When is the last time you said yes to something that made you feel nervous, or truly scared? What was it about the idea that had you anxious? How did you get up the courage to do it, when you really wanted to shy away?
We are not programmed to jump into things that scare us, and for good reason. If you’re scared to drive 80 mph around a sharp curve – that’s a good thing. If you’re worried about making a big purchase during a time of financial woes, that makes sense. Fear of danger is what keeps us safe, physically and emotionally.
But sometimes we’re nervous for reasons other than life or death (or finances)…
- Because we think we might not fit into society’s expectations
- Because we don’t want our loved ones to be disappointed, or angry, or jealous
- Because the outcome might make us view ourselves differently
- Because we’re used to saying no
Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the some of the most popular shows on television, including Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, gave a moving Ted Talk last year about this very topic. Like many of us, Rhimes frequently said no to things that challenged her, or made her feel uncomfortable. Through a conversation with her sister, Rhimes suddenly realized that her tendency to shy away from fear was exactly what was keeping her so afraid.
Maybe you’ve noticed that you have a similar tendency. You daydream about doing daring stuff – getting a cool job, giving an amazing speech, perhaps even going skydiving – but when an opportunity is actually presented to you, a quick flare-up of anxiety tries to hold you back. What can you do to push through the fear and live a life of “badassery” (as Rhimes might call it)?
First of all, consider the worst possible outcome. Are you risking true harm to yourself or others? If so, it’s okay to say no! Next, decide whether the opportunity is even something you’re interested in. If you love the way your house looks, you don’t have to say yes to painting the living room hot pink.
But if the risk of injury is low and the reward is something you want for yourself, maybe you should say…. YES!
The journey can start small. Start by saying yes to playing Barbies with your five-year-old, no matter how silly you feel. Say yes to the unusual-sounding new entrée at your favorite restaurant. If you hate it, you can always order something else. Say yes to the shirt that’s in a color and print you wouldn’t normally wear.
As you become more comfortable and confident, your “yeses” can become bigger, too. Say yes to going on the biggest roller-coaster at the amusement park. Say yes to joining your local community theater. Say yes to taking on a new job, or moving to another city.
In any of these situations, the outcome may not go the way you would have liked. Maybe the roller coaster makes you queasy, or someone makes an offhand comment about the new shirt. Don’t use these outcomes as reason to say no in the future. Be proud of yourself for trying, hold your head up high, and keep saying yes.