Updated on May 11, 2016
I sat on a small, wet, creaky swing, looking into the abyss. Okay, maybe not the abyss, but a dark black hole…the hole of a camera lens, that is. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it—I was sharing a [small] part of my story…on film.
Sitting there, I was instantly transported back to my days in high school…back to the days when I willingly took advantage of one of the few accommodations I received from the school administration to help me deal with my social anxiety. Instead of participating in group presentations in class, my mom videotaped me (on old-school cassettes no less) in the privacy of my own home in order to demonstrate my proficiency to my teachers. From weekly oral exercises in Spanish, to extremely long history presentations (we’re talking over an hour) on Medieval torture devices, I sat in my kitchen and spoke directly into that camera more times than I care to remember…
But this time, it was different. This wasn’t for school. This wasn’t for a grade. This wasn’t for a select audience. Rather, this was sharing my heart for three [excruciatingly long] minutes for the whole world to see and reserve judgment. I felt physically sick.
If you know me, you know I REALLY don’t like having my picture taken (I smile with my mouth closed and try to shrink into invisibility, hoping to escape the gaze of the lens altogether). I typically stay away from social media, and blogging here and sharing said blogs on Facebook are the extent of my social engagement. And unless you directly ask me for my opinion on a topic, the odds are likely that I’ll stay silent for far longer than I probably should. Let’s just say that I don’t like to be seen.
Despite the repeated kind words and encouragement from friends and family who prod me to freely share my thoughts, I don’t. Why not? Because as much as I enjoy reading, I don’t like my mind being an open book. Don’t get me wrong—I realize that I’m intelligent, honest, quirky, and creative, but I still feel like those things don’t make me good enough to have an opinion that’s “worthy” of being shared. There are so many others who are perhaps more “worthy” of your attention…
Have you ever felt this way?
Recently I’ve been learning that, in order to overcome fear and the lies that are bombarding you, it’s essential to befriend the thing that once controlled you. Easier said than done, that means taking a deep breath, finding the courage to step out, doing the thing, and then celebrating the victory (no matter how big or small). On repeat.
And if you should fail? Pick yourself up and try again. I can pretty much guarantee that rather than pointing a finger and laughing, others will be extending a hand to help you get back up on your feet. Despite the lies you’ve allowed yourself to believe, facilitating your downfall is not the first item on everyone’s bucket list.
Because honestly, it’s not about you, it’s just not.
It’s not. Don’t get me wrong—you matter. But you’re quite small in the grand scheme of things. To put things into perspective, your time on the planet is brief…maybe 70 or 80 years…maybe 101 years…maybe only 26 years. Even if you achieve “greatness,” at best, your legacy will be just a few words in a history book.
What will be remembered, however, is the way a stranger felt when you smiled or offered an encouraging word. It’s about people. It’s about relationships.
If I’m being honest, I have a REALLY difficult time believing this. I want to change the world. But when I strip away the things that puff me up…the things that convince me that I’m doing something of value…I see a small girl sitting in the corner, waiting to be acknowledged as valuable in the eyes of others.
But I can’t control what others think of me. And I can’t let my fears paralyze me.
Instead, I can slap fear in the face. I can stare straight into the camera and share where I’ve been and the truths I’ve learned along the way. I can admit (to myself and others) that I’m far from perfect…that I still struggle…but that I will continue to fight because life’s too good to miss.
I can be the person I needed when I was younger…
…the person I needed in elementary school, standing alone on the playground, watching my classmates play freely
…the person I needed in high school, sitting in silence and counting down the days until graduation…until temporary “freedom”
…the person I needed in college, afraid to leave my dorm room, constantly questioning if life was simply a series of struggles and regrets
Know that I didn’t really want to post this video (videos are far worse than pictures). Know that the mere thought of it being out there for all to see is nauseating (and I still have trouble watching it). But most of all, know that I shared it anyway. Because as much as my anxiety tells me otherwise, it’s not about me.
In this vein, I ask for your help. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, depression, or similar demons, there are at most, six degrees of separation between you and someone who does.
Please help spread the word. Please share this video.