Life is a Stage and We Are Stuntmen

… from the Natural Handyman

Every now and then I wonder, “Will I be found out?” Ever have the sense that you are in the wrong place, or that you really aren’t who everyone thinks you are? Perhaps you are a businessman, a nurse or postal worker. You get up every morning and do the best job you can. But in your mind’s eye there is a nagging doubt that your success is not your own but an accident, and someone will see you for what you are… a fake!

How is it possible that we could feel like stunt men in our own lives, stand-ins for our real selves who are much less confident and brave than the face we show to the world each day? I think it’s because we’re wired that way!

Compulsive Pollyannaists aside, self-doubt afflicts most everyone at one time or another. What I find most interesting is that it’s “customized” to match our personalities and our experiences. To imply that my battles with self-doubt are the same as yours would be ridiculous. I’ve had clients who can publicly speak in front of thousands with absolute confidence yet visibly shiver at the sight of a hammer! Even people who live together… spouses, friends, siblings… all have different strengths and doubts.

Doubt is natural. Even the most successful people know that every day they step into the world, failure is possible. Whether we succeed or fail is as important in the big picture as how we deal with our self-doubt and its bedfellow, fear. Fear, our instinctual reaction to the unknown, is a huge obstacle to success because it stops us dead in our tracks! We are the “deer in the headlights”, standing immobile as the 18-wheeler bears down! Fear paralyzes and disorients, making even the simplest actions impossible and sometimes leads to wrong-headed decisions.

That’s the conundrum. Fear protects us from failure because it prevents action! Unfortunately, the protective nature of fear also prevents success. So we neither succeed nor fail… we just float in a middle-world that is gray, mushy and boring! Boring!

Though I wish it weren’t so, fear doesn’t ever completely go away. Ever hear a famous actor or singer talk about their “butterflies” before they perform? Taking on new challenges, even for a trained person, can be a scary thing! By treading into unseen places we put ourselves at risk of failure, embarrassment and even harm.

People throughout history have taken those risks, negotiated with doubt and moved past fear. These real “stunt men” don’t jump cars with motorcycles, dive from rooftops or do fancy martial arts moves. They make difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions. They dare to move forward when everyone else is moving sideways. Whether it is a military leader planning a battle or a parent enforcing an strict curfew for an unruly child, these people are the backbone of society because the have a vision and stand by it, taking heed of opposition but not compromising their values. Trust me, we’ll never see a monument to the indecisive!

Yes, sometimes these decisions are wrong… very wrong. Any decision can be the wrong one. But making no decision… letting fate determine our life’s course… almost inevitably becomes the wrong decision, too.

Get the picture? We should all challenge ourselves to be the stunt men for our friends, our families, our communities. We do this by committing to positive actions. Learn and gain confidence in whatever you pursue. Most good parents allow their children lots of room to fail. Those little childhood missteps teach resilience that we as adults need to move through a difficult, sometimes confusing world.

Get out there! Make something happen. Expand your possibilities by taking a chance. Or, if necessary “Take one for the team!” Our own actions can make the impossible become possible and fear, who can never be our friend, becomes less a dictator and more a side-seat driver in our lives!

NH
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