt over the years – just like Jessica did when she took to that catwalk – that if there’s something you really want to do, and you’re given the opportunity to do it – don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t live your life with regrets. Life is just too short to do that, and we only get one shot at this. Once an opportunity has passed...it's gone. Embrace everything life has to offer. Push yourself if you have to. Don’t worry about what people will think of you. Don’t let your fears, or your shyness, hold you back, because you may find yourself lying in bed at night - just like I used to - regretting your decision not to say 'yes'.
Just DO it.
Do you have fears? Do they hold you back from doing the things you really want to do?
* Not her real name.