Two weeks ago I decided to stop with a work assignment I had recently started. After quite some deliberation, I finally took the decision, even though I was afraid of the negative reactions. The support and sympathy that followed was heartwarming and encouraging (thank you so much!).
It even came from unexpected sources: from some of the team members I had worked with, of whom some, to my surprise, followed my decision to stop, while others indicated they would not shy away from hiring me again.
While being deeply touched by the support and kindness I received, it is also a little embarrassing. Because: why did I have so much hesitation and fear before taking the decision?
For a long time I believed it was especially the fear of other people’s criticism that stops most of us doing what we want to do. But I wonder whether, at least in my case, my actions are not much more often restricted by my inner critic, that inner voice, we sometimes use to voice the perceived criticism of others, and which legitimises us to keep doing the same things we have always done.
Is it true that we are actually much more tolerant to others than to ourselves? And that we make much greater demands on ourselves than on others? And that all these requirements and fear, at least in my case, hinder us sometimes from taking action?
I see so many people struggling with the same kinds of things. Friends who call themselves a bad friend because they have not been in touch for a while. Something nobody would blame them for, knowing the difficult and busy times they go through.
Friends who are wondering whether they are entitled or ready to give up their regular job, and do something completely different, even though their surroundings offer help and encouragement to give it a try.
So what is that keeps us away from doing what we want? From changing the way we want to live or act? From not feeling guilty when we do something different, other than we used to do? At the same time, we so much more easily understand, support and encourage others, especially those we love, when they chose for themselves, follow their heart or dreams.
And that made me think of some of the advice in a book I picked up some time ago: ‘Out of your comfort zone. In 10 easy steps. Want to be a hero and not a spectator? Then this book is for you,’ by Jessica Hagy.
Personally, I prefer the translation of the Dutch title: ‘How to be interesting’.
I really liked how the book instigates the reader to take action (time for my dreams is now a regular action point), encourages you to make mistakes (avoiding mistakes, or aiming for perfection can indeed be a very powerful barrier for operating out of your comfort zone) and invites the reader to cross boundaries.
But most of all, I was shaken by the advice that underlines the importance of giving yourself permission, with the explanation that we usually won’t get it from anyone else.
From my recent experience, I have come to realize that a dilemma is not the lack of permission from others. Rather, it is much more the struggle I have convincing my inner critic from being right, and try to get her agreeing with me (while she keeps on telling me to do the opposite) and sometimes even ignore the support, advice and permission I get from friends and family.
So, while I think it’s important that you give yourself permission to take that big step in your life, maybe I should stop trying to get that permission from the part of me that is my inner critic.