Overexposed: Why I Blog

Overexposed

Initially the reason I wanted to start a blog was because I wanted to share the amazing experience that I had while sky diving, and the excitement that I got from planning and doing other comfort zone challenges. I also saw it as a way of keeping myself motivated and accountable (I get distracted/bored easily), so that I would continue to set and complete more and more comfort zone challenges. But as I went to press ‘Publish’ on my very first post, I realised that creating a blog and putting my musings out there for all to see, was going to be one of my most difficult comfort zone challenges.

Let’s be honest, starting a blog isn’t exactly an original idea. These days they are a dime a dozen. I’m pretty sure that by most Gen Y standards I am well and truly a Laggard. But for all the blogs I have read, and the stats that show you how common they are, there is one thing that I never realised – writing a blog is hard. From a technical standpoint, it’s actually pretty easy, especially with platforms like WordPress, Blogspot and Square Space (just to name a few). The hard, and might I stress uncomfortable part of writing a blog is exposing yourself, in all your “you-ness” to the world.

I was so excited to write my first post. In fact I got so into it that as I wrote it I re-lived the whole experience of skydiving, my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and I had a crazy nervous energy running through me all over again. Thankfully there was less screaming (and swearing) involved this time, but while writing, the feelings and emotions were just as raw. And with that rawness the lessons that I shared really left me feeling pretty damn exposed. There I was, divulging all these fears and insecurities – and what I considered to be some of my biggest flaws. And as someone who prides herself on being strong, probably the most uncomfortable part was shamefully exposing my weaknesses.

But really, the thing that left me hovering over the ‘Publish’ button the longest was the part where I admitted that I had seen a therapist. In fact I deleted and reinserted those three little words over and over again before eventually deciding to push through the discomfort. I liken the feeling to standing on the edge of a freezing cold swimming pool and willing yourself to jump.  Once you leap it’s never as bad as you anticipated – but I can’t even tell you how many times I was tempted I was to go back and edit out those few words.

Probably the most important thing you can do in any comfort zone challenge is ask yourself “Why?”. Why am I feeling so nervous (uncomfortable) right now? What am I so afraid of? And for me, the idea of admitting I had insecurities and more specifically that I saw a therapist, was that I would be perceived as being weak. I feared that people would think that there was something wrong with me, or that I just couldn’t cope. And you know what? There was a point where I just couldn’t cope. There were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed let alone face going to work or talking to other people. Not because work was bad, or I didn’t like the people I had to talk to, but because I just couldn’t face anyone or do anything without crying. I still find the feeling very hard to describe.

After uncovering what I was so afraid of I realised that what I really needed to do was to re-think my definition of strength. Is it strong to continue to struggle along when you are not coping? Is it strong to pretend there is nothing wrong and stick your head in the sand? Or is strength about recognising when there is a problem, seeking help and dealing with whatever it is that needs to be addressed? By questioning my idea of strength I have started to understand that there is strength in vulnerability, there is strength in relinquishing control and acknowledging that I don’t always have the answers. There is also strength in opening yourself up and letting go of what other people think about who you really are, flaws and all.

While I started blogging to tell others about my experiences, the whole process has become so much more. Each post I write I get to push past my discomfort, and overcome one of my biggest fears: A fear of the world knowing exactly who I am, judging me and ultimately not liking me. I don’t know how long it is going to take for me to be able to publish a post without getting this nervous feeling, but the point is that it is getting easier every time. And by putting myself out there I get rewarded time and time again. I get such a thrill when people tell me they relate to what I am writing about, and how I am feeling. Being truly Me allows me to make a connection with people more easily than if I was to continue hiding behind my wall of so-called strength.

It is strange to me that it is so hard to just be ourselves, especially so because it’s pretty damn counter productive. In my experience the people I have always been drawn to are the ones that are letting their own unique light shine, those who are quite obviously comfortable in their own skin. So, how can you be more you today? How can you stop hiding behind what you think other people want you to be and really own your uniqueness? Because, as Marianne Williamson said “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Love Jane

xx

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Life is not a popularity contest

Run for your life – or someone else’s.

I am guessing that somewhere in our genetic makeup there is an innate need to be liked by other people. Maybe many millennia ago when we were cavemen living in tribes it was useful to have as many people like us – and therefore protect us – as possible. I don’t know about you, but the teenage dream of being popular always eluded me. I remember back in Year Nine getting so close to being admitted into the ‘Trendy Group” but never quite making the cut.  If only Mum had bought me those Levi 501’s… so close!  That was the first time I really remember being ‘judged’, and it felt horrible. You would have thought that by the time I got to 37 I would have stopped worrying about stuff like that, and while I’m no longer applying for membership to the cool group, I still sometimes get that nervousness about what people think of me. I wonder if they think I’m smart, or pretty, or interesting, and ultimately whether they like me, and if not what’s wrong with me. Strangely, it was only after signing up for the Mother’s Day Classic recently I got to thinking – so bloody what if ‘they’ like me?

Fun runs, marathons, and other endurance races are your classic comfort zone challenges. And when I signed up for the run I was seriously wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew having hyperventilated my way through only 2km a couple of days before. Another reason I signed up was because I’d met a bunch of great new people who I wanted to get to know better – but neither of those factors were the lesson that I had to learn from this experience. You see the catch with signing up was that my team were also trying to raise money for charity – which is where I really started to feel outside of my comfort zone. I know this might sound strange to you, but remember that comfort zone challenges really are a personal thing, so what seems routine to one person can be someone else’s hell.

The thing that I really struggled with was the idea of asking people for money. Granted, the money wasn’t even for me, in fact it was for an amazing charity called One Girl, that funds education for girls in Africa*, a cause that I wholeheartedly support. But before I even asked anyone to sponsor me I felt the searing pain of rejection, the fear of finding out that no one likes me enough to sponsor me. My fear of not being ‘popular enough’ was about to be proven right…. Sort of like having a party and no one turning up (it’s a real fear people!).

So I did the comfortable thing and I procrastinated. I kept training of course, running further each week, and also kept in touch with the other girls to see how they were going. But whenever there was a mention of the sponsorship and how everyone’s fundraising was going I went suspiciously quiet. Then I made excuses, convincing myself that I couldn’t work out how to set up the sponsorship page, or that it wasn’t linked to my registration so it wouldn’t count. It was the adult equivalent of ‘The dog ate my homework.”

As the race drew closer, I admitted to the other girls that the idea of putting myself out there and asking for sponsorship really scared me. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. After that I decided that I needed to face up to this fear and just push through it. So less than a week before the race I started my sponsorship page and posted it to Facebook. And guess what? The world did NOT end. Some people sponsored me, some people didn’t. But that was ok. It got me thinking about all this ‘judgement’ that I was afraid of. The thing about judgement is that you can’t actually feel it. It can’t hurt you. The only thing that can hurt you is your own feelings of inadequacy making up stories about what you think other people are thinking or saying about you.

I suspect that when I posted my call for sponsorship no one made their decision to sponsor me based on whether they actually like me. I am guessing the thought processes were probably less ‘me’ focused and more ‘them’ focused, i.e. Can I afford to? Is this a cause I agree with? What am I going to make for dinner? You get the point. The fact is that as a result of this ridiculous insecurity I was putting myself at the centre of everything. And the problem with that is that it closes you off from what is truly important – like the fact that 66 million girls around the world are not in school either because they don’t have access to schools, their families can’t afford it or they are not allowed to attend simply because they are female.   And when you start focusing outwards you realise that you have the power to make a difference. Personally, by putting myself out there I raised nearly $400 (and collectively our team paid for 12 girls to be educated), gave me a sense of purpose and gave me a chance to connect with people in a new way. I started to get really excited that I was part of something – something bigger and more important than my insecurities and first world problems.

I realise now that worrying about being judged doesn’t make people like us more. As far as I can tell, the only thing it does is stops us from doing things that could potentially make our lives better, more meaningful and possibly even change other people’s lives for the better. I wonder how many world-changing ideas or projects have been left to die because of a (misguided) fear of being judged. As long as you are living according to your highest values, forget about what other people think about you, because in the end ‘The people that matter don’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter”.

Love (your friend) Jane xx

*If you’re interested in checking out this amazing charity, visit www.onegirl.org.au

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