Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Change: Letting Go of Fear and Perceptions

How do we change?

I would like to share with you a story. I’ll let you know now that this is going to be a bit of a longer post than usual. I guess I’m making up for lost time :p

During my earlier college days I was allowed the opportunity to be co-president of our school’s theatre club. We had decided to do two productions that year, and we would each oversee one of the productions. Now, this had been a year of firsts for me, one of which was living on my own. It was a difficult year, and one full of personal obstacles to overcome. Suffice to say, I made many mistakes, including taking on too many responsibilities (I had trouble saying the word “NO”) and the end result was that I let down my team. How? I had the need to be in control (partly personality, partly to get the feeling that something in my life was in my control at the time) but I didn’t delegate when I should have. I was exhausted, and overwhelmed to the point that I let the small things get to me.

What did I take away from that experience?

I chalked it up to me not being cut out for a role of leadership and responsibility, and I left it at that and carried that belief to this very day.

When I first began dating my partner, I told him this story. when I got to the end, I explained that this was the reason for my lack of ambition, why I was never going to be a “boss” or hold a position of responsibility. “I’m just not cut out for it!” His response was simple, but it caught me off guard. “Why not?”

“Well, isn’t it obvious?” I asked. “I clearly did a horrible job, and I’m not good at it.”

“Did you learn from your mistake?” He continued. “Yes,” I responded tentatively, afraid of where the conversation was going. “Then what makes you think you couldn’t do it now if you tried?”

 I’ve thought long and hard about that conversation, and it seems the answer has been staring me in the face. It became more clear to me recently after a less-than-friendly email exchange with an old acquaintance. The details are unimportant, but the gist of his response was based on references to mistakes I made in the past (did I mention that I've made many of those?); references which had nothing to do with the present situation, but nonetheless making them must have made this individual feel better about himself. But his words struck a chord with me.

And that's when it hit me!

Have I been carrying the weight of the past on my shoulders to the point that I’ve been holding myself back from life? That I can’t even recognize the changes that have occurred within me, and that I’m not the same person I was 7, 5, 3 years, or even 1 year ago?!

And then I wondered, has this affected my writing? Am I afraid to write the things I really want to write because I’m afraid of what others think of me now, or will think of me in the future? Most of all, am I afraid of what I think of me? The answer to all of these questions and more is YES. But it’s a burden I no longer wish to carry.

So this is what I have learned:

People are going to have their opinion of you, no matter what. They will go on as little, or as much information as they have and they will file you away in a little box and put that box on a shelf (I should say now that I myself am guilty of this. We all are). Once they do this, unless some event occurs in which they are forced to, the box will remain untouched and their opinion unchanged. Why? Because this is safe; this is easy. It is NOT your job to change their opinion - they are entitled to it after all. It IS, however, your job to let go, to not carry the weight of their opinion with you. I am working on this.

I am thankful for the mistakes I have made. I may not like them, and they may still trouble me at times, but I am thankful nonetheless. They have made me the person I am today, and they are shaping me to be the person I aspire to be - a bit wiser, more understanding, forgiving, loving and stronger; a better Friend. Daughter. Sister. Granddaughter. Girlfriend.

I didn’t realize I even WAS carrying this weight with me, and in turn the belief that I was somehow, un-allowed to change. When you carry such a weight, it affects every aspect of your self - personal, professional, emotional. It affects your very sense of self worth.

So allow me to share this one thing with you (and maybe this is something that you know already, but I know I need a reminder): YOU ARE ALLOWED TO CHANGE! No one can tell you otherwise (even though it’s not something people usually “say”, it’s more of an unconscious thing, and it’s “said” through their actions). They can only cling to their perception of you, but it’s not your problem. It’s not MY problem.

Not anymore!

Have any of you ever felt like you were holding yourself back because you made mistakes in the past, or you were afraid of what others would think? Did it affect your writing, art, business, etc.?

*This blog post is part of a possible series of personal reflections on writing, and life in general. Let me know if this resonated with you in some way, and if this is something you care to read more of in future posts*


  1. Cate !!!

    First, i didnt know that you was keeping a blog. It's pretty cool. Second, to answer your question, yes, i felt like "What the other people will say/think?" doing my stuff, but it happens to everyone on this planet, i guess... I remember when you told me that you would like write a book (at least one time in your life). So, here is my will : Please, dont forget about me when you get published, even if its in twenty years, send me a copy (with an autograph off course :p) !
    See you :)


  2. Mike: I started my blog last Fall, but unfortunately I've neglected it a bit this past year as life became very busy. I'm glad you've remembered that I want to write a novel, and I of course will make sure you receive a copy (this should keep me nice and accountable :p). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts :)