How I Got Over The Fear of Being Great

Image: Pexels

When I was in 4th grade my school announced auditions for a special performance involving dance, acting and singing. The goal was to teach kids about theater and the performing arts.

I was beyond excited and really hyped about trying out — but I kept my feelings of excitement to myself. You see, I was very shy. So shy, in fact, that I had trouble maintaining eye contact and whispered and bit my bottom lip a lot, and I was a complete nerd. The truth is, I was only shy and nerdy on the outside. On the inside, in my very vivid imagination, I was on stages singing, dancing and performing like I was Janet Jackson and anytime I was completely alone (in the bathroom) I’d put on a show stopping performance of the latest R&B hits and dances from my favorite music videos.

After all of my bathroom performances I was completely convinced I could sing and dance just as good as any other kid at my school so when the teacher putting on the performance came to my class looking for kids to audition I, to the surprise of my classmates, was among the first to raise my hand.

After school I met the other kids who were trying out in a large classroom and the auditions began. The teacher told us to stand in a line, gave us some moves to do and turned on the music. While the other kids were moving to the beat I struggled to keep time. Other students had filled the room to watch their friends and siblings perform and we were their focus. I kept wondering if I was doing the dance the right way. I wondered if their smiles and giggles were because my dancing wasn’t good enough. I doubted myself for the entire audition.

When the music stopped the teacher gently grabbed me by the arm, led me to the side of the classroom and walked away. He turned the music back on and continued the audition with the other three girls who were in the line without ever saying a word.

My worst fear had been realized. I wasn’t good enough. But, even to my own surprise, I kept trying. By 6th grade I was cast as the Wicked Witch in a production of The Princess and The Pea that we performed at my school and at my neighborhood park and I continued to try out for things and run for student held offices as a high school student with some wins like becoming one of the editors of my school newspaper and some losses like not becoming senior class president.

But my biggest losses were the things I really wanted to do — and knew I would be great at or really enjoy — but never tried. I spent years of my life (even into adulthood) “playing it safe” and only doing things that didn’t ruffle feathers, raise eyebrows or fall outside of what others had come to expect from me. If I even considered coloring outside the lines of my life I’d be consumed with crippling self doubt that would not allow me to move forward.

Fastforward to a beautiful spring day about 10 years ago. I was looking for something to do and ran across an ad for art exhibit. In my excitement I told my friends about it but no one was interested in going. It was too “artsy” for them and by extension should have been too “artsy” for me too. I didn’t go and spent the day sulking and wondering why people just wouldn’t let me be great.

That day I realized if I was ever going to be great (and by great I mean my authentic self and everything God intended when he created me) I was going to have to do some things completely solo. I was going to have to stop putting my true interests on the back burner or repressing them completely because of self doubt or the fear of judgment. That’s the day I gave myself permission to be great.

These days, I live my life as I choose whether I’m surrounded by supporters or not. I’ve learned to quiet my doubts by accepting the fact that I won’t be a success at everything and by realizing that my greatness doesn’t lie in achievements and acceptance alone but in having the courage to try in the first place.

You can find more articles written by Chanel Polk on her blog. Visit