Over the last few months I seemed to have a problem when it came to running down hills.
I kept falling down. I stumbled all over the place. With absolutely no grace.
If you've ever experienced this kind of trend, you know it can get pretty old.
It all began last year, when I decided to try trail running for the first time ever. I was okay going up those big ole' hills, but the downhill part? Not so great.
I was so afraid of falling, of feeling bad...of looking bad, that I tried to fake it...to do it with the same speed and impeccable form as the long-time runners beside me...to look like I'd been doing it my whole life.
And, since I hadn't been doing it my whole life, I found myself falling. A lot.
But then, one day, things changed.
I was at the top of a hill and Christina, one of our trainers, told our group that our goal was to get to the bottom however we could. She told us to play with our form, to spread our feet wide, to spread our arms wide, to gallop down like a horse if it helped.
She gave us permission to look as silly as we needed to in order to get comfortable running down the hill. In order to get better at it.
That day, all spread-eagle and gallop-y, I found myself laughing, enjoying the ride.
And I didn't fall once. Because I stopped worrying about looking bad.
A while ago I wrote a post called Don't Worry, Be Crappy...which was about the need to be willing to do something badly before we could do it well.
Now I submit there's another piece to this puzzle.
Sometimes what keeps us from truly succeeding at something new...perhaps from even trying something new... has nothing to do with our fear about doing it badly.
Instead, it has everything do with our fear about looking bad while we're doing it badly.
This fear of looking bad can completely get in our way:
- We want to suggest a new idea at a meeting but we're afraid we'll look like we don't know what we're talking about...so we discuss the same old strategies that go nowhere
- We want to write a blog about our latest travel experience but we're afraid of looking like we don't know how to format it right...so we put up another Facebook post instead
- We want to read the instructions on a new machine at the gym but we're afraid of looking like we don't know what we're doing...so we just hop on and wind up tweaking our back
Even when we do move forward despite our fear of looking bad, we often find that our egos are relentless...fixating so much on what others might think that any delight is sucked right out of the situation.
Enough is enough.
Starting now, we need to get over ourselves. We need to know that, sometimes, looking bad is actually a good thing...because it means we're trying something new, we're stretching ourselves, we're taking on a new adventure.
So how can we get past our fear of looking bad?
- First...know that you don't look nearly as bad as you think you do. Without the benefit of a mirror at all times, imaginations can run wild, exaggerating what we look like. It's almost never as bad as you think it is. Promise.
- Second...know that, honestly, people really don't care that much about what you're up to or how flawed you might be. You might think every word is being scrutinized when you read your chapter at the writing group, but the truth is others are listening to your main points while also fretting about how they're going to sound when they go next.
- Third...know that if people are waiting for you to fail and then judging you for it, you really don't need to care that much about what they think (nor have them around you all that much, by the way).
- Finally...know that, ten minutes from now, it'll all be in the past and forgotten by pretty much everyone...except, perhaps, you. Time moves on and people move on and nobody's attention span is that great. So get over it. Everyone else has.
Yes, looking bad can be embarrassing. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be willing to let it happen sometimes.
After all, we all deserve to try something new, to get better at it.
And, in the end, to be absolutely delighted by it.
Know that looking bad can actually be really good. Give yourself permission to do it when the time is right.
And be better at things - and more delighted with them - than you ever thought you could be.
PS: Thanks to the folks at Gut Check Fitness for the photo of delight...