Have you ever heard the quote, "do something every day that scares you" by Eleanor Roosevelt? The message is obvious that you must challenge yourself to do things you think you cannot do. I'm not sure I want to do something that scares me every single day, my to-do list is already long enough, but I am intrigued by the idea of getting out of my comfort zone now and again and pushing myself to cross over my self-imposed boundaries.
I'm scared of doing things at which I think I'm no good. I'm scared of looking silly or doing it wrong, which often puts me at odds with myself because I want to try new things but my fear somehow gets in the way. My older son, Nicholas, on the other hand, is scared of monsters and the dark. He doesn't like to go in his room by himself or up the stairs by himself or anywhere where there is no light. Even if he turns a hall light on he still doesn't want to enter his room alone. Both of us are letting our fear dictate what we do and when we do it.
I have been thinking a lot lately about doing more things that scare me. Like, trying to do a handstand in my yoga class. I have been going to the same Ashtanga yoga class for about six months and for six months I have avoided doing the handstand. Every time the class embraced the pose and walked or floated their legs up the wall, I would wimp out and do a reverse table pose instead. Week after week I convinced myself that I couldn't do the handstand because my wrist hurt or I would just fall back down anyway. I didn't think I could get my legs up, let along keep them up. So, I never even tried.
The one thing I like about yoga, or about how my instructor teaches it anyway, is everyone is allowed to feel comfortable at whatever level suits him or her. For example, I don't feel bad that I can't do a boat pose because I know my core is weak. I am working on that. But, I still attempt the boat pose and modify it as necessary. My instructor is very good about offering modifications and reminding us that we are okay wherever we are in our practice. He never pushed me to do the handstand and never belittled me when I didn't try. But, that damn handstand was still haunting me. Why was I so afraid to try it? What was I avoiding?
A friend decided to join me for a yoga session and I convinced myself that I would do the handstand that morning. She was new to Ashtanga and I assumed she would be watching me as she tried to understand the poses and twists and bends. I figured that morning was as good a time as any to just put my fear aside and go for it. When we got to the studio and found out that not only was my instructor not teaching that morning, but it was a "follow the yogi" class instead, I almost turned and ran. I had no desire to do a "follow the yogi" class (what if I don't know the poses?) and I was not at all interested in doing a class with the owner and master yogi himself. Talk about intimidation.
I didn't run. I was scared, yes, but I took a deep breath and we went inside anyway. I was uncomfortable, but I decided to push through it. I know that the only limitations are those that I place on myself so I decided to cross over my silly, self-imposed boundary. Why do I impose these ridiculous boundaries anyway?
It turned out to be a great class. I learned a few new poses and came out of my comfort zone a time or two. The highlight of my morning, however, was finally accomplishing the handstand. Even though my heart was racing and I was anxious, I planted my hands on the floor and pushed my legs up into the air. I seemed to float effortlessly as I placed my feet on the wall, relaxed and took several deep breaths. I stayed up longer than I ever thought possible. As a matter of fact, the handstand was so easy that I was shocked I didn't try it sooner. I was convinced for so long that I couldn't do a handstand only to find out it was much easier than I ever anticipated.
I wish Nicholas could understand that the monsters he manufactures in his head are much worse than anything real. He makes himself sick with worry and panic by creating an unrealistic vision of what lies ahead. I can see that so clearly in him, but apparently not in myself. I realized that morning in my yoga class that my fear of the handstand was completely unfounded. When I try to convince Nicholas that monsters aren't real, I need to practice what I preach. My monsters aren't real either.
I thought of all my Sunday morning yoga sessions spent fretting over something that turned out to be much simpler than expected. Imagine if all of my fears were allayed by trying something new and finding out that my fear was worse than the actual task. Imagine what I can accomplish if I choose to believe that I really am capable and let everything else fall into place.
I am capable. And, I'm going to start doing more things that scare me. I am convinced now that I will be pleasantly surprised.