When I was younger I used to worry a lot about what other people thought of me. But then that changed. And I know the exact moment when that change happened. It was as if I hatched, like a chicken hatching out of its egg shell, and it was an amazing and defining moment for me.
It was at acting school in L.A., and I was standing on stage at a full-house theatre in front of 150-200 people, in this horribly ugly, pink velour robe (just as a side note: I hate velour. It’s seriously the fabric from hell and just the feel or even thought of it makes my inner core crawl…). I was about to do a scene from Rosemary’s Baby, and I was up there in front of all these people with a pounding heart that I thought was going to jump out of my chest. I had struggled and worked so hard for this role and this specific scene for so long and this was it. The final scene of the show.
While up on that stage, going through the lines, it was as if my heart poured out of my mouth and on to the stage. All those emotions I had felt while being in L.A. on my own for four months, came out – and they came out loud.
The audience loved it. We got standing ovations and we were all so excited, my classmates and I. It was an incredible moment.
And I had hatched out of my shell, and I knew I was standing there as a new person.
The next two years (pretty much) after that, I kept going through changes after changes, but it all had the same goal: a stronger, more confident Jo, who simply no longer cared what other people thought of her (and who no longer would let other people walk all over her).
Over that time I realised that my life was mine and it was about me. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted and to live however I wished. And I found that when I did that, it started getting better and better. It was when I started to completely be myself that I found that people actually loved me more, just for being me. I found more friends and more true friends; friends that I can’t live without today. Some old friends disappeared and some of them I grew a stronger, deeper relationship with. Even my family (who I was already, and always have been, really close to) grew closer to me.
All of this is an ongoing process. Things like these don’t happen overnight, but over a lifetime. I am so grateful for that specific moment I had up on that stage, though. Otherwise, I’m sure it would have taken me longer to get to where I am today.
Start your change
Many people go through an entire life worrying about what other people think of them or what others are saying about them. What I’m trying to do today with this blog post, is to open your eyes. What kind of life do you lead? Do you constantly worry about what other people’s perception is of you? Do you ever not do something because you’re worried what the talk is going to be?
If you recognise yourself in this, you are definitely not alone – I sure did a few years ago! And every now and then, I still do. But it is not good for you and it is not healthy. You’re going to miss out on so much – life even! – if you keep this pattern going. It is a big process to change this way of thinking (it’s practically planted in us since early childhood), but anyone can do it. And you’re going to thank yourself for pushing through with it.
Starting small is the key (I know it doesn’t seem like I did, but I did – unconsciously. That moment on stage was just the peak). Baby steps, you know.
Say, for example, you’re afraid to dance. Do you ever stay away from dancing because you think people are going to look at you and laugh? Then this is a place you can start.
I always say anyway that no one except professional dancers can really dance. All you do is move your feet, wave your arms, shake a little booty and you’re pretty much good to go.
So go out somewhere where there are a lot of people dancing. Push yourself into the middle of the crowd (where no bystanders on the outskirts can see you), and go nuts! Dance like you’ve never danced before, like it was depending on your life, like you were to let everything inside you come out and scream. Jump and feel yourself slowly starting to come out of your shell.
These days I even dance if no one else is dancing. And I go completely nuts. I probably look like the biggest fool on the planet, too, but you know what? I couldn’t care less! I’m having fun, and that’s all that truly matters to me.
Now, try it for yourself: think of something that makes you a little uncomfortable, and go do it! It’s time for you to hatch, too.
Good luck, little ducklings!