Yesterday morning, I finished the last episode of Season Two of Magic Lessons, author and memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast about overcoming blocks to creativity and engaging in creation more joyfully. Each episode, Gilbert talks to a different individual about what they’re working on and what’s holding them back. Almost every time, the main reason/excuse/culprit is fear:
Fear of putting their whole selves into their poetry.
Fear that they won’t be able to tackle a daunting photography project.
Fear that their second book won’t be as good as their first.
I get afraid.
Here are some things I’ve been scared of lately, things I worry about:
I can’t write anymore.
This book is going to be awful.
The first one was a total fluke.
What if I never sell another book?
I’m such an awful mom.
Why aren’t they listening to me?
Why am I so drained at the end of the day?
Everyone else is doing this parenting thing so much better than me.
Is anyone even reading this blog?
Why isn’t my daughter doing “x” as well as her peers? What’s wrong?
I worry about things. I think a lot.
But I think that’s true about everyone. Everyone gets afraid. Everyone gets stuck.
I admire those people whose natural inclination is to put their full, unedited, genuine self forward into the world. No makeup, no hiding. They step out and don’t worry what other people will think about them. They don’t care.
Then I realize that in my entire life, I’ve only known a few of those people. Most of the people I meet, most of my very best friends, are as messed-up (this is said with the utmost love, of course) as me.
We all have fear holding us back, whether it’s in our creative projects or in other aspects of our lives.
The other thing Elizabeth Gilbert does in her podcast is bring in an “expert” to counsel the featured artist of the week. She’s talked to Brene Brown, Neil Gaiman, Michael Ian Black, and Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), among others. In this last episode, she spoke with Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery fame, whose two books, Carry On, Warrior and Love Warrior, are basically my bibles. (Yes, I know–more Glennon love from me. But I found her before Oprah, thank you very much.)
Glennon talked about how she started her blog when she was broken. When she was scared of the world. She talked about how readers always ask her how she grew her blog from a single Facebook post into a website and a movement encompassing millions. She said that she was open. She was scared, but she was vulnerable. And she kept being vulnerable. Because regardless of whether she was reaching thousands of people or ten people, she was still reaching someone. Her blog was still something that those ten people made an effort to seek out, to make part of their day.
Sometimes I don’t know if this blog is reaching anyone.
Then I get confirmation that it has. That it’s changed someone’s life and made them reach out for help. That makes this worth everything. All the self-doubt. All the fear that comes with exposing my own fears and struggles.
It’s okay to be vulnerable. You can even choose your level of vulnerability. I don’t tell people everything about myself. I don’t share all my fears. I don’t share every time I cry or make a mistake. But I am open about my eating disorder. My struggle with self-esteem. How hard I’ve worked to tunnel through all that. How bits of dirt and debris still cling to me from the excavations.
I’m not all the way clean. None of us are, even those no makeup self-esteem goddesses. They’re hiding things. I promise you; you don’t know the whole story.
We all need periodic magic lessons to find our best self. We need to talk to people who understand the fears that come with being human. If you ask for help, if you speak up about your struggle, someone else will learn from you, too. Even if it’s not ten people, it could still be one.
It happens. .
Last night, I learned that my words helped someone else.
And it means everything in the world to me.