Thursday, March 14, 2013

Has 'No' Become Your Auto Response?

I think I 'con' people into thinking that I'm sociable, friendly and cope well in times of stress.  However I assure you it's all presentation of self and impression management and that deep down, my internal universe is way different. 

I'm an introvert.  I thrive in predictability.  I don't like being in unfamiliar situations.  Prolonged social interaction with strangers stresses me out to some degree and will never be my preferred choice.  I rarely venture into anything without knowing a lot of details and being able to plan for it as much as I can.  I'm not a natural risk-taker because that trait just doesn't blend well with all the overanalyzing I'm wired for.

Because of all these things, I am, sadly, what I would call a 'No-er'.  When invitations or opportunities come my way and it's something I did not plan for or expect, generally you could bet that I'd say NO.  At the very least, if I could ask for some sort of postponement, I'd most likely beg for that so that I can prepare myself, do all the research I can and plan it out to death.  The idea needs to sink in first, and then I need to be really comfortable with it (translate: the task is something I feel equipped or qualified for to keep the stress level manageable for this neurotic brain of mine).  Undoubtedly, this tendency has made me miss some opportunities in the past, but luckily, I don't regret any of them enough to self-flagellate. 

Three days ago, I unexpectedly received a call from one of the staff at my son's elementary school.  I had worked with her before during the times I volunteered to help out at my son's class.  I missed the call and she left a message asking if I could be available to help out during picture day the next day.  I listened to her message twice and it didn't take long before the tension crept in.  As expected, my knee jerk reaction was, "No thanks.  I don't think I can do it." Besides, I didn't think they would mind so much if I declined as it seemed to have been a last minute decision on their part.  

The usual internal dialogue kicked in.  Nah.  You have other things to do. You don't even know what it requires of you so it's dangerous to say yes.  You might just look stupid and for sure you won't know anyone there.  The whole thing will just make you uncomfortable.  You're just not the best person for the job.


However, this time it turned out to be a little different.  I challenged myself.  I genuinely did.  Busy?  Really?  You've always said you enjoyed helping out with the kids.  Won't this be a good opportunity to test the waters should you consider volunteering more in the future, or maybe even work in a school again even if it's just in an administrative capacity?  And seriously, how complicated can it be?  You're just assisting.  You have a Master's degree for God's sake!  You can talk to people, manage kids, read and write and organize whatever.  You can't pass this up.  There's just NO excuse!

After a few minutes I called back and happily accepted the opportunity.  This was new territory for me; saying yes to something even though I didn't know all the details.  I didn't want to obsess and overthink it.  I knew that the longer I postponed returning the call, the greater the chance of fear overcoming me. I consciously took a deep breath and just let go.  It felt good.  It felt liberating to be able to slowly step out of my comfort zone. It might have even felt like jumping off of a cliff.   At that point, only one thing kept echoing in my head...Grow...this is how you grow.  Only by challenging our normal patterns, pushing our boundaries and trying new things can we truly evolve.

I know that this won't always happen.  I know that there would still be days when I won't feel as open and as brave.  But the nice thing about Life is that, just as I'm sure I'd still have my usual 'normal' days, I can also bet on having those braver days showing up! Helping out last Tuesday kicked my butt as I had to stand for 3 1/2 hours straight.  But I sure had fun and as usual, it wasn't as bad or scary as I had imagined it.  It never really is, is it?


Have you challenged yourself with something new recently?  Did you feel like you made your self unnecessarily anxious over nothing?  How did you push your self?


















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