Dear Self, if you keep going backwards with the same people that God has intentionally removed from your Life, you will continue to stay stuck. There is no joy in being confused and unhappy. Get rid of bad habits and leave them where they belong. What is meant for you will be yours, learn to Let Go. Dysfunction isn’t Love … Sincerely, Self
Have you ever woken up in the morning hating everything about your existence? Have you ever gone to bed at night wishing you would not wake up the next day? Have you ever lived every minute hoping it would be your last? Have you ever felt hopeless, distraught, unwanted and worthless? And have you ever wished to stop feeling that way?
Because I have. A lot of people I know have. And trust me when I tell you it is not unnatural. Believe me when I say you are not the only one. We have all had dark days. We have all had sleepless nights. We have all been broken and felt unimportant. We have all wanted to end it someday.
Low self-esteem may feel like a curse you were born with. Always doubting your abilities. Never knowing if you were doing enough. Thinking you don’t deserve the people in your life that love and appreciate you. Feeling like everything you have achieved in life has been a matter of luck and coincidence.
If you can relate, here is what you need to do:
Talk to yourself:
You need to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you need to stop feeling like filth. Tell yourself you are worth more than you think. Repeat after me ‘I am beautiful, confident, brave and ambitious. I do not care about what people have to say about me.’ The first time you do it, it will feel like you are lying to yourself. You will feel like you are wasting time but go on anyway. The reason you care so much about what other people think about you is that you listen to other people way more than you listen to yourself. Tell yourself you matter. Tell yourself you are worth it.
Burn down the negativity:
Literally. Write down all the things you think are ‘wrong’ with you. List down all the things you think you are ‘incapable’ of. Do people ever tell you that you are worthless? Do they taunt and mock you? Write down their words onto the page. Write down every negative thought that comes to your head when you wish to do something. Compile your negativity on one piece of paper. Walk to the stove and set it on fire. Watch it burn and reduce to ashes. Video tape if you would like to watch it again later. Everything holding you back has been wiped off existence. ‘Everything wrong with you’ no longer exists. You are now free. You are a new person.
It does not matter if you can’t. It does not matter if you failed creative writing class. What matters is that you have feelings. What matters is that you have something to say. You don’t necessarily have to write about yourself. You don’t have to write about your life. Write about what you want to write about. Maintain a journal if you’d like. Write about a friend that inspires you. Write about something you love to eat. Write about a sport you enjoy watching. Write about absolutely anything or anyone that puts a smile on your face.
We are often afraid of opening up to the people around us. Many a time I have felt like I needed to be someone else around other people. I have felt like I needed to hide myself. Crying in front of someone made me feel weak and vulnerable. I would run to the toilet to shed my tears every time I felt sad. And I would come out with a huge fake smile on my face like everything inside me wasn’t broken. But recently going through a hard time in my life I started to have extreme anxiety and panic attacks. However, this time I ran to my mother’s room instead of somewhere no one would find me. It was hard opening up at first. Emotions feel so irrational sometimes. You think if you’d say it out loud, it wouldn’t make sense. You feel like no one can truly understand you besides you. But that is untrue. We are all humans capable of connecting and relating to each other on various levels. It is nothing you need to think too much about. You just need to start talking. Let everything out. If everything inside you feels like it is going to collapse, sharing it with someone will only help ease the pain and hold you together. It is okay to cry. It is human to feel sad.
What is most important is realizing it is not just you. 85% of the world’s population is affected by low self-esteem. We all have irrational fears, insecurities and troubles we live with every single day. Every smile has tales of despair it so conveniently hides behind it. You don’t need to feel like you are insignificant. Every time you are unsure of going ahead, look at how far you have come and remind yourself of all you have survived through. You are brave. You are beautiful and you are stronger than anyone will ever be able to tell you. Keep fighting. You are not alone.
I’m sitting in the front passenger seat of my sister’s Peugeot 306 and we’re listening to loud upbeat music on the radio, because it helps her focus and drive.
“Do you wanna give it a go?”, my sis asks me in response to my unstoppable complaints that I need to get in the driver’s seat and practice if I’m ever going to use my driver’s license. I’ve had it for about 10 years, way longer than my sister.
“What? Now?! No, we don’t have time,” I hear myself replying with another excuse.
This conversation happens again and again, and while it plays out differently every time the bottom line is the same – I have the opportunity to do something I want (finally re-learn to drive), and I don’t take it.
In the meantime I find excuses, some legitimate, some significant, some momentary, some existential.
This is my story.
This is my fear.
I tell myself a story of seemingly unovercomable external factors to justify my actions. In fact, those external factors are all the masks worn by one single villain – FEAR.
Fear makes me tell myself the story that it’s never a good time to drive.
Fear? Not existential fear, I’m not afraid for my life. Fear of failure, of not being able to do it.
What if I can’t do it? Or I am not good at it?
Without driving I can still convince myself that I’m a good driver. Sounds ridiculous, but even local authorities confirmed it by giving me a premium driving license available to only those who haven’t had any accidents or fines. Without driving I can live in a reality where I don’t fail. Where I’m doing it well. Where I have the premium license. But that’s just an illusion. If I try and drive, I might not be good at it (most probably I’ll completely suck as I’ve not been in the driver’s seat for the past 2 years). I might fail. And obviously I’m afraid of that.
But funny thing – the only way to actually become a good driver is to give in to my fear and drive. I might suck or I might rock. There is no win without the risk.
The only way to win the premium license is to give it up.
My fear is keeping me in the comfortable limbo of the unknown, where I can pretend that the possibility of being good at driving is prevailing. Illusion.
Fear, masked as obstacles and excuses, has the power to give you an illusion of a safe place of feeling content.
In fact, that’s the worst thing I can choose. The illusion I experience now will only turn into regret and life dissatisfaction, and sooner than I expect.
Let’s see how.
False Events Appearing Real
In his book, The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, Grant Cardone, describes FEAR as an abbreviation that means False Events Appearing Real.
One of my favorite thought leaders, Mark Twain, says that worries and fears aren’t real, and mostly never really come true.
So, is fear real? And what is fear?
I’m quite sure fear is a real thing because here it is, stopping me from doing the things my heart longs for.
But let’s hear Ms. Science.
Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events.
The keyword that support the point I’m making here is perceived.
When I see a car approaching me with 100mph I would really like to feel fear and flee. The perceived danger may cause my death (although we shouldn’t even fear death to be completely free but that’s a topic for another post)
But when I refuse to drive my sister’s car for some ridiculous excuse, what is the real danger?
Only the danger of getting my ego hurt. It’s like the ego has become the same things as the being.
But it feels the same way.
In his infographic, Ameen Khwaja shows us what happens to our brains on fear.
To me, it looks pretty simple – we observe the situation and immediately deem it fearful so that behavior and body responses are triggered.
How do we know if a situation is fearful?
Well, we are all wired to fear some things. In fact, all creatures even to the tiniest cell is watchful of some events and objects. But most often, we use the features we attach to a certain event, our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves to be written on that big whiteboard and give us direction.
Toxicologists, epidemiologists and risk experts study the physical perils [of fear] one hazard at a time. But the cumulative load of modern threats may be creating an even greater risk that is largely overlooked: the risk that arises from misperceiving risks as higher or lower than they actually are. As a result of some of the decisions we make when we are fearful, some of the choices we make when we are not fearful enough, and because of the ways our bodies react to chronically elevated levels of stress, the hazards of risk misperception may be more significant than any of the individual risks about which we fret.
Fear in itself isn’t the biggest problem, you see, it’s learning to act out of fear, or being in the habitual reaction to everything as it was risky.
So, when we choose to act out of fear, we teach our brain a new way of thinking and responding. The more often we repeat this behaviour, the more the brain learns that it is the right behavior and adopts it is a first choice.
Imagine it in that way: there’s a list of responses possible and the more you choose one, the more points it gets. Then Mr. Brain looks at the list in a situation to choose a response and “sees” that the fear response has been used again and again and guessing that’s the best match, chooses that.
The result? We subconsciously choose to act out of fear. The funny thing is that the more we do it, the more natural it becomes.
The environment in which we live affects this process of course, because it’s quite risky.
Going back to my fear of driving, this behavior that I exhibit is teaching my brain to use the fear response for other situations as well.
And I can sense that.
When I was 19 and my frontal lobe wasn’t fully developed, I didn’t fear anything (that’s when I got my license by the way). Just a few years later, I started acting out of fear and creating regrets.
I’ll tell you about one of them in just a few moments.
First, I’d like to step on the shoulders of a few more giants and share with you their view on fear so we can hopefully find the truth somewhere in all of this.
Fear in Buddhism
According to Buddhism, there are two types of fear: healthy fear and unhealthy fear (you were already guessing that, right?).
Let me give an example:
I’m afraid of snails because of one particular accident when I found an alive one crawling on the greens in the salad I’d thoroughly washed. This is an unhealthy fear (and kind of hilarious as well, I know). I realize that and I have taken steps to face it – I held a snail for like a minute a few months back, and that’s as far as I’m willing to go currently.
But, back to my point….this is an unhealthy fear because the snails don’t have a plan to dominate my life and torture me.
A healthy fear would be the feeling that you get when you get mugged in an alley. It would most probably cause you to give in your wallet and smartphone rather than start a fight with a guy holding a gun to your back.
I call unhealthy fears, daily fears. We’re so used to them that we don’t even identify them as fears, but just as the way things are. For example, asking my husband to order pizza instead of picking up the phone. That’s the daily fear of my imperfect Turkish.
But in fact, the daily fear are our strongest indicators of how to become a bigger, better version of ourselves.
Fear makes me not do things, while the only way to do something in life, is well, to do it.
“Fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
The Danger of Living In Fear
Not becoming the best version of ourselves is only a small portion of the life enjoyment fear takes away from us.
I told you that I’m going to a regret story with you, right?
It’s about regret. But first, why regret?
Obviously, fear is a powerful tool for….missing out on life.
Fear leads to regrets about life.
And here’s mine. I didn’t go to that concert with my brother from another mother, my homie. At the time I was afraid that someone won’t like me going. I postpones for next time. Well, there won’t be next time because the person I was supposed to go with passed away 1,5 years ago. It brings tears to my eyes that I missed to create another memory with the person who was my best friend and became my wedding’s best man before he left this world.
Fear of the unknown and of failure make us live a life of regrets.
And regrets are super dangerous – because they last.
After all, fear lasts as long as we don’t do what we’re afraid of. The moment I sit on that driver’s seat and run that engine, feel that I’m in control of the car and drive for 30 minutes, fear will be gone. Or at least a small part of it.
With every further attempt there will be less fear and more confidence.
But what happens if I decide to bow to fear and never drive? Pretty soon I’ll start feeling disappointed with myself, regretful and my self-confidence will plunge. I’ll feel like a failure for not trying (apart from not being good at it!).
One feeling will take over: regret.
And you know what? Regret lasts forever. Or at least, until we’re on the planet, in this form, and that can be quite a while, you know.
As my father says,
Life turned out to be longer than we planned for.
This has to do with saving for retirement (start now!), but it makes a lot of sense when it comes to regret and fear as well.
How long can you live with your regrets? Can you afford to feel regret for as long as you’re alive?
I don’t know….this sounds pretty much like hell to me.
But isn’t fear necessary for survival?
We saw how our brains work. We know what fear is. But let me play the devil’s advocate and ask this one question: isn’t fear a response to a life-threatening danger?
Let’s say, for example, I’m walking on the side of a high building. I’m afraid of falling because I might die. My brain tells me to move away from the edge and be safe.
The ego protects me by keeping me whole, by not letting me hurt myself. The problem is that in our complex lives, staying safe is a very stretched expression.
We are afraid because our brains are advanced enough not only to remember past occasions (burning my finger on the stove), but to project possible scenarios (I know I’ll die if I fall down from the building even though it never happened before).
This is where imagination comes in…
The biggest fears come from the unknown – that what we have not experienced at all.
The brain, obviously, can’t differentiate the real dangers with the dangers imposed on the ego. Because when I get in the car and drive, there isn’t a real danger other than hurting the ego that has decided it can’t fail.
We need fear as an emotion to keep us from doing stupid things.
Embracing fear might not look like a juicy bite, but it’s important to start practicing it. Maybe not with our biggest fear first, but with the small, conquerable fears, because…
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Steven Pressfield
In fact, unhealthy fears show us the path to growth.
If I want to become more – i.e. a better driver or to turn from a non-driver into a driver altogether – I need to embrace my fear, follow my fear.
Fear tells me what to do.
Afraid of driving? Drive to grow.
Many times when we don’t do something, it’s the unrealized fear of something, that’s stopping us.
For example, when I procrastinate launching my consulting business with excuses that I don’t have the time or skills to start it yet, this is the fear I have that it won’t turn out to be as successful as I imagine it in my head.
But if I don’t try I’ll never know. And sooner than later, I’ll regret not trying.
As I write this, it becomes clear to me that fear exists because of my attachment to the end result – driving or helping people with my consulting. The fear of this end result not manifesting is what’s really stopping me from experiencing life in all its forms.
It’s better to try and experience life rather than live it in your imagination.
That’s a wise life – in which the end result isn’t the goal, the experience is the goal.
After all, as Buddha says
Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
How To Practically Conquer Fear
We’ve come to the point where it’s quite clear where fear comes from – attachment to results – and we should be ready to detach, free ourselves of fear, and experience life.
They who have conquered doubt and fear have conquered failure. James Allen
Right, so we need to take some action to conquer fear and thus, failure.
But what is it?
How can I stop making up excuses and get into that car, turn the key, and get going?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the one-size-fits-all answer.
It’s more complicated than most people make it look and we won’t always manage to succeed. But let’s try.
Undoubtedly, the first step to facing fear, is realizing what you fear.
That might sound simple, but in fact, can take a lot of time, contemplation, meditation, and self-exploration. But naming your fear is definitely step #1.
How can you do that?
Identify what you’re attached to.
Many times, we’re so emotionally involved into an outcome (like my believe that I will be a good driver one day), we invest so much hopes and dreams into it, that the possibility of it manifesting differently are terrifying.
Let’s name the attachment: being a good driver.
That wasn’t hard, right?
Now turn the attachment around into the opposite of what it is: being a crappy driver.
I’m a crappy driver.
Well, honestly, that sounds much better to me than not driving at all, you know! There’re many crappy drivers out there and if i’m gonna join that club, I’m gonna do it with pride.
Wow, that was kind of liberating!
You can follow my example if it makes sense to you and label your attachment and its opposite.
Is it so bad?
It might be, depending on your fear, but don’t forget that’s just Mr. Wannabe Perfect (yes, you, ego) talking.
It’s gonna feel bad if you’re labeled as a bad mom, or a bad hair-dresser or as a weak, emotional person.
Now, get used to that, learn to live with it. Think about it, visualize it and work with it until your ego becomes comfortable with it.
Hint: Not easy, but…
….good news, the worst part is over!
After you’ve let the fear take over you, go through you, take everything you’ve hoped for and throw it out of the window, it’s time we show that fear who you really are.
Using The Power of Fear
What are you afraid of more: being a bad mom or never being a mom?…
….Being a crappy driver or never being a driver?
To really be free of fear, we need to use fear.
I think that’s not a way of tricking fear, conquering it or avoiding it, but using it. Fear with fear, you know.
The one thing that nobody teaches us is to eliminate fear.
Because it just isn’t possible. It’s neither viable or healthy to not be afraid of the things you fear. You fear. I fear. We fear.
But we gotta work with that fear, right? At least if we want to move forward and live truly.
So, let’s use it.
A way to move forward, even when fear is present, is to fear the regret more.
This is a small mindset shift (or a huge one, rather) that doesn’t need to eliminate fear, but to channel it, and I have a hunch this is the way to go.
My fear is mine, and I’m gonna make it work for me.
I’m going to channel the fear I feel into fearing the regret more than the actual thing I’m afraid of.
I’m going to fear never driving my kids to school more than being ridiculed for not being able to park well.
I’m going to fear never going places more than the stress of driving.
This is how we don’t fight fear, but we work it to get to the point where it’s useful for us.
I’ve said that writing is therapeutic many times. That’s why this blog’s tagline is Writing For Happiness. But to experience it myself every time I open up, tell my story, and go deep into it, is priceless.
As I’m writing this I’ve still not gotten in a car and driven my way to anywhere. It’ll take some time.
Yet, writing my feelings and the deeply rooted story I’m telling myself, had a powerful effect on me.
I see how ridiculous is some of this fiction.
I see how silly it seems when you actually put it on paper.
And I see my fear. I look it straight in the eye.
I know you’re there. You can’t hide anymore.
You’ve been spotted. And soon you’ll be tamed, channeled, and I’ll drive.
When will this happen?
Well, most probably when the fear of missing out on the experience becomes bigger than the fear of failure.
I guess I need some motivation!
Hit me up, what am I missing on when I give up on driving to feed my fear of failure?
Once upon a time there was a woman who had been lost in the desert for three whole days without water. Just as she was about to collapse, she saw what appeared to be a lake just a few hundred yards in front of her. “Could it be? Or is it just a mirage?” she thought to herself.
With the last bit of strength she could muster, she staggered toward the lake and quickly learned that her prayers had been answered: it was no mirage – it was indeed a large, spring-fed lake full of fresh water – more fresh water than she could ever drink in her lifetime. Yet while she was literally dying of thirst, she couldn’t bring herself to drink the water. She simply stood by the water’s edge and stared down at it.
There was a passerby riding on a camel from a nearby desert town who was watching the woman’s bizarre behavior. He got off his camel, walked up to the thirsty woman and asked, “Why don’t you have a drink, ma’am?”
She looked up at the man with an exhausted, distraught expression across her face and tears welling up in her eyes. “I am dying of thirst,” she said, “But there is way too much water here in this lake to drink. No matter what I do, I can’t possibly finish it all.”
The passerby smiled, bent down, scooped some water up with his hands, lifted it to the woman’s mouth and said, “Ma’am, your opportunity right now, and as you move forward throughout the rest of your life, is to understand that you don’t have to drink the whole lake to quench your thirst. You can simply take one sip. Just one small sip… and then another if you choose. Focus only on the mouthful in front of you, and all your anxiety, fear and overwhelm about the rest will gradually fade.”
Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.”
― Catherynne M. Valente
Challenge yourself today to focus solely on the sip (task, step, etc.) you’re actually taking.
Once upon a time there was an elderly woman who needed to walk down to the river every morning to fetch water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. She carried two buckets with her, filled them up at the riverbank, and walked back with them to her rural cottage home.
One of the buckets was newer, perfectly sealed, and held its water flawlessly. But the second bucket was older and contained a few thin cracks that would leak water onto the ground as the elderly woman walked. By the time she arrived home, typically about one third of the water in the second bucket had leaked through its cracks.
One day, on the walk down to the river, the cracked bucket – who had always felt like it wasn’t as good as the other bucket – said to the elderly woman, “I want you to know that I’ve been leaking water every morning for the past several years. I’m so sorry for being cracked and making your life more difficult. I understand if you need to replace me with a better bucket.”
The elderly woman smiled. “Do you really think I haven’t known about your cracks this whole time?” she asked. “Look at all the beautiful flowers that grow on the path from my cottage to the river. I planted their seeds, but every morning it’s you who does the watering.”
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied.
“Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
Are you tired of being held back by your social anxiety? Do you always feel like you totally embarrass yourself after every social occasion even though the only “embarrassing” action you took was holding eye contact for more than 2 seconds? If all that relates to you, then read on and I will show you practical steps you can take to improve your social skills.
“But why should I take time and effort to improve my social skills?”, you might ask yourself, so before we get on to the 6 steps you can take to develop your social skills, let me first tell you why having excellent social skills is beneficial.
Why I should Improve my Social Skills
1. For business and the Job Market:
Social skills are not only important in dating and parties, as a matter of fact, the most important part of having good social skills is to influence people in the business world. You might have excellent technical skills on the job you do, but if you can’t communicate with customers, ultimately and most probably, the person with better social skills will have your job. There are exceptions, but why take the chance? Right.
2. For Relationships
Here, I am talking about both romantic and friendly relationships. In case of the romantic relationships, no matter how “hot” you think you are, nobody wants a partner who only has looks but you can’t relate to. This applies for both men and women. For friendly relationships, I think it is obvious for why you need social skills. The more relatable you are (which requires social skills), the more friends you will have.
3. For Developing Confidence
Many people on the internet claim there are shortcuts to having magnetic confidence, but the only practical way to develop confidence is to master skills. Confidence is a mindset where you are certain that you won’t fail on what you plan to do. Do you think regular public speakers (comedians, actors, motivational speakers…) have low confidence? No, you know why, because they have been in the situation for years, so it doesn’t faze them anymore. The same way when you apply the steps, I am about to give, below consistently you will be unfazed with social situations eventually.
Note: This is not a shortcut or overnight method to improving social skills. It requires consistent action and effort by your part, but eventually, the effort will pay off like it did for me, and you will be happy with the time you took.
6 Practical and Proven Steps To Take To Master Your Social Skills
1. Understand why your fear social situations and try to identify specific parts of interactions where you feel embarrassed and out of your comfort zone. The next time you are in a social situation where you aren’t comfortable, I want you to forget about the interaction and instead take notes in your mind for why you fear socializing. The more diverse your interactions; the better, so try interacting with men, women, elders, managers… and write why you fear the interaction
Are you constantly thinking about what to say next and how to say it so that you don’t get embarrassed?
Are you constantly re-positioning yourself so that you don’t look awkward, even though the only thing you are doing that is awkward is not sitting still.
Take note of everything that is bothering your mind and making you unsociable. After that…
2. Write all the reasons you came up with and jot down under each why you have this irrational or exaggerated fear. For example, you might be afraid of being judged and laughed at if you say something wrong. Write for every single reason you came up with explanations for why you are afraid. You will find that for some of the reasons, you won’t have explanations After jotting down everything that came through your mind…
3. Make a plan to confront that fear: I am pretty sure some of the excuses for your fear you came up with are just irrational and exaggerated, and in order for you to see that you are just irrational, you have to confront it and see how harmless the fear you have is. The plan is to go out and confront your fear; I know, it is scary, but I promise it is worth it. I suffered for the majority of my life thinking I could find an easier solution, but truthfully, there isn’t one.
4. Improve your Physical Appearance: One of the reasons you came up with in Step 1 is probably that you are insecure about your looks and there is a solution for that. Take effort and time to improve your physical appearance. Many think that they are stuck with their looks but in reality there is a 1000 steps you could take to improve your appearance. You could improve your fashion and style sense; you could improve your facial appearance; you could lose weight and gain muscle mass by following Brandon Carters Channel; You could improve yourbody language and more.
Note: This step doesn’t have to be completed before going on to the next step, keep working on it while following the next steps.
5. Get a Job That Requires You to Utilize Your Social Skills: This is the step that completely eradicated my social anxiety and made me more sociable and you know why it works? Because you fear being fired more than interacting with strangers. It is like a therapy for your mind but you don’t pay 300$ per hour. The jobs I am talking about are waiting, hosting, retail service… Anything that requires constant interaction with strangers. If you take this action, I assure you social skills will skyrocket and your anxiety will start fading. If you want to take it a step further…
6. Embarrass yourself in Public: I am not saying you should make a complete utter fool out of yourself, but try to do something that grabs attention and try to cope with the attention by being unfazed and welcoming it. For example, go into a cafe and order something and eat by yourself. If you don’t fear this, try something more daring. But I know people who would rather not eat lunch rather than go out and eat lunch by themselves. Come up with things that embarrass you and do those things in public and eventually it will feel like a feather landing on your skin. NOTHING.
These are all the steps you need to take to improve your social skills; it requires constant effort and will not solve your problem in one day so keep at it and you will eradicate your anxiety and master your social skills.
It was 1955 and Disneyland had just opened in Anaheim, California when a 10-year-old boy walked in and asked for a job. Labour laws were loose back then and the boy managed to land a position selling guidebooks to visitors for $0.50 a piece.
Within a year, he had transitioned to Disney’s magic shop where he learned tricks from the older employees. He experimented with jokes and tried out simple magic routines on the visitors. Soon, he discovered that what he loved was not performing magic, but performing in general. The young boy set his sights on becoming a comedian.
Once he entered high school, he started performing in small clubs around Los Angeles. The crowds were small and his act was short. He was rarely on stage for more than five minutes. In one case, he literally delivered his standup routine to an empty club.
It wasn’t glamorous work, but there was no doubt he was getting better. His first magic routines would only last one or two minutes. By high school his material had expanded to include a five minute skit and then a 10 minute show. At the age of 19, he was performing weekly at clubs for 20 minutes at a time. Of course, he had to read three poems during the act just to make the routine long enough, but still. He was improving.
He spent another decade experimenting, adjusting and practising his act. He took a job as a television writer and, gradually, he was able to land his own appearances on television shows. By the mid-1970s, he had worked his way into being a regular guest on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.
After nearly 15 years of work, he broke through to wild success. He toured 60 cities in 63 days. Then 72 cities in 80 days. Then 85 cities in 90 days. 18,695 people attended one show in Ohio. 45,000 tickets were sold for his three-day show in New York. He catapulted to the top of his genre and became one of the most important comedians of his time.
Comedy is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to imagine a situation that would strike fear into the hearts of more people than failing to get a single laugh on stage. And yet, Martin worked at it for 18 years. In his words, “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years spent in wild success.” His story offers a fascinating perspective on motivation, perseverance and consistency.
Why do we stay motivated to reach some goals, but not others? Why do we say we want something, but give up on it after a few days? What is the difference between the areas where we naturally stay motivated and those where we give up?
Scientists have been studying motivation for decades. While there is still much to learn, one of the most consistent findings is that perhaps the best way to stay motivated is to work on tasks of “just manageable difficulty”.
The Goldilocks Rule
Human beings love challenges, but only if they are within the optimal zone of difficulty.
For example, imagine you are playing tennis. If you try to play a serious match against a four-year-old, you will quickly become bored. The match is too easy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you try to play a serious match against a professional tennis player like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, you will find yourself demotivated for a different reason. The match is too difficult.
Compare these experiences to playing tennis against someone who is your equal. As the game progresses, you win a few points and you lose a few points. You have a chance of winning the match, but only if you really try. Your focus narrows, distractions fade away and you find yourself fully invested in the task at hand. The challenge you are facing is “just manageable”. Victory is not guaranteed, but it is possible. Tasks like these, science has found are the most likely to keep us motivated in the long term.
Tasks that are significantly below your current abilities are boring. Tasks that are significantly beyond your current abilities are discouraging. But tasks that are right on the border of success and failure are incredibly motivating to our human brains. We want nothing more than to master a skill just beyond our current horizon.
We can call this phenomenon The Goldilocks Rule. The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.
Martin’s comedy career was a perfect example of what The Goldilocks Rule looks like in the real world. Each year, the length of his comedy routines expanded, but only by a minute or two. He was always adding new material, but he also kept a few jokes that were guaranteed to get laughs. There were just enough victories to keep him motivated and just enough mistakes to keep him working hard.
Measure Your Progress
If you want to learn how to stay motivated to reach your goals, then there is a second piece of the motivation puzzle that is crucial to understand. It has to do with achieving that perfect blend of hard work and happiness.
Working on challenges of an optimal level of difficulty has been found to not only be motivating, but also to be a major source of happiness. As psychologist Gilbert Brim put it, “One of the important sources of human happiness is working on tasks at a suitable level of difficulty, neither too hard nor too easy.”
This blend of happiness and peak performance is sometimes referred to as “flow”, which is what athletes and performers experience when they are “in the zone”. Flow is the mental state you experience when you are so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away.
In order to reach this state of peak performance, however, you not only need to work on challenges at the right degree of difficulty, but also measure your immediate progress. As psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains, one of the keys to reaching a flow state is that “you get immediate feedback about how you are doing at each step”.
Seeing yourself make progress in the moment is incredibly motivating. Steve Martin would tell a joke and immediately know if it worked based on the laughter of the crowd. Imagine how addicting it would be to create a roar of laughter. The rush of positive feedback Martin experienced from one great joke would probably be enough to overpower his fears and inspire him to work for weeks.
In other areas of life, measurement looks different but is just as critical for achieving a blend of motivation and happiness. In tennis, you get immediate feedback based on whether or not you win the point. Regardless of how it is measured, the human brain needs some way to visualise our progress if we are to maintain motivation. We need to be able to see our wins.
Two Steps to Motivation
If we want to break down the mystery of how to stay motivated for the long-term, we could simply say:
Stick to The Goldilocks Rule and work on tasks of just manageable difficulty.
Measure your progress and receive immediate feedback whenever possible.
Wanting to improve your life is easy. Sticking with it is a different story. If you want to stay motivated for good, then start with a challenge that is just manageable, measure your progress and repeat the process.
One of the best feelings ever is, making someone happy, smile or laugh after they were too sad. That makes your heart warm. Knowing that there is someone out there who is glad that you are alive. That gives hope. A will to survive. This place people call ‘world’ this thing people call ‘life’
Beautiful souls much like yours would probably know what this so called ‘life’ is. But souls like myself, don’t really have a clue as their ‘life’ died long ago. And is buried beyond reach.
Yet you are here. Holding me close. Hand in hand. Walking with me. Side by side. Despite all my flaws. All my imperfections. My liflessness. The huge mess I am. You the rock I lean on. You the man I count on. You the man who loves me beyond words. You the only beautiful soul to ever love me like this. The only. Believe me. You the only beautiful soul. I don’t know who to be thankful for except the mightiest of course.
“Boundaries are not selfish. They aren’t overindulgent or evidence that you’re too sensitive, and they aren’t weakness. Boundaries are conditions that allow you to take care of yourself; conditions that give you the means to survive and keep from sinking. They’re circumstances that honor your needs and respect your feelings. Limits that YOU get to decide on; limits that are inherently valid, regardless of how they compare to anyone else’s.
You deserve to create a space for yourself that feels safe and supportive. You deserve to exist under terms that don’t harm you; terms that allow your best self to come through. Even if other people don’t understand; even if it makes them feel angry or rejected or sad — your boundaries are necessary and they matter. Their needs matter too, and its not wrong to want to make shifts to accommodate both — but the truth is that you can’t take care of anyone else if your own needs aren’t being met. You don’t have to explain your boundaries. You don’t have to justify them, and you don’t need anyone’s approval. You need to believe that you’re someone worth taking care of, and you need to trust that if anyone is entitled to your protection and care, it’s you.
I’m realizing that boundaries are so, so important.