“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
When I was growing up, I never understood this quote. People around me always quoted it as a great source of inspiration, but I just thought it was foolish. Thinking about my fears, the very last thing I wanted to do is something every day that scared me. I will never not run away like a screaming fool every time I see a rat, and I will never go skydiving or bungee jumping. Those are just plain, simple, non-negotiable avoidances of my own fears.
But recently, I’m coming to understand this quote in a new light. It’s not literal. Eleanor Roosevelt wouldn’t want us to pee our pants because we are doing something that terrifies us (I don’t think…). But rather, it’s speaking more to going outside of your comfort zone. In my comfort zone, I am safe. I am content. Everything is familiar. But in order to fully acknowledge your own strengths and your own self, you have to be able to step outside of your comfort zone, and that in itself is a terrifying thought.
Lately, the Universe has been showing me that I am capable of a lot more than I think I am, or that I ever thought I could be, after I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. Some examples:
- When I was in Costa Rica, I built shelters – lifting literal tree trunks, using a machete, nailing in bamboo rods. I’ve never done anything like this before.
- I am stronger than I thought.
- When I moved into my new apartment, there was a lot to update – I had to set up a second rod in the closet, hang hooks for our pots and pans, and install a tile backsplash by the stove. Never in a million years would I ever consider myself a “handy man,” until we moved and these things had to be done.
- I am smarter than I thought.
- When I prematurely sent my book to a few publishers and was rejected by every single one, I was able to continue writing and continue to feel inspired by my story.
- I am more resilient than I thought.
The underlying statement is: I am more than I thought. And I would’ve never seen this if I wasn’t put in these difficult situations, situations that I never wanted to be in. However, the Universe had other plans. It’s funny what comes your way in life, what situations we are all put in, and why. They say everything happens for a reason, right?
Simultaneously, after complaining to a friend this week about not achieving some of my own personal goals, she questioned me on what was holding me back. “You are the only one standing in your way,” she told me. “Take that French class!” I could hear the little voice in my head saying. “Write that book!” All of a sudden, I felt a flood of demands enter my head, as soon as the blocker of myself was knocked down. Maybe the reason I never took a language class is because I was afraid of embarrassment. And maybe the reason I’m hesitant to finish my book is because I’m afraid of failure.
Inspired by the need to step out of my comfort zone, and to knock down my own self-blocking, I created a small list of tasks for myself to accomplish that are definitely outside of my comfort zone:
- Sign up for a language class, French and/or Italian, despite the fear of embarrassment
- Write articles to send into online publications, despite the fear of failure
- Go see some of my favorite drag queens in NYC, despite the fear of sometimes being uncomfortable at gay bars
- Commit to working out regularly, despite the fear of humiliation amongst muscled body builders
- Create a business, despite the fear of being unsuccessful
Writing out that list, I realize how much is still holding me back. Unconsciously, I feel tied down by fear. It can be crippling, and clearly, limiting. Maybe we do need to do one thing every day that scares us. Maybe that’s the only way for us to release those fears, so then maybe one day, we will be fearless. And without that fear surrounding the things we want most, maybe then, we can truly be free from ourselves and achieve more than we ever thought possible.