As I tucked my six-year-old into bed recently, he raved about how much fun he was having swimming at summer camp. “Well,” I told him, “maybe next year you can join the swim team.” I immediately felt a shift. The kid that had been all boast and bubbles before, now seemed full of worry and doubt. “No, Mom. I don’t want to,” he pleaded. “Why not, buddy?” “Because I’m not that good a swimmer. I’m just a first grader. I MIGHT DROWN!”
Now, I have no idea what kind of swimmer my son would be. But, what was shocking about what he said, what has stayed with me for days, was the shift I watched him undergo. From confidence to doubt, from flying high to shrinking back in one fell swoop.
What had happened? Where had my little superhero gone? The questions sat in the back of my mind for several days.
Until someone who knows me well suggested I should do something that was a little bit of a stretch for me. Something that was on the outside edge of my comfort zone. There came the thoughts: “I don’t want to do that. I’ll look dumb. I’ll make a fool of myself. Besides, I’m a lawyer and we don’t do those things. I MIGHT FAIL!” Wow.
I’ve done a lot of work to identify and address the thoughts that keep me from achieving my potential, but to see my own insecurities surface in a way so similar to those of my child was jarring. Because at some point along the way, although I learned to “cope” with my insecurities – by being perfect, by working myself into oblivion, by always being on guard, and most of all, by never letting anyone see them – they were always still there. And they were the same thoughts that swirled in the mind of my little boy.
I wonder how many times I’ve taken the same plummet I saw in him. How often have I gone from riding high to worrying if I am good enough, if I can really do it? How often have I let my actions be shaped more by my fears than my hopes? Where have I silenced the superhero inside of me?
I know that the answers to those questions would disappoint me. I know that there are things I have not achieved only because I didn’t believe that I could, and so I didn’t try. We all do this, to one degree or another. That’s why I believe that finding an effective way to address these thoughts – rather than ignoring them or shoving them away – is the key to reaching our full potential. It is the first step to having all the great things we want in life.
What about you? Is your cape a little ragged, or are you flying high?