Skeptical Contradiction

Like the rest of the state, I decided to make a trip to Mall of America this past weekend in an effort to make a dent in my holiday shopping.  I ducked into a store that has a bunch of nooks and crannies, filled with a variety of “gifty” types of things.  A cool, distorted frame caught my eye.

“This thing is twenty bucks,” a voice said near me.  I looked to my right to see a dark haired guy holding a cheesy metal frame.

“Oh yeah?” I said, playing along.

“Seems like a lot, right?” he continued, “Nice picture in it though.

I smiled and nodded.

“It would be better if it was me and you in it,” he threw out there, clearly a planned line that I’m sure he tried on several women already that afternoon.  I gave him a small laugh and probably rolled my eyes a little bit.

He continued to introduce himself, asked my name.  We made small talk, yet in my head I was trying to find a way out of the situation.

I recently wrote about how I wanted to meet someone the “old fashioned” way.  Meaning, through real life encounters, not through an Internet dating site.  Yet, as I was doing just that, I immediately became a skeptic.

Now, in my defense, this guy had a ton of red flags.  Like saying he was from France, yet had no accent whatsoever.  (Ladies, you don’t fall for that, do you?)  Not to mention that he was incredibly pushy.  Ditching him was definitely the right decision, but it still got me thinking.  What if he had been a normal, friendly person?  Would I still have been a skeptic?

It seems as though we live in a world where we don’t trust anyone until they give us a reason to.   Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Do we let our fear of the unfamiliar prevent us from growing as humans?

Fear used to cripple me.  You could say I was shy… and to a certain extent I suppose I still am.  More than simple shyness, though, it was a fear of being a bother to other people, really.  I’m not sure if those two ideas are the same, but I’m sure they’re related.

I’d often hide my “fear” behind my work.  I direct a team of multimedia project managers and web developers and deal with large clients on a regular basis on insane deadlines.  That gig is not for the timid or weak of heart.   I have to be confident and fearless.  Knowing who I really am at my core, it seems impossible that I’m in that role.  Yet I am.  My work self isn’t the same as my real self, so I suppose that’s why I’m not shy when it comes to the job.

I also hide fear behind humor.  I’m often told that I’m “the funny one” or am always “good for a laugh.”  Don’t get me wrong; I love being that person and it really is a big part of who I am.  But I think I hide behind that persona.  Very few people have known me beyond that barrier, as  I tend to keep people at arms length out of an unwarranted fear of becoming a burden on them.  (It makes no sense, I know that.)

I’ve spent the better part of this year pushing myself into situations that are (or were) incredibly uncomfortable for me.  Like joining a rec sports league where I knew no one.  Or driving by myself two states away and going to a concert with strangers.  Or even just writing right here on this blog.  Through it all, I’ve met some really awesome people, had some great new experiences and learned a lot.  While I still catch myself retreating back to my old comfort zone sometimes, I’ve made huge progress in my own personal growth that I intend to continue into the New Year.  I’m excited to see what kind of adventures it gets me into.

I wish the same for you, friends.  How do you want to grow?  How is “fear” holding you back?  What can you do to conquer it?  And conquer it you CAN.

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