Some people call it a “bucket list”- Something you keep meaning to do. I’ve always had a lot of thoughts- plans, ideas, even narratives. I like to share them; I’ve been teaching and writing consistently since college. And I keep meaning to organize my work- a column, a book, a blog, a video series- something…
A client recently told me that she shared her intent to begin blogging, with her sisters and mother, and was crushed at how dismissive and unsupportive they were. As we discussed their reactions, and hers, we discovered that perhaps it wasn’t that they didn’t think she could, as much as it was them questioning whether she should.
I like to write, and I’ve been writing for years. Ditto on public speaking. And somehow, I’ve managed to avoid, resist, dismiss, or delay being published or recorded. It’s not that I’m shy- at all. I’m pretty sure I know why- my ambivalence is whether it’s right.
I was raised to value discretion. My family, my community, my culture, my religious ideology, all view privacy as a priority. In a predominant culture that’s all about openness, self-disclosure, sharing, “putting yourself out there”, social media, and reality TV, my people have been swimming against the tide, and trying to retain our collective personal dignity and anonymity. My brain always agreed; we don’t need to put all our junk out there for the world to know, judge, consume, interpret, distort, apply, or repeat. I completely agree with that. It was my personality that presented the problem. While I’ve always sincerely admired- even envied, those naturally modest souls who “hate being the center of attention”, the patient, soft-spoken, understated folks, with their quiet dignity and grace, I honestly can’t relate. As a teen, I even occasionally tried to adopt the persona, so much did I covet this elusive gentility- but alas, I don’t have an understated cell in my body. How does one train herself to “hate being the center of attention” when her fantasies always involved the lead role in the play?
Particularly as a woman, I worried about being too aggressive, self-centered, loud, presumptuous, narcissistic, obnoxious, and worst of all: (gasp) wrong. I’m sure I have undoubtedly been all of those things at various times, and lived to tell the tale.
While I love and enjoy self-expression, and have channeled this penchant professionally, I’m reasonably comfortable with it in the moment, but memorializing myself for posterity- that gives even a big-mouth like me, pause. When I have occasion to reflect on words I’ve written or spoken with passion and conviction five, ten, fifteen years ago, I’m often struck by how differently I feel now. Other times, I’m moved by my own consistency over decades. Sometimes I even feel ashamed of how immature, dogmatic, underdeveloped, or misinformed I was. This fear of looking foolish- in my own future eyes, as much as the rest of the world’s, has been holding me back.
Another (unoriginal) obstacle I will have to overcome in order to blog, is perfectionistic procrastination. You know that feeling of not wanting to publish, or even to press send on an email, because “I just need to proofread it one more time” or “to sleep on it” or “to run it past a colleague”- Heaven forbid there’s a typo, a misspelled homophone (those actually do bother me), or an unpopular opinion.
But then, I grew up. I realized I kept waiting to be sure, to be confident, to be an adult. And one day I realized- I am a professional. My thoughts, opinions, and feelings are not more valid than they were when I was 20, nor less than they’ll be when I’m 60, and “if not now, then when”? "One who is ashamed won't learn." (Ethics of the Fathers) I realized it’s ok to share my thoughts as a process, rather than a product, a question rather than an answer, a journey rather than a destination, and collaboratively, rather than pedagogically. This paradigm shift has become a theme in both my professional work and personal weltanschauung.
[I feel inspired by people in my life who've chosen to put themselves out there and share their creativity. Some contemporary writers I have to thank for my newfound courage are: Brene Brown, Liz Gilbert, and Carol Dweck. (I hope to review their books individually in future posts.)]
So, thank you for joining me on my journey.
1, 2, 3.... hit Publish