Day 19: Why are we so afraid to try new things?

My 500 Words

As I set out to write my day 19 post, I was wondering why so many of us are afraid of trying new things. So, to set things off, I just googled this very question to see what came up. Psychology Today claimed spot number 1 on google. According to this blog post, studies show that people fear outcomes that are uncertain more than they fear outcomes that they know will be bad. The unknown of a new situation is what we fear. Trying something new can cause us to grow and to change, and change is never easy. I wonder if what we feel when we try something new is the loss of an old self, the pain of transition, and the fear of an unknown, uncertain future. This doesn’t seem to go through our minds at the time, but I personally enjoy the poetic possibility.

Today, I decided to cook up some sweet potatoes on the stove along with cauliflower florets just to have some veggies at hand for meals this week. I was filled with SO many concerns and fears. I think about doing this sample kind of task all of the time, and I overthink it every time, usually abandoning the effort altogether. I have never been super comfortable in the kitchen. When I cook with someone else that fancies themselves a good cook, the experience elicits a lot of negative feelings. In my experience, someone sees how I am cutting a vegetable, holding my hand, or doing something else that a more experienced cook wouldn’t do, and I am shamed. I can honestly blame others for a lot of this. If I am going to burn something, let me burn it! Especially if you aren’t eating it and no one and no structure is going to get hurt in the process! More times than I like to admit, I have let situations that cause me to shrink away from a fuller, bigger, better life. I think many of us have.

Alas, in this case, I did decide to cook up the food I wanted to cook. I was alone, and it was really enjoyable. I loved it in all honesty. If I hadn’t been alone or if I thought someone else might eat it, I might not have done it. How sad is that! The food tasted really good to me, and I felt proud that I made enough food for the week and that it was food that I wanted to eat, regardless of whether someone else wanted to eat it. Sometimes I find it hard to focus on me, as I have mentioned in previous posts.

Lately, though, I have been working hard to prioritize myself and my wants. I don’t answer the phone if I am doing something I care about, and I don’t stop everything I am doing to nurture a relationship that might not do the same for me. I am also on week 6 of a workout program, and I haven’t missed a day! So, I am not perfect at this point, but I am getting better. And my sweet potato magic of this evening is just one more drop in the bucket!

Day 1: A Dream Deferred

My 500 Words

Well, today is the first day of the My500Words challenge. That means I have to write 500 words today. Yesterday, I was full of writing inspiration, my imagination going wild. Today, the day I need to write something, my mind is blank.

I was an avid writer as a child. I loved poetry and silly books, re-reading Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky in the corners of my bedroom or libraries. Language was fun with these writers, and it really appealed to me. Words and phrases could mean more than one thing. They could describe one thing but make you think of another. This playfulness excited me and set my imagination on fire.

As I grew older, I still loved to write, and I was fairly good at it. When I practiced sufficiently and put care into my writing, I sometimes would win little awards or competitions. I thought I would study English in college, given my interest and knack for the subject in high school. I told my parents this, and it was met with stares of confusion, stares that I still remember to this day. Whenever, I think back on college and my decisions thereafter, I remember that feeling of shame at having wanted to study literature or writing. I remember feeling stupid for even thinking it, and I remember pushing it to the back of my mind and trying to ignore it.

“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”

– Jim Carrey

My memories of that feeling and the ensuing decisions to please others rather than myself are enduring. I continue to feel an internal conflict to ignore myself and listen to others, others I assume to know me better than I know myself. Have you felt this struggle? Have you ever made a personal decision to please someone else and pushed your own interests aside? I see this side of myself even today. I often ask loved ones what they think about an idea, and I am immediately gripped with fear, fear that I am not good enough to have this thought, to do this thing.

I have dealt with this self-doubt in small ways over the years, primarily by not sharing my thoughts and dreams, wounding myself to save face. I have tried blogging in an effort to get back into “it”. Blogging efforts, over the past 10 years, have unearthed a gigantic fear of failure and judgement. A fear that I have not been willing to acknowledge, a fear that I am decidedly inadequate. As I write this, I am struck by the sadness of such thoughts and, mostly, by the wasted time, potential, and creativity.

Whether it has been writing and my love of language or another dream deferred, I have allowed the fear of failure to determine so many choices. I have let others’ dreams become my goals, for fear of not being able to reach my own. And furthermore, I have had the audacity to wonder why I was not happier, more fulfilled, more successful. Maybe today will be the day I stop deferring my dreams and pursue something wildly my own.