What Are You Waiting For?
We are now a little over a week into the new year, a time when most of us have made huge resolutions to change all the things in our lives we think need fixing. Whether it’s to eat better, exercise more, stop an ongoing bad habit, clean up our language, or finally get our house organized, we all have something we wish to change. I’ll admit that like most people, I go marching into January full of belief that this year will be the year I finally do “x, y and z.” However, I’m not surprised that research shows that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions give them up by the second week of February. While there are many reasons why this happens, I actually want to address something different, yet related: Why do we allow our so-called imperfections to keep us from living our fullest lives? What are we hiding from?
Many of us are missing out on experiences because we are waiting for some “right” time to arrive. Personally, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot; and honestly, I can think of many things I’m putting off because it isn’t the “right” time or things are not “perfect.”
For me, this way of thinking was formed at a very young age. I really used to believe that my life didn’t begin until I was a famous actress; as if the journey so far had been meaningless. In reality, what I really was telling myself was that up to that point, my life and my accomplishments weren’t worthy enough.
I also told myself that I didn’t have time for a serious relationship (even friendships) because I had to concentrate on my career. So I spent my weekends alone while my friends were out having fun and being teenagers. Many of my decisions were based on my need to be perfect and to have everything around me perfect as well. One of the silliest things I ever did was to decide not to audition for musical theater. Growing up I loved musicals and would dream about being on Broadway, but after going on a few musical auditions, I couldn’t handle being less than perfect. Dance calls left me feeling like a fool, and hearing the incredible voices of those auditioning before me, intimidated the hell out of me. So, that was the end of that. All these years later, I’ve often wished that I’d allowed myself to be less than perfect. I let one bad audition (or what I thought was a bad audition) and temporary discomfort lead me to make a rash decision. I robbed myself out of the experience of something I really loved.
Why is it that we have such a hard time tolerating anything less than perfection in ourselves? What about doing something just because it brings a sense of joy?
I think the truth is that when we bail out of something or wait for the perfect time to do something, it gives us a perfect excuse to do nothing. And by allowing ourselves to stay stuck, we avoid having to face our fears and uncomfortable feelings. One of the biggest excuses I’ve used for staying in my comfort zone was the size of my body. I can’t tell you how often I would put things off until I was thinner or weighed less or fit into a certain pair of jeans. I would even tell myself it was probably the reason for why I didn’t get a part. It was so much easier to blame rejection on my weight than the possibility that I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t take that pain. Yet, I remember the time when I finally fit into the jeans that I had always told myself stood between me and stardom. The ironic thing is that I didn’t feel any different and it didn’t change anything. My life was exactly the same. In fact, no one even seemed to notice and I still didn’t book the job. At that moment, a very small part of me had to accept that maybe my weight wasn’t the reason. Maybe the reason was something else entirely: Talent? Luck? My age? My personality? Not knowing the answer was difficult to accept because it meant I couldn’t fix it. And my whole life has been spent trying to fix my imperfections. And if I couldn’t fix my imperfections then I didn’t have control of anything, which scared the hell out of me. But the reality is that I don’t have control of anything. No one does. There isn’t a person on this earth, no matter how rich or famous, that doesn’t have to face fear or uncomfortable feelings.
Basically, if I want to live the fullest life I can, I have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and move ahead, mistakes and all. I have to allow myself to fall flat on my face, to make a potential fool of myself, to mess up.
I’ve set a goal this year to gently work my way through the things I keep putting off until some future date. Some are easier than others, like drinking the bottle of Dom Perignon that has been lying in my wine rack for 21 years, or using the brand new fluffy towels I bought more than 4 years ago. After all, why am I saving them? Is there any occasion more special than today; a day in which I am alive, healthy and deserving of happiness?
Of course, there are other more complicated things which will involve more effort, courage and faith. For these, I’m taking one small step at a time and sneaking up on them with curiosity. When I look at it this way, it’s kind of exciting. There is so much possibility; who knows what might happen.
We are all here to live a great life. We all deserve success, love, good health, supportive relationships and happiness. In that vein, what is it that you have been putting off? If you only had one more day on the planet, what would you do? How would you spend it? For this new year give yourself permission to explore the ways you have been holding yourself back. Make a list of things you’ve been wanting to do, then gently move toward accomplishing them with self-compassion, an open heart, and lots of curiosity.