I did something really hard and uncomfortable recently and a huge lesson came out of it that I needed to share.
Let me take you back to my early days. The days when everything you did, said, and wore all mattered. The dog days of grade school that could make or break your future in a small town. The last thing I wanted my epitaph to read was…
”Here lies Risa. She wore a primary color block rugby shirt with tight rolled jeans, scrunch socks, and boat shoes while strapping a calculator watch to her ankle trying to be a trendsetter. Her life tragically ended after that.”
In all seriousness, embarrassment was like a rite of passage but was earth shattering at those pivotal moments in childhood. I still have nightmares remembering my inflamed face and could only hope it was something that would never happen as an adult.
Well…I was wrong. Turns out, it’s just as easy to experience embarrassment in your adult life (my ears are red just writing this), and it may even be worse. Flubbing your words on live TV feels like career suicide. Having your name read wrong before taking the stage as an expert speaker takes you right back to your early years of life where everyone would uncontrollably laugh at a mispronunciation. Adulthood embarrassment is basically the same as childhood embarrassment, just slightly harder for the adult brain to move past and can follow you around in a much more prominent way (thank you, Internet).
But here’s why I decided this concept of embarrassment may actually be the greatest fuel for uninhibited success.
My frientor (my mentor turned friend) has a part in one of his speeches where he talks about this concept of never getting embarrassed. He’s a world-class expert at leading an optimal life, and when he speaks, people listen. When I heard someone pose the question to him during a Q+A about how he uses his teachings to set an example for his children, he explained that he has undeniably moved beyond embarrassment. He doesn’t care what ANYONE thinks. Blasphemy, right? Actually, more like one of the greatest ah-ha moments of my entire adult life.
You see, for so long I built my entire life’s work on caring about what other people thought. God forbid I leave the house without makeup; someone might see me and think I’m not put together – how mortifying. Sing out loud even though it’s something I love to do? No chance, people might think I’m a loser. Someone hates my outfit? I’ll never wear those wide leg pants again. I mean the list goes on. I cared so deeply about what people thought of me, how I showed up for them, and what I looked like (I should mention I work in fashion), that it actually stunted me from living out a life of true authenticity. I watched every step, tried to always say the thing that people wanted to hear, and carefully curated a public persona and social media highlight reel I thought people would be impressed by. What an exhausting existence.
Only recently and after hearing the concept of deleting the word embarrassment from my vocabulary, did I realize, no one actually cares what I’m doing, saying or wearing. More importantly…if they do care, I absolutely shouldn’t. There’s just no way to fully step into the person you are meant to be if you’re spending time and energy thinking about others’ opinions of you. It was such a light bulb moment to think that I could be totally free to post what I want, look how I actually am in real life, and potentially wear something that might not fit the flattering mold I’m used to in my professional photo shoots. What a concept, right?
This all came up after running a rainy half marathon and looking back at the pictures of myself with nothing but disappointment. I sat and berated myself and debated posting my big accomplishment, all because I hated the way my body looked and I felt ashamed of people seeing me like that. Those images shouldn’t live on my permanent social feed, it’ll ruin the flow and I look terrible. I spiraled thinking about putting unsavory images out there for the world to see.
What a huge mental miss for me. What about the fact that I didn’t train for my race and finished faster than I had in my last half? What about the fact that it was pouring rain for the first 45 minutes of running and I never stopped trying? What about the fact that I started off the year putting something difficult on my calendar? What about the fact that my best friend and her daughter came out to support me and waited to watch me cross the finish line? Shouldn’t I be worried about the example I’m setting for people watching me do hard things, and the people who might be inspired by my recent decision to put my mental health and wellness first? Why on earth would I be thinking about anything other than how proud I was of myself? I’ll tell you why. Society tells us that if we’re not putting our highlight reel out there for the world to see that we aren’t good enough. If you aren’t meeting the standards of what people expect for you, you might look like a less than desirable person to know or work with. There is so much pressure out there to be perfection personified, it’s almost crippling.
I had a moment to feel embarrassed and snapped myself right out of it. I knew in order to show up as the person I truly am, I needed to proudly post my accomplishment and share my feelings around being the kind of person people look to as an inspiration. That doesn’t come from living in fear of embarrassment, it comes from proudly sharing that you accomplished something. That you showed up for yourself with no negotiation, no makeup, soaking wet hair and a real full teeth smile on your face. And guess what? The minute you decide to show up as that person both online and in real life, the true support and messages start pouring in. I received more DM’s, messages and comments from people sharing their excitement to start running again, their plans to register for a race because they felt so inspired, or just messages saying how they’re noticing my energy more than ever.
That’s the beauty right there. That should be what everyone is striving for. A life that is lived in full appreciation exactly as the moments exist. Running this race had nothing to do with how I looked. It had everything to do with how I set out with a goal and completed it, how I kept the promise I made to myself to do it, and how I did something really challenging. What a disservice I would have done myself and others watching, if I missed this beautiful realization.
Embarrassment…I’m leaving you behind. I’m evolving past you from now on and I’m going to do exactly what I was meant to do in this world…SHOW UP as my true self. I implore everyone out there to do the same. I can’t imagine there’s anything more freeing than fully accepting yourself and showing the world exactly who you are with no fear or worry about who’s neighborhood-watching your every move. I’m taking this new found mentality into my future and I’m leaving the hater-ade at mile marker 7 on the race course for anyone who doesn’t like it. Who’s with me?