Don’t let fear make you practical.

Once again, I’m grappling with the thought of who do I think I am, assuming I have something interesting to say?  This negative mind-chatter is the bane of my existence and has been cropping up afresh since I’ve recently started a writing class.

Cody has been privileged to endure ten or so years of my hemming and hawing so I wasn’t surprised a few weeks when ago he dragged me to the dinner table, my eyes rolling as he led me by the hand, to watch an inspirational commencement speech given by Jim Carrey (see it here).  About ten minutes in, Carrey made a point that kind of stunned me: beware of fear disguised as practicality.  I felt like he was talking to me!  Especially if we are dreaming of something big, we often refuse to put the desire out there because who are we to want it or dream it.  Carrey illustrates his point by telling us how his dad could have been a brilliant comedian but chose a more conservative career.  When he was laid off Carrey saw how even the safe choice can lead to failure, so you may as well take a chance on doing what you love.  Mediocrity is failure if you want something more.

There is no way I would have started this blog, let alone had the audacity to continue to explore writing had I not whet my appetite by moving abroad and getting out of my comfort zone. This past week I’ve been trying to clear away the mental clutter to get to the root of the feeling and I think it’s this:  I am getting closer to identifying the thing that makes me tick, that thing that I want to “do” with my life, but what happens if I try it and fall flat on my face?  It has always seemed better to keep dreams hidden away, where they’re safe and can never be tested.  Because if you try something new and fail, doesn’t that say something about you…that you aren’t talented, smart, hardworking or simply good enough?

Even outside of my writing, the idea of doing what you love but being afraid to take that next step is a common topic between Cody and I.  Before we took this assignment we had initially thought of doing an around-the-world trip; however, we would have been forced to quit our jobs.  To be frank, I didn’t have a problem with leaving my job in the dust; but to Cody–a man in a success driven culture–that idea carried a different weight.  Work was invariably a part of his definition of success.  In that regard, this assignment has been a blessing to us in more ways than one—it has given us an opportunity to do something we dreamed about in a “safe” way, but is has also allowed us to step outside of our mindset and see a different culture’s view of success.  Where before we balked, we could now take the next step.

I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a challenge without that knee-jerk fear of looking foolish or failing.  However, like with our ideas of success I do think I may be able to change my idea of what failure means. Isn’t that what the scads of inspirational quotes and mantras aim for?  Perhaps if we repeat to ourselves those little nuggets of how it’s better to try and not succeed than to never try at all, we’ll absorb some of that and be more willing to stick our toe out there, thus thwarting the feedback loop of fear that has become so ingrained in the way we think.

Since we’ve moved, I’ve had to replace a lot of those “I could nevers” with “give it a trys” and I’ve surprised myself quite a bit along the way.  I don’t know that anything will come of my escapades with writing, but I have to say that simply trying is success enough for me.

7 thoughts on “Don’t let fear make you practical.

  1. Danielle, Just a note to let you know that I always look forward to your posts and I feel as though many of your thoughts and observations have been applicable to my life (even not as an expat…). Nice interview on the expats blog–.
    You and Cody are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Cheers to both of you!!

    1. Mark, thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to know that you are reading and I’m glad to know that our experiences are universal! Please tell everyone we say hello :-)

  2. Well said! It’s very cool that you get to have so many amazing experiences in life, and even better that you’re taking advantage of all the adventures along the way!!

    1. Thanks gal! Maybe I wasn’t so willing to take those risks at first, but I think I’m developing a taste for it!

  3. Interesting blog. I discovered you through the Expats Blog site, though don’t ask me how I found it, LOL. However, I am part of a circle of expat bloggers who live in Mexico. Though I don’t live in Mexico yet, I’ve longed to and am slowly (very slowly) moving in that direction.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post. I really think there’s something to the old saw, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” We all need to give whatever a try, and see if we like it. I know tons of people who can’t do something simply because they believe they can’t do it. If they were to change their belief, then they’d find they could do a lot of things.

    So go for it! Believing you can do something, or at least making a reasonable attempt, is the first step.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’ve always been interested in Colombia, and are now seeking out more info.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! It’s so true that once you start to change your mindset, you can do more and it doesn’t seem quite so scary. By the way, I am thrilled to see your blog and your love of Mexico City! We’ve heard rumors that it’s a possibility for a future assignment, so I’m excited to peruse your experiences and thoughts.

      1. Hola Danielle! I think you’d like Mexico City. It’s huge, dynamic, and has a ton of things to do. Plus it’s amazing cheap for such a major city, especially now with the extremely favorable exchange rate.

        If you are interested in Mexico, virtually all of the blogs on my bloglist are about Mexico.

        Saludos and thanks for the gracious replies!

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