Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's the Worst that Could Happen?

Aaaaahhhhh ...

That's the sigh of relief. Of relaxation. Of not stressing about the things that have the potential to make me nuts ... the things that up until quite recently, did just that. But no more. Aaaaahhhh!

In the movies, whenever someone asks "what's the worst that could happen," we know we're about to find out.  It's always some disastrous event, and the character is devastated.  A little while later he's dumb enough to say "well, at least things can't get any worse" ... so, of course, they do.  For most of us, though, it's usually nowhere near as exciting ... or as calamitous.  The problem is that we build it up in our minds as though it could be, and that stops us from doing the things we want - or need - to do.  

This could be something as simple as trying out a new recipe or taking a new class at the gym. We fear failure, rejection, and embarrassment, so we don't bother taking the risk.  What we need to do is ask ourselves "what's the worst that could happen," and then really take some time to think about the answer ... and the next step.  If the meal doesn't taste good, we can always order pizza.  If the class isn't really as much fun as we hoped, it's OK to quit.  The important thing to remember is that we're not giving up on cooking or working out altogether, just experimenting until we find the recipe or workout that really meets our needs.  But if we don't take that risk in the first place, we may very well miss out on a decadent dessert, an exhilarating exercise, and a fabulous feeling of accomplishment.

Sometimes the things we don't do for fear of "the worst that could happen" are much more important.  While we sit back and do nothing to avoid the consequences of doing something, we fail to realize that doing nothing can be far worse.  We don't go for that promotion, because we might not get it.  We don't call that cute guy because he might not be interested.  We don't play that game because we might not win.  We don't take that chance because we might fail.  What we forget, though, is that we might actually succeed.  We very well might get what we want, what we hope for, what we deserve ... but we definitely won't get it if we don't even give it a shot.

Other times, we don't even realize what we're not doing for fear of what could happen.  This is the time when it is most damaging.  It's not a specific tangible thing that we may miss out on, but something more ... something personal.  When we allow others to mistreat us, we do far more damage than we realize.  By not standing up for ourselves, we effectively say that it is OK for this to continue.  When we allow others to put us down, we are telling ourselves that we deserve it.  When we allow others to act as though they are more important than us, we are telling ourselves that we are unimportant.  That message stays with us long after those particular individuals have left us ... it permeates our minds and our spirits, and leads us to allow others to do the same.
Why do we allow this to happen?  Quite often, we are made to feel inferior by someone who we consider an authority in our lives: a parent, an older sibling, a boss, a coach: someone who by title is literally higher than us, either on the family tree or the company organization chart.  We are led to believe that our relative positions permit the higher-ups to treat us as less than.  We allow them to belittle us, and feel that we just can't say or do anything to stop it.  So my question is ... why not?

It's time to ask ourselves that question again ... and to really think about the answer.  What's the worst that could happen if we stand up for ourselves?

I was recently given an "off-the-record" warning that "the worst" was going to happen to me.  Though I panicked for a brief moment, having advance knowledge of the situation gave me time to think about it from every angle.  I had to figure out what I would do when that happened, and how I would proceed.  What I realized, surprisingly, was that it really wouldn't be such a bad thing.  In fact, though it might be difficult for a little while, a lot of good would come out of it in the long run.  A few days later, I was actually disappointed when "the worst" didn't happen as I expected.

One of the best things to come out of that was that I realized that I did not need to fear "the worst."  That was a truly liberating experience.  If "the worst" wasn't really that bad, then surely anything less was manageable.  I could handle whatever curve ball would come next.  I was ready for it.  

Being ready gave me confidence.  Being ready gave me strength.  (It was kinda like the feeling I get from wearing my boots.)  That strength and confidence gave me my voice back.  The next time someone attempted to belittle me, I stood up for myself ... and that felt good.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  I refuse to grant anyone permission to make me feel bad about myself.  As long as I continue to do the best I can in all areas of my life, I can hold my head high.  And I can breathe a little easier.  Aaaaahhhhh.

Every day we are faced with situations like these.  Every day we have a choice to make.  Before we make those decisions, we need to step back and ask ourselves, "what's the worst that could happen" if we take that risk.  Even if we don't succeed, chances are we could still learn something from the experience.  Perhaps an even better question to ask is ... what's the best that could happen?

** If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!