**Please sir – can you spare 11 of your finest minutes to read my latest musings?**
I’m trying to spin my negative experiences into positive ones as I sit continuing to write this blog post with gritted teeth, tired eyes and a mind that is playing different confrontational scenarios. I widen my eyes, smile (currently large and fake) and silently thank the neighbours for waking me up yet again before my alarm goes. I can use this time to spend on my neglected blog.
I’m not going to expend my energy ranting about how inconsiderate my neighbours are. They have already stolen too much of my time this morning and over the past year have given me enough material should I ever want to write a thriller called ‘The Nobbers Upstairs‘.
Instead, I want you to think about something that you really wanted to achieve but either:
- a) didn’t start it, or;
- b) quit at the first hurdle….aka ‘when the going got tough’
If you can’t recall something, I’m all about sharing, so have one of mine:
- Writing a book
- Going to university
- Learning to drive
- Becoming a stronger swimmer
- Being an entrepreneur
As I review the list my body becomes heavy because all these things still occupy my list.
When I returned from travelling at 30 I dismissed going to university to get a degree because ‘I was too old’, ‘It would take 5 years to get there doing it part-time’ plus ‘I didn’t know what I actually wanted to study’.
If I had pushed those niggling thoughts to the side and just got to it, I would have graduated 2 years ago. Yet, it’s still on my ‘would like list’ – I haven’t listed it as ‘would love list’ as if that was the case – I’d have done it by now – surely?
As I approached 2019 I felt that this year was going to be different – to fill the statement with gooey cheese, which you’ll be familiar with if you have Facebook and see all the ‘New Year, New Me’ resolutions. I’m sure I told friends on more than one occasion that: ‘THIS was going to be my year‘.
I originally was going to move back to Leeds once the contract was up on the apartment in May. Not because of the noisy neighbours but because I felt it was the right time to start the next chapter of my life and moving back North and planning to have a baby was part of that chapter.
Except, I kept seeing signs to stay in London – ‘if only for one more year‘. It was contrasting to the messages I kept giving myself when trying to start anything on my ‘would like list’. I felt peace not panicked.
I had confirmation of my instincts that ‘things were going to be different’ on the morning of Saturday 13th April, when my name was the last to be written on the plan.
I can’t be certain whether it was the heat from the lights that made me feel uncomfortable or if it’s simply the fact that……I was shitting it. The joy that I first felt when I had been chosen made a disappearing act just as I was about to take to the stage.
I was no longer buzzing that I had achieved my one personal goal for volunteering at ‘Unleash the Power Within’ (a self improvement and personal growth seminar by Tony Robbins). Instead, I looked at the room and the thousands of people that occupied it – all waiting for Day 3 and gulped, trying to secretly catch my breath.
I was going to be dancing on the stage to an audience of 12,000 people!
So naturally I was thinking of everything that could go wrong. I could:
- trip up over my trousers whilst running on or off stage
- forget the moves or fall out of sync
- forget to smile
The list went on until it was time for me and the other dancers to get on stage and inspire the attendees to join us in the dance by mirroring our moves. It wasn’t until I spotted my friends from the corner of my eye jumping up and down to celebrate when they saw me on stage that it sunk in – I had actually made it.
This was such a big deal for me because unfortunately rarely do I continue the course of something to ‘make it’. I actually surprised myself in the run up to volunteering at the event when I made the decision that not only was I going to try out for the dance team but I was going to make it on the stage.
I practiced the dance routines each morning and evening during the days leading up to the event and felt confident that I could ‘bring it’. So much so that I wasn’t even phased when about 150 people stayed for the dance try-outs. I was going to be on that stage I told myself as I confidently smiled, shook and shimmied.
I didn’t make the first cut, well not for the stage. Instead I was chosen to be part of a dance squad which sounded great but it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt defeated. Sad. Annoyed with myself for believing I was going to make it. I hate to admit it but I left a personal development seminar with no spring in my step. I was gutted.
The next morning as the dancers opened the event, there was a brief moment as I looked at them that I stepped into comparison mode. I stopped myself and decided that my energy and focus was going to be on the attendees and I danced my heart out on the floor – rousing the audience in my vicinity.
I felt alive and decided that no matter where I danced over the course of the next 4 days I was going to be all in. Which meant, I showed up, practiced and danced with meaning. So when I was finally chosen to be part of the 18 piece dance crew on stage it meant so much more.
Ping: Light bulb moment. I worked for it. I did not quit. I made it.
Writing about this achievement took me back to one of my very first memories, which was at school. I don’t remember what class I was in but I can’t have been much older than four. I’m sat cross-legged on the floor. To the right of me there’s a shelf piled high with books and games. Amongst them a game that I recognised. It was a revelation! I put my hand up excitedly, feeling as if I could almost touch the ceiling.
“Miss” I shout out. Fingers dancing on my outstretched hand. “My sister has got that game” At this point I’m practically wriggling from side to side.
“Not now Emma” the teacher replied, or something to that effect. I can’t recall the exact response but I knew I had been told off and was in the wrong. Still to this day, more than 33 years later, I can conjure up the feelings that came immediately after I was rebuffed. My eyes prickled, my face felt flustered, my head lowered along with my arm. I shouldn’t have said anything.
That was the last time in school that I freely put my hand up to speak out in class.
It’s something so small and seemingly insignificant yet the effect it had on me wasn’t. If only I could go back and tell little me that; it’s okay to still put your hand up, to participate, to say something that’s not correct, to get shut down, to…….fail.
Avoiding failure soon became a sport for me. I would try something, be rubbish at it and instead of thinking of persevering and practicing to get better. I would quit, make an excuse and move on. If you quit ahead of time that stops you from failing, or so I used to tell myself.
The pattern would repeat itself:
- Playing a brass instrument. I tried out for Trumpet and apparently the way I blew meant the Tuba was better for me. I instantly hated it. It was big, clumpy, heavy to carry home and had a strange smell that lingered on. I quit!
- Karate. Of course I was gonna be the next karate kid and totally kick my cousin’s arse. I got bored of the repetition and what was with the white belt….next! I quit!
- Cross country club. Hating life during the run and shortly after. Got lapped. Would feel more embarrassed if not fighting for breath. Only joined for the boys. I QUIT
The sad thing is, these are things that I did try. I usually kept it safe, strongly stating that I wasn’t interested in taking part in something/most things. I didn’t want to put myself in a space where I could look stupid, do something wrong, be told I wasn’t good enough. It was easier for me not to try.
Or so I thought. Not registering that the slight discomfort that ran over me every time I saw someone achieving something was a reaction to me wanting what they had.
The amount of personal development that I’ve done over the years has helped to stretch out my comfort zone. I would do more, be more adventurous but would still be cautious about failing. Which is one of the reasons that I decided to start this blog to track My Year of Vulnerability.
Was I vulnerable? Yes most certainly, well………..to an extent. I opened up, bared parts of me that had previously been shrouded and showed up as my authentic self but I know hand on heart that I didn’t push myself in situations where I could fail, be judged, get bruised and hurt.
Then 2019 came and with it a new outlook:
I used to tell myself and others that ‘Yoga wasn’t for me’. Joining my local gym changed that as I attended as many sessions as I could to get my money’s worth. I now really enjoy yoga and not only can I see the benefits but I can see myself improving with every class I take.
My relationship with learning to drive has been short sprints of energy before I would quit. Which is a bugger because now I’m learning to drive in London – which is crazy busy but I’m NOT going to quit. I’ve found a great driving instructor and am paying for 10 hours at a time to keep me accountable. I’m 7 lessons in and although the anxiety of learning and failing is plastered over my face throughout the session – I’m turning up and slowly improving.
I actually don’t think I can retreat to my tried and tested default habit of quitting or not starting this time. Since attending Unleash the Power Within and deciding to write this post I’ve had so many signs telling me this is the path I need to be on right now.
1. I read a book called ‘Be More Pirate’ and felt inspired to go out there and rebel – against the old me and the status quo. I enjoyed reading the book so much I have referred to it on numerous occasions and I have a new found respect for Pirates.
2. Brené Brown (who I love and respect so much) brought out a Netflix special called ‘The Call to Courage’ that was a HUGE nudge for me. If you haven’t already watched it, I highly recommend it.
3. I attended a work away day last week and the theme that constantly ran throughout the event was failure. More precisely – having the courage to do something that may fail and learning and growing from it.
I’m going to end this post with an ask – something that I have been holding off on for fear of rejection and ultimately failure.
Last year I took part in a project called ‘100 Voices for 100 Years. You can read my post about it here.
Well this year the project is going to be made into a book (Yay, I’m going to be published in a book – *happy dance*) The book is an amazing collection of female writers from all over the UK talking about achievement.
The book is published through an organisation called Unbound and it works on a pre-order model, so readers buy the book in advance and if enough people support us, the book gets printed. If you support you also get your name in the book.
So I invite you to come and support me and the project by pre-ordering the book – you can read more about it via the link below:
By writing this post I’ve failed at getting myself to bed before midnight but I have achieved so much more. Yay to failure!
I would love to hear from you. Have you recently achieved something after initially failing? Is there something that you want to achieve but have not yet started?
Love Emma x
p.s. I dedicate this post to one of my best friends. She has been the biggest sign for me to keep on this path. After years of trying and not quite making it on to a doctorate course. Hours of applications, prep and interviews – putting parts of her life on hold. She finally did it. I cried along with her my heart swelling with pride and gratitude. I felt truly inspired and was totally in awe of her achievements. All the pain from the past failures dissipated when she got that acceptance email. I am truly honoured to have her in my life and she deserves the Dr title so much.
Thanks for leading the way you beautiful soul. Looking forward to seeing you grow from strength to strength in this new exciting chapter. You are going to be amazing. Love you so much x