I Am… No, I’m Not

Do you ever find yourself constantly repeating something about you like it’s a fact, and then realizing one day that it’s not actually true? You aren’t intentionally lying; you just hadn’t stopped to think about whether your statement is accurate anymore… or was even accurate to start with.

For example, when I was in high school, I found myself always answering the question “How are you?” with “I’m tired.” I wasn’t tired. Not at all. I finally noticed the habit and realized that, since I didn’t like the typical “Fine” reply, nor did I want to say I was good unless I was specifically better than average for whatever reason, I had settled on “I’m tired” as a go-to answer. Maybe I was tired one time, and it just stuck. Who knows? But it definitely was no longer true, and by labeling myself as tired, I ended up making myself feel that way unnecessarily. I ended up switching to the much more specific “Oh, you know…” Non-committal. That’s how I liked it.

Somewhere in the path of my childhood, I had also decided that I didn’t like tomatoes. I was probably copying my older brother at the time, but ten years later, I was still saying no to tomatoes. One day, it hit me square in the face like a tomato thrown by an angry Elizabethan theatre-goer. I had nothing against tomatoes! I had been saying I despised them for a decade out of sheer habit.

Here’s what really got me thinking about this topic though:

Except for a brief period in grade school when I was afraid of fire (or more specifically, blowing out candles – short story for another time), I was never really one to have fears like the dark or clowns or water or falling. However, I liked knowing things. I wanted to be that person who had the info, who knew what was going on, who made a plan. So when people asked what I was afraid of, I started saying “The only thing I fear is the unknown.” I’ve held to that for a really, really long time. Like, all the way until a few days ago.

For some reason, the other night I started thinking about it in the shower (where we all do our deepest thinking, right?). For someone afraid of the unknown, I have been pretty quick to jump right in a lot of dark pits in the last several years. For someone who always wanted to have a plan and research all the information, I had set out with no plans and no information numerous times. I had applied to the Disney College Program on the fly during my freshman year of college, and I ended up heading there with almost no knowledge of what it would be like. I didn’t make any sight-seeing plans before leaving to study abroad in Italy, nor before purchasing a one-way flight to Iceland on a whim. Before applying to work on cruise ships, I had half-heartedly scanned one blog post about ship life (a post that was totally inaccurate due to its age). I’m constantly changing jobs and having to train for totally new positions, and I like it.

Revelation: I do not fear the unknown!

I guess I got caught up in that easy answer when I discovered how much I love learning new things, but I never stopped to realize that to love learning and to fear the unknown are not at all the same. In fact, to love learning, you kind of have to love the unknown as well, right? Without the unknown, there would be nothing to learn. I actually run towards the unknown with my arms wide open, because only there will I have the chance to take on new challenges and gather new skills and knowledge. While I may dislike not knowing things, I absolutely love the unknown!

Just like that, I’m released from a negative personality trait that I had tricked myself into believing was a fact. What about you? Are there things that you have repeated so often that you just assume they are true? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look, whether it’s a fear, a like or dislike, an “I don’t,” “I can’t,” or a “Never will I ever.” Rethink your statements; make sure they are true. And if they aren’t… get rid of them! What a shame it would be to hold yourself back from an opportunity because of a habit that no longer applies.

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