Being a kid is hard. I ranked low in the public school pecking order. I was chunky. I wore glasses. I was quiet and shy. I was the definition of clumsy. True story, I have a scar on my face from, get this, jumping into a wall. I was not a cheerleader, I didn’t play sports and I loathed PE. I hid behind books, and tried to blend into the background. Any one of these sins would have been enough to put me in the lower echelons of grade school society. The combination was cataclysmic.
I believed the popular kids to have a divine right to social acceptance that I was not privy to. I envied their natural born ability to belong, to fit in, where I could not. I tolerated their teasing, hoping they might someday welcome me into their fold. That someday they would want to be my friend. Want me to be their friend. Much later I discovered that they, those other children that I admired and feared in equal measure, were just as insecure and filled with self doubt as I was.
As an adult, I marvel at how many of us, myself included, still carry around childhood anxieties, allowing them to bleed into every day life. I imagine those anxieties taking the form of a snotty little pixie with perfect hair and a tiny waist. She perches cross-kneed on my shoulder, casually kicking one high heeled foot and popping her gum. Her disdain at my puny blogging aspirations do nothing to boost my confidence. She whispers into my ear, rolling her eyes all the while, “You can’t do that. You’re not smart enough. No one wants to hear what you have to say. You will fail.”
And, in part, I know she’s right. I will fail. More than once. Everyone fails sometimes. Making mistakes is an unpleasant, often embarrassing, but necessary part of life. I accept this. Not that I like failing. Failing sucks. It is how we handle failure that defines us. I hate failing as much as the next person, but is fear of failure a good enough reason to avoid starting?
I offer up this blog as an example. I’ve wanted to start a blog for years. I love writing, and I’ve done a few guest posts on other blogs. I admired the courage of other writers, but I was never brave enough to create my own. Think about that word, “courage”, and what it means in this context. The anonymity of the internet is a lot like grade school, assuring low consequences, and making thoughtless cruelty much easier. Blog writers are cannon fodder for such cruelty. But… sticks and stones, right? Except we all know that words can hurt. Look at the words we say to ourselves. That pixie on your shoulder, the one that whispers such nastiness into your ear, is you. She might have the voice of another, a parent or perhaps a sibling, but make no mistake. YOU created her, just as I created mine. And the only thing I hate more than criticism from others is the regret that comes from taking her advice.
One of the rules of good leadership is to maximize the talents of your workforce. The pixie is no different. My pixie has a positive genius for imagining negative outcomes. Recognizing the usefulness of this skill, I threw a harness over her shoulders and put her to plow. I asked her, “If I start a blog, what is the worst that can happen?” As predicted, she came up with a few scenarios.
People won’t read it.
People will read it, but won’t like it.
People will read it, won’t like it, AND will make fun of it.
Having completed her assignment (with, I might add, a terrible aptitude), my pixie crossed her arms and sat back, a smug look on her face. “Well, what are you going to do now?”, she snipes. Good question. I did the only thing left to do: I ignored her.
I acknowledge that the third scenario is possible, and I could be made a fool of. Do I think it will happen? Not really. I think the first scenario is far more likely. Why bother, you ask? Because more than I want to avoid embarrassment, I want to be able to say I tried. So here I am. Trying.
Please, be gentle.