I have two conversations lined up today that are making me nervous. They are full of wild opportunity and potential, so on the one hand, my hopes are high. But on the other hand, I’m anxious, and that hand seems to be quite a bit heavier.
So I emailed my beautiful, risk loving family yesterday for encouragement. To a person, they all cheered me on, piling on generous (and frankly, some unprintable) dollops of praise for my ability to think on my feet and do well in these types of conversations.
They all told me to “just be myself,” and everything would take care of itself. So I breathed in their good advice to just be myself. I smiled, a little undone by their unbridled confidence in me. This is what my family has always done. We believe in each other, no matter what we’re up for or up against. We tell each other we love each other, and to Go. For. It.
But then I panicked a little.
Which version of myself should I be?
The one that rambles on and on because I’m actually quite nervous, repeating what I’ve already said a quadrillion different ways, hoping that in the repeating I might actually figure out what I’m saying?
Or the one that doesn’t want to appear arrogant, so I pile all my words in a blender, adding sugar to them so they’ll have no edge and go down easy?
Or the one that is so eager to impress that I make lists of things to talk about beforehand in case I get lost or in case there is a – gasp – pause in the conversation (which is exactly what I did in eighth grade before calling girls that I liked)?
Or the one that has nothing to lose?
Or the one that has everything to lose?
Or the one that is trying to believe he has nothing to lose, but fears he has everything to lose?
Or the one that overanalyzes everything?
Here’s the thing with just being yourself: you’re complex and nuanced, different in the morning than in the evening. Your moods roll in and out like the tide; one moment you’re losing it because your husband left a glob of jelly on the counter (which he ALWAYS does), the next moment you’re weeping because you just love those Bravermans so much.
Some days you have a quiet confidence which seems effortless, but on other days even short conversations are difficult, as waves of insecurity wash over you, knocking you down, drowning you.
Some days you are willing to take risks because you’ve recently realized that your one wild and precious life really is wild and precious, but on other days even the smallest change tugs at the string which could unravel the whole ball.
So here’s what I would want to tell myself today, if I could climb outside of my eager, over analytical, write-a-blog-about-it-before-actually-doing-it, self:
Being myself happens when I begin to stop judging myself. Constantly wondering how well I did at being myself is not being myself. Carefully mapping out a strategy to be myself is not being myself. It is only when I begin to let go of trying hard to be myself that I can begin to embrace my actual self.
I remember being interviewed for a job about a dozen years ago, when I thought I was going to take a different job. Because I thought I wasn’t going to take that job, I actually had fun, laughed, and didn’t analyze every sentence that came out of my mouth as it was coming out. I remember feeling great about that interview, and even feeling bummed about it because it really didn’t matter.
And then, things changed, as things do, and I didn’t take the different job. I took that job, the one I interviewed for without judging myself and my responses. Life is hilarious like that, most of the time.
All the pressure I am putting on myself today is made up. It really is. I cannot do better by grasping these conversations tightly and hoping they go well. So, in whatever conversations you’re going to have today where you’ll need to be yourself, I say let it go. The pressure is made up. Enjoy the conversation. Look for the hidden opportunities that will show themselves to the person that isn’t trying so hard.
Then walk right into them, smiling and beautiful and free.