I asked my daughter what she might say to help a friend have the courage to do something new even though they were scared.
After clarifying that the scary thing wasn’t something I was trying to trick her into doing, she gave me some good advice.
“Tell them to remember that its only scary for the first few minutes and then when you get there, someone is usually nice and says hello. Or you will see someone you know that you can go stand with, or there is something you have to do like fill out forms, or find a seat. And afterward you won’t remember what you were so nervous about.”
I asked her advice for two reasons. First, because of her personality and style, she usually has a different perspective from me, and second, because I found myself on the receiving end of an invitation that I found scary, so I was gathering multiple opinions about what to do.
In my coaching practice I often work with clients who are attempting new and often scary transitions. When that happens I help them question the assumptions behind their fears, so they can hopefully start to align what they say they want, with what they have to do to achieve it.
This recent “scary situation” helped me categorize some habitual excuses:
- “They don’t really want me there, they just invited me to be polite” (Protecting Self)
- “I don’t know anyone, it’ll be awkward for everyone” (Protecting Others)
- “I don’t really have the expertise to belong to this group” (Imposter Syndrome)
- “I have too many other things I need to do” (Martyr Syndrome)
I ended up not attending for these and other reasons. Instead, I spent those hours, and days afterward, mentally berating myself for being so cowardly.
Then, as I was getting ready for meeting with a coaching client, I noticed that several times between sessions they hadn’t followed through on a plan, or “taken the risk”. My notes showed we worked together to adjust plan or break it down into smaller steps. I helped them, encouraged them, provided additional tools and information.
I didn’t call them a coward.
In fact I can’t think of anyone I would call a coward for any reason. Except myself of course.
Based on this experience I think “learn to be nicer to yourself every day” will be my meditation for the next thirty days. I also forget sometimes to give myself credit for the risk I take every time I publish a new blog post. My opinions, flaws and ruminations are readable, searchable, and if we believe in the power of the NSA, permanent on the internet.
So maybe not totally cowardly.