Wednesday, December 5, 2012

doing things that scare you, growth, and the tricky concept of bravery

The first time I heard the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it," I was 17 and giving my first speech in my high school speech class. Since my complete paralyzing fear of talking in front of my peers was obvious to anyone with eyes or ears, that was basically what my speech was about - that I was shaking and my face was a disturbingly tomato-like shade of red and I hated this and I never wanted to do this again ohmygodgoodbyeforeverhyperventilate.

When I was done, my friend (bless him) raised his hand, lied to my face, and said he couldn't tell I was nervous. "Fake it 'til you make it," my teacher said, and winked. I sat down, was baffled that I got an A on that speech, and promptly shook during every speech I gave after (and to this day).

But I tremble less now, and my face only turns pink instead of that-girl-is-going-to-explode-red. And that's only true because I've had to speak in public since then. A lot more than I'd like, and just enough to be starting to get used to it. And all those talks forced me to face the fact that public speaking isn't as bad as I built it up to be in my head. Yes, really.

I never would have described myself as brave. I still probably wouldn't now, but I learned when I was 17 that we shouldn't be so afraid of half of the things that scare us. That really we've just built them up in our heads as these unconquerable, terrifying things when they're probably not.

When I left for China, I was scared. I cried on the plane -- twice. When I first moved to DC, I think I trembled for approximately two weeks straight. Hell, I used to be completely neurotic and freaked out about talking to a guy I liked. That scene in Friends when Monica asked Chandler what's the worst that could happen if he asked a girl out and he replied, "I could die!" -- yeah, I've believed that.*

But I've done all of those things anyway, and as terrified as I was, I enjoyed them. Being forced into uncomfortable situations gave me two options: Freak out and give up, or do it anyway and get over it along the way. Fake it 'til I made it. And now that I've done them, they don't seem so scary. By extension, a whole lot of other things don't seem so scary -- things like going backpacking, continuing with grad school, moving abroad permanently.

I don't know if this makes me brave, but I know those things aren't unconquerable. Little is, really. And if this shy, quiet, still-turns-red-when-more-than-two-people-look-at-her-girl can conquer living in China, moving across the country, and asking out a cute guy, then maybe there's hope for everything else too.

*In case you've never watched that scene, here's a clip, which is hilarious:


  1. two things come to mind when I read this post:

    if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.


    courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear

    so on that note, i'm with you. i'm glad you're doing all these things that sound scary and you're finding out that it's really not as bad as you thought because I'm right in the middle of doing that in my own life. it's a little frightening, but so worth it. oh, so worth it.

  2. Girl we need more updates from you, I'm not following! Where are you these days?

  3. Girl, fake it till you make it has been my motto throughout life! I'm pretty brave, but I HATE public speaking.


Commenting? How lovely. Please try not to talk about dead cats.