One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” (Dr. Gregory House).
When we are infants, we fall hundreds of times while learning to walk. As toddlers, we proudly show off our coloring books filled with Crayola scribbles. And as young children, we enthusiastically pin our homemade craft projects to the refrigerator for all to see. Through these activities, we discover our passion, learn about our environment, and build our skills.
But something shifts as we get older. We become self-conscious, we learn shame, and we start to fear being judged. Our willingness to be vulnerable diminishes as we experience heartbreak and criticism. We start to believe it’s safer to build walls to protect ourselves rather than to live life to the fullest and risk rejection. And worst of all, we rationalize this behavior, convincing ourselves this is how life is supposed to be as an adult.
The truth is, people will always judge and there is at least some risk in anything worth doing. If you put yourself out there, chances are, you’ll sometimes get hurt. If you go for that job, you may be rejected. That person you approach for a date may turn you down. The article you submitted may not be selected for publication. And, you may end up being the worst singer at the audition.
But instead of interpreting these as failures, what if you considered them signs of true living? Evidence that you stepped out of your comfort zone, took a chance, and crossed one item off of your list of things you won’t regret having NOT done. How about reframing, “I’m such an idiot” into “Well, that was a good lesson” or “Hey, that was pretty brave.”
The mystery of life isn’t meant to be solved, but rather to be experienced. It’s often our own judgment and self-criticism that stands in the way of living life out loud. Imagine if we imposed this judgment on ourselves when learning to walk? We’d need far fewer shoes in the world.
As for those who criticize you, remember that they are usually covering up their own insecurities. Next time you are treated unkindly, instead of feeling embarrassed or angry, try feeling compassion for the person criticizing you. He is likely struggling with his own insecurities and living life from a place of fear.
At the end of the day, we grow the most from those things that don’t work out as expected. We become agile through disappointments, resourceful through challenges, competent through mistakes, and successful through failures. The things in life we most regret are not the things that we screw up, but rather the things we never try. Here’s to keeping that list short and living out loud (LOL).