“I can’t” is the world’s greatest thief we let roam free in our heads, and it’s been stealing our potential for decades.
“I can’t” protects us from the honesty that we can change. We can make the leap. We can rewrite our own history book but are too afraid to pick up the pen.
So, we let the thief in, and he paints us an imaginary future where we might look ridiculous for failing at something. “I look like an idiot. They’re judging me. I’ll fail and be worse off.”
Even if we’re the only person, we look ridiculous too. “I should have known better. What was I thinking?”
May I remind you?
The ONLY thing keeping you stuck is the B.S. story you keep replaying in your head.
Before I went on stage at TEDx to talk about, you know, getting out of your comfort zone and rewriting your story, I was nervous AF. “I’m not going to look ridiculous in front of a hundred people. I’m going to look ridiculous to the whole world,” was the story in my head.
“No-Shit,” I thought. “With this going on in my head, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll lock up and forget my speech.” Self-fulfilling prophecies for 200, Alex.
My story continues; now, there are only minutes left before I go onstage. I’ve got to snap out of this.
“Ditch the B.S. Story, Ditch the B.S. Story,” I tell myself.
“Okay, but what’s a better story that isn’t another fluffy lie to pep me up?”
“What am I really worried about here?” I asked myself.
I stop leaning forward in my chair and sit up straight, taking a big breath through my nose.
“It’s not fumbling my lines that scares me. That will happen to the best speakers. I’m scared I’ll look like a phony. No one likes a phony. I know I don’t.”
That was it. “I’ll look like a phony and be ostracized.” was the B.S. thief of my confidence.
“So, Jeff, in the third person, What’s a true story that’s not B.S.?”
I take another deep breath, this time through my nose, and release it out of my mouth as my shoulders relax.
“Ohoney? that’s absolutely not true! I’m onstage because I was asked to be onstage. In fact, a TED organizer randomly saw me teach a CrossFit class and suggested I apply to speak here today. I made it through every panel interview and beat out a hundred other applicants. I’m Supposed to be here!”
With the circuit shorted, I started forcing myself to tell a better story until I believed it. “I’m supposed to be here; I’m supposed to be here.”
And it was true.
You can’t say things like “I’m supposed to be here” or “I like myself” over and over out loud for three minutes without laughing.
So, I laughed. I was no longer fretting with anxiety in a dark greenroom. I was about to deliver a powerful message I learned while chasing my life’s dreams and having a grand ole time by-myself time backstage. I had flipped the default script in my head.
“Man, forget what everyone else thinks,” I told myself. “I’m going to go out there and do my thing, and at the end of the day, I like me anyway.”
When they called me to walk onstage, I walked out there, ten feet tall.
The next year I spoke in Chicago to a crowd 10x bigger. I had a blast because I knew I was supposed to be there.
Real Talk Redux:
You’re supposed to show up and look silly and even get it wrong.
Call that gym or trainer.
Say something worth saying in public.
Try a cheesy pickup line and ask for “them digits” instead of swiping right on Tinder.
There’s NO embarrassment in the struggle. But there IS mad respect from others for showing up and putting your heart into it. I PROMISE YOU.
The embarrassment is in quitting; It’s in not trying. In both cases, you lose respect for yourself, and your confidence will drop even further.
You can blame outside factors and be free (paralyzed) from moving forward OR you can truly free yourself by looking inward and pulling out the strength that’s already there through a TRUE, EFFECTIVE story.
P.S. Dear writers, I know this post could have been put together with better grammar and organization.
But F*ck it. I like it. I like me, and I like what I write. I’ll remain, frolicking in my happy puddle about it.