Comfort Zone? What Comfort Zone?
Last week I did something that seriously stretched the confines of my comfort zone. I taught a workshop that I created!
When I was younger, I used to thrive in the spotlight. Or so I thought… When I was in college and had the beginning stages of depression and anxiety, I had a difficult time trying to put myself in that image I had created. It felt forced. I no longer craved attention of any kind and would much prefer to just stay in my room and read a book. Yet, I forced myself to go along with whatever social hi-jinx was on the agenda.
In the last ten years or so, I have learned to protect my boundaries and say no when a suggested outing doesn’t feel right to me.
So in the last few months as I prepared this workshop, I often asked myself what the heck I had agreed to…
Did I have heart palpitations at the thought of speaking in front of people? Absolutely. Did I fully expect it to turn into a disaster of epic proportions? Without a doubt. Did I surprise myself? Why, yes. I did.
Turns out, all my imagined disasters failed to come true. I had a small, engaged group of people in my audience and truly enjoyed myself. 🙂
Sometimes you have to poke at those self -imposed walls around your comfort zone to see what you are made of.
I wrote a previous post about the seduction of inadequacy and underestimating yourself. I wanted to share it again now.
The Seduction of Inadequacy
I am not one to follow Hollywood gossip. I am terrible at keeping all the names of the latest who’s who straight. I don’t go to the movies much and I skip every award show. That being said I was recently blown away by Lupita Nyong’o.
I admit it. I had no idea who she is, nor had I heard of the movie, 12 Years a Slave, for which she just won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (I just had to google that as I wanted to say she had won an Academy award! See what I mean? )
The week after the award show though I came across a link on Facebook that changed that.
It took me to a video of Ms. Nyong’o speaking at the Black Women of Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence. She was being honored for Best Breakthrough Performance, and she spoke about beauty.
Her eloquent speech gave me chills as she told the people gathered there about feeling unbeautiful and wanting pale skin. She begged God to wake up white. She spoke of her self-hate which grew through her teenage years.
When Alek Wek became an international modeling sensation, Ms. Nyong’o was confused. All her life she had thought her deep black complexion was far removed from beautiful, and yet, here was a woman being praised for her beauty that looked very similar.
It was at this point in her speech, that she said something that really struck me at the heart.
She said, “It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”
Seduction of inadequacy…
That phrase just rang in my ears. I have been there for a long time. Not about beauty – because let’s face it, I am NOT a model and never will be. But about everything – me, my talents, my opinions, my writing, my dreams, my everything – and yes, ok, my appearance too.
When I look back on my childhood and early teens, I recall being very outgoing. I had such confidence and loved to be right smack in the center of everything. I loved being on stage with the drama club and had my heart set on being a voice major and, of course, becoming a star!I went through the typical “look at me” stage that I think most kids go through at some point. But as my memories race through my high school days and into my late teens and early 20s, things changed.
I remember having to really push myself to be that outgoing while I was away at college. I suddenly dreaded performing. I forced myself to go out on the weekend when I really just wanted to stay in my room.
After graduation, it got worse. I lived alone for a year in Buffalo and can count the number of times I went out socializing on one hand. I didn’t realize then that I was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Though I have since received help for this and have come far in healing, I never quite regained my voice. I don’t like to be the center of attention. Situations involving small talk make me cringe. I hate speaking in public and I become tongue-tied when asked my opinion.
And it is in this way that I have fallen for the seduction of inadequacy.
It is so much easier to let yourself feel inadequate and let yourself think that you are inadequate than to believe you are powerful. Just accept that you are not measuring up and let your self wallow around in that inadequacy. If you don’t think you will ever succeed, you don’t have to even try. You don’t have to put in any work. It is easier to allow the gatekeepers set the bar for whatever you want – be it beauty, publishing, a cute boyfriend, a promotion at work. There are gate keepers everywhere and I am coming to realize that their power is not something inherent in them, but something that we hand over to them willingly.
Who is to say what is beauty? Who is to say what we can and cannot accomplish? Who is to say what dream is worth pursuing?
Ms. Nyong’o’s turn of phrase has shined a little light on yet another excuse that I have been wielding. It’s a huge one that has kept me from pursuing my dreams. I will no longer allow myself to fall into the seduction of inadequacy. I will find my inner power and raise it like a flag!
I want to thank Ms. Nyong’o for her speech. Not only for naming that feeling I had been fighting for years, but to discuss what real beauty means. I did not know her before, but I am certainly a fan now.