If you’ve read the About section of this blog then you know exactly where this is going my friends! I’ve been thinking recently about what it is that causes us to give up on our dreams. Why is it that so many of us can reel off a list of all the things we’d love to do and yet we never get around to actually doing them? We light up as we animatedly tell others that we want to do volunteer work abroad, travel more, write a book, learn to play the guitar, run marathons, build a home out of a shipping container, climb mountains, start our own business….the list is endless. Take me as an example – I love writing and for years I’ve thought about how much I’d love to have my own blog and over those years I’ve thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it some more and done……you guessed it…..absolutely nothing! Why? After we’ve excitedly shared our dreams with others what stops us from translating that feeling of excitement in to action?
I think it comes down to one thing – fear. The sneaky thing about fear is that it often wears a number of disguises (it’s very flexible like that!), here are three of its favourites…….
The fear that we’re not good enough: So many of the struggles we face throughout our lives come down to one thing – the majority of us have a deep rooted belief that who we are is not enough. The handsome, charming man you went on that date with who ended up spending the whole time talking about his achievements and never asked you anything about yourself? He doesn’t think he’s enough. Your super thin friend who looks like a goddess in every outfit she puts on but secretly spends her time dieting and exercising like a maniac? She doesn’t think she’s enough. Your mega talented brainiac colleague who seems to effortlessly get every promotion and accolade going but in actual fact goes home and works until midnight? He doesn’t think he’s enough. Your Aunt who, every time you phone her with good news, can’t seem to ever congratulate you or feel happy about your success? She doesn’t think she’s enough. Your wealthy cousin who takes glamorous holidays every year and posts them all over social media? She doesn’t think she’s enough either. I know, and you thought you were the only one huh?!
So many of us carry this belief that we’re not good enough throughout our lives. Sometimes we’re conscious of it but more often than not we’re completely unaware that the core belief we hold about ourselves is that we are somehow lacking, that we’re deficient in ways that other people are not, that we’re not worthy. The result? We end up sabotaging the very things we want and then we blame our lack of success on one two things 1) other people or 2) one, or a variation of, the following statements – I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, rich enough etc, all of which at their core come back to the feeling that WE are not enough – you can see how this is a vicious cycle can’t you?!
Let me just make it very clear to you that you are enough and that you always have been. In fact, I want you to go and look in the mirror right now and repeat the following over and over again until you believe it…..’I AM ENOUGH’. I know, you’re thinking but Kathryn I feel really stupid staring at myself in the mirror and saying that! I did too, in fact I still do some days, but it gets easier and trust me, it helps. You are an amazing, talented, beautiful human being who has a whole host of gifts that are unique to you and the world needs what only you can offer. Yes, there may be millions of artists, writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians…(insert you dream!) out there but you are the only one who can put your particular spin on that thing it is that you dream of doing. Please don’t let the false belief that you are not enough stop you from sharing your light with the world.
The fear that we will fail: Here’s the thing – we tend to think that so many other people’s lives are perfect. They have the gorgeous house, the nice car, the great job, the six figure salary, the exciting holiday’s, the loving marriages, the well behaved kids, the stylish clothes, their own business…..the list goes on. We look at those we know, and those celebrities we don’t, and we judge them as being successful based on what we see on the outside. Of course this only tells a small part of the story. What we often don’t know is the immense amount of hard work, long hours and lack of social life, that it took to get them to where they are today. We also often assume that all of those people who have all of those things must be happy and that’s not always the case.
We all have heroes, people we look up to and admire for a variety of reasons, but they didn’t get to where they are, or become who they are, overnight. Maybe some people had a slightly easier run and it all came naturally and effortlessly but that’s just not true for most of us, we have to work at it and often we have to fail, at many things, over and over again until we figure out how to make something work.
JK Rowling was divorced, a single mother, living off welfare and couldn’t even afford to photocopy the 90,000 word novel she’d written so she manually typed out every, single copy of Harry Potter that she sent to publishers – given that it was rejected dozens of times, that’s a lot of typing!! Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’, after 10,000 attempts he finally created the world’s first lightbulb. Bill Gates was a college drop out with a failed business when he finally hit the big time with Microsoft and Will Smith owed the IRS 2.8 million dollars in 1989 before he stared in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
We need to stop fearing failure, we need to stop seeing it as a bad thing – failing is simply proof that we’re trying new things and learning new skills, we mustn’t give up the minute our dream feels hard. I mean seriously, can you imagine where we’d be now if, on approaching our first birthday we simply decided that trying to walk was too hard and we’d rather not bother? We were all born with an enormous amount of tenacity, grit, determination and perseverance, all of those things still live inside of us so please stop allowing fear to hold you back. At the end of the day which person would you rather be – the one who doesn’t try and therefore stays safe having never failed, or the one who keeps trying new things and when it doesn’t quite go to plan see’s it not as a failure but simply as a redirection to something new?
The fear of what other people will think: Many of us spend a great deal of time thinking and worrying about what we think others might think of us…that’s a lot of thinking and worrying! We’re scared to put ourselves out there for fear that others may judge us, that they’ll think we’re crazy for following whatever dream it is that we have in our hearts.
The fear of what others will think is deeply connected to our fear that others might not like us thus threatening our sense of belonging. Brene Brown writes beautifully on the subject of belonging and how deeply wired we are for connection. We desperately want to belong to something, to feel we belong with, and are connected to, others. Yet often we go about this the wrong way. Instead of showing up in the world as our perfectly imperfect selves, we try to fit in with who we think others want us to be and thus we often compromise who we are in order to feel loved by others.
The hardest part of all this is waking up to the realisation that in order to have that sense of belonging that we so deeply yearn for, we have to allow ourselves to be seen for who we are. This means letting go of what we think other people will think of us and living our truth. While it can be painful when others don’t understand us or our dreams, what is more painful in the long run is spending our life living it based on what we think others want us to do and be, rather than living it for ourselves.
So I’m urging you not to let your fear hold you back one second longer. Whatever your dream, whatever skills and gifts you have were given to you for a reason. Your heart and soul were chosen long before you were born as being the heart and soul that would carry those dreams because only you can realise them the way they need to be realised. Only you, in all your uniqueness, can give those gifts to the world in the way they need to be. So whatever your dream promise me that you’ll start on it today……this minute….I mean seriously stop reading this and start taking action! Turn that dream in to a plan. You can do it, I know you can.