In college, you would have found me doing shots at a party with neon pink dreadlocks. Today, it takes something special to draw me out of my little hermit shell. With each passing year, I am less and less comfortable with drawing attention to myself. For this reason, making even a small change can bring up all kinds of anxieties. Will somebody notice? Will they say something? Or worst of all, will they put me on the spot and ask me to explain? This kind of fear can really hold you back from taking a positive step.
As an example, I would love to be the kind of person who doesn’t wear make-up. I hate putting it on, I hate paying for it, and I hate trying to find foundation for my pasty-white skin that apparently has less color than “porcelain”. Yet, I continue to do it every day without fail. Why? Because I can’t stand the thought of people noticing. The thought of people asking me if I’m feeling OK or mentioning that I look different. I know that I shouldn’t care what people think. Realistically, it’s possible that nobody would actually give a rip. However, these little thoughts in the back of my mind still prevent me from making the change. No, I’m not proud of it.
When it comes to making more substantial lifestyle changes, the problem is the same and I think it’s worth digging a little deeper into. Two ideas that I spend a lot of time playing around with are minimalism and veganism. Both of these concepts seem a bit “out there” to most people, and while I find myself drawn to explore them – do I really want to explain these ideas to people? A stranger is one thing, but try explaining minimalism to your mother who just send you a box of things she lovingly picked out for you at the thrift store. Try explaining veganism to a table of family members who ask in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.
The truth is that things can get uncomfortable. Everyone will ask the question, but nobody really wants to hear the answer. And if they do want an answer, they want the 10-second sound byte version which I never seem to have queued up. I don’t want to look like an idiot. More importantly, I don’t want to offend anyone or be hoisted onto the proverbial soapbox. I just want to eat my darn Tofurky and fade into the background. After all, this journey is about self improvement; The steps I’m taking are for me and no one else.
I do realize that people generally do not ask these questions to shame me or to challenge me. They might politely ask to show interest or make conversation. They might even ask because they actually want to learn. The fear is my own concoction. It may not be well founded, but I need to acknowledge it exists, put it away, and keep going.
The point is that actually making the change is the important part. Don’t let a fear of the spotlight get in your way or keep you from getting started. Give yourself permission to try something new even if you aren’t sure about it. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out. You don’t need to have all of the answers. You don’t need to preach the gospel of your new lifestyle to the masses. Heck, you don’t need to explain anything at all.