By Editorial Contributor: Joanna Dutra, The Creative Confidant, a confidence coach focused on helping clients build their best personal brand.
What are the ways we limit ourselves?
Yes, we try. Yes, we fall and fail. But aren’t there times where we’ve stopped ourselves before we even began? Do we try things and then stop?
My grandmother was defined by her resiliency. Although born to loving parents, her mother suffered from undiagnosed postpartum depression coupled with breast cancer. My great-grandmother was admitted to Bellevue Hospital at 30 years and died at the age of 52, never having left. My great-grandfather was unable to raise my seven-year-old grandmother and her five- and four-year-old brothers alone. Consequently, my grandmother was separated from her siblings and they each grew up at different foster homes throughout Brooklyn.
This strong woman was determined to be happy despite her circumstances. I had a vague awareness of my grandmother’s challenging past, but her future also held plenty of challenges. She would battle chronic ulcers and stomach cancer, the death of her beloved brother at an early age and the heartbreaking death of her daughter from breast cancer (also at 52), as well as her husband. Her life was a testament to the power of perseverance. While others may have been defeated, my grandmother was always grateful for her life. This core gratitude guided her happiness, even through hardship.
My grandmother’s generous spirit offered so much to those around her, and in return asked extraordinarily little. For example, when in her kitchen and inclined to help with dishes, she insisted on doing all the pots and pans — the lousiest part of the job. She spared you the difficult things and presented the sweet.
During a family dinner out celebrating her 91st birthday, we put in a special request for her favorite dessert. When the Baked Alaska arrived, flaming and flamboyant, we saw that it contained strawberries, to which she’d always had an allergic reaction. She insisted on eating it. Boy did she enjoy every bite of that dessert. And without repercussion. Had she imagined her allergy? Or did she have a bad reaction once and associate strawberries with it? It was too late to run diagnostics, but the point was taken.
Do we deny ourselves things we think we can’t “digest” both physically and mentally? Do we unnecessarily avoid things out of an overabundance of caution? What else could we accomplish if our mind weren’t an obstacle?
I played in the orchestra for all four years of my high school musical productions. It was an incredible experience. But upon reflection, could it have been a way of avoiding failure and not auditioning for the lead? I auditioned once for the musical when I was a freshman. The part called for a cockney-accented maid, and I worked hard to nail that accent. The role went to a senior and I was the understudy. I never auditioned again. Did I have an allergy to rejection? Was that my Baked Alaska moment?
I recently encountered a server at a fancy and exclusive winter lodge where my husband and I escaped for a night, a special date night amidst 365 days of a pandemic year. I asked whether she enjoyed her job. She said she loved working there, but she’d never even known it existed in her 23 years growing up in the small, run-down, steel town of Pennsylvania nestled in the Allegheny Mountains.
She had worked as a bartender and a server at a local place until one day she just felt really upset and stressed out. Thinking a drive might ease her mind, she drove all around town until she came to a mountain road she’d never taken before. The long, winding road ultimately led to a gate. She was curious about what existed beyond the gate, so she pressed a button and got buzzed in, only to discover a property beyond her imagination. She was hired on as kitchen staff, but later colleagues discovered that she liked to sing and could play the piano. She now serenades diners on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, and her band entertains on New Year’s Eve and other holidays.
We don’t always discover our gates in life, many times we encounter them as signs of a locked door. But what if we could go beyond the gate?
I worked in sales in the early part of my career. As much as I loved saying the word “no” as a child, I didn’t like hearing it. Does anyone, really? I had to find creative ways to challenge myself, and one of them was: Let’s see how many “no’s” can lead to a “yes.”
What if we didn’t lead with a rejection in mind? 2022 is a perfect time to try out a new mindset.
Forget hearing “no” from other people; we hear “no” plenty from ourselves. And if our inner voice says “no” right off the bat, we’re not even allowing for exploration of ideas. We’re not ringing the buzzer; we’re not even seeing the gate.