I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.
The other day I read this quote by Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, and I could not get over how powerful these words are: “They may ignore you. Or you may marry them.”
Isn’t it interesting how much people seek to be accepted and yet do everything they can to avoid ridicule? In order to be accepted, you have to put yourself out there and make an effort to connect with those around you.
In theory, this starts off simple: just say hi.
This thought may be scary for some people, but you absolutely should do it. When it comes to deciding whether or not to greet a stranger, it’s so easy to say “we’ll never see that stranger again anyways, so why not try?” The concept is very simple and if you take into account the potential to gain a lifelong relationship, romantic or otherwise, doesn’t it seem worth it?
So why do we not bother trying? Why is fear so strong that it make us freeze in the midst of saying a two-letter word to a stranger? We fear large animals, venomous monstrosities, unknown territories… but where does fear of social rejection come from?
I think most people’s biggest social fears revolve around the fear of rejection. When I try to think about how many times I didn’t try something because I was afraid of failure or rejection, it’s a pretty extensive list. I will probably never know how much I had to gain, but I can certainly name more than one instance where I know fear was my only obstacle from embracing the possibility. Then I think of all the things I did try and ended up loving… This list is also extensive, but much more apparent.
Over the past few years, I’ve taken a number of initiatives to grow as a leader and thus as a person. My first big initiative was to overcome my fear of speaking in front of groups of people. I overcame this in the most direct method possible: I applied for a job looking for people with public speaking skill, and I got it. Having no proper experience with speeches, I felt thoroughly shocked, pleased, and terrified when I saw the job offer in my email. Apparently, I really made up for my lack of experience during my interview when I presented a five-minute speech on ‘how to engage an audience.’ I must have really looked like I knew what I was doing.
Alas, I feel incredulous when I think about how time has passed since I completed that job in 2012. Since then I have grown in both experience and skill because I chose to continue to challenge my fears and chase change. The fear of public speaking hasn’t disappeared, but I don’t think that was the point of taking on this job. Fear will always be there in every challenge I tackle. The important thing is to learn how to deal with that fear and turn it into motivation to reach a better result.
After all, when you ride a rollercoaster, it’s the fearful anticipation of the ascent that makes the descent truly exhilarating.
Just how much does fear control your life?