If I’m not immediately good at something, I usually quit. And if I’m unsure I’ll be good enough, I just won’t try. Especially if other people are watching.
But skipping out on trying new things because I’m afraid of embarrassing myself makes for a small, unfulfilling life in the long run.
If you can relate and are interested in living with less fear of embarrassment, you’ve got to read this post.
On my recent trip to Kauai, I watched a woman try stand up paddle boarding for the first time. She failed miserably, but succeeded at showing me how risking embarrassment is actually a win-win.
I hope she’ll inspire you in the same way. Or at least give you a laugh. That works, too.
That one lady who tried stand-up paddle boarding for the first time
Ah, gotta love her.
My husband and I were lounging on the beach, watching the skilled stand-up paddlers (SUPers) do their thing out on the water. I was jealous of their skill and grace since I had never done it before. I wanted to try, but after seeing how perfect everyone else was, my nerve to get out there was shrinking.
Just when I decided I should stay put on my beach towel, up walks that one lady who tried stand-up paddle boarding for the first time.
She was a single lady in her 60s, trying something new. The rental instructor lugged her paddle board to the shore next to her and wrapped the Velcro leash around her ankle to keep her connected to the board.
He showed her where it is safe to paddle, and how she needs to push off from the shore to produce enough speed to get past the initial onslaught of waves, which, by the way, were pretty substantial.
The instructor placed the board in the water and retreated to shore to see her off. I don’t know much about SUPing, but when she climbed on the board on her hands and knees without pushing off, I knew she was going to have problems.
Pretty soon she knew it, too.
Since she had no speed, the board stayed in the same place but started to slowly, slowly spin parallel to the shore, leaving her vulnerable to the waves. My eyes were locked on this woman, half hoping she would get her shit together before the waves come and half hoping they topple her over.
She did NOT get her shit together.
I remember her look of panic just before a wall of water plowed into her, sending the poor old woman face first into the sandy water and the paddle board several feet onto the sand. Since the leash was still connected to her ankle, it dragged her with it underwater, causing her to completely lose her bearings.
But this wasn’t the worst of it.
Just when she thought she was in the clear, the wave began receding and pushing her back out to sea. The board was still anchored on the sand, so the leash stopped the wave from taking her out by yanking her ankle in the air while the receding wave continued rushing over her face.
It. Was. Hilarious.
Through his fits of laughter, my husband said, “Look away! Look away!” in an attempt to save this woman some dignity. I obliged but not for long.
When I looked back, she was on all fours in the shallow tide wiping the sand and saltwater from her face. The instructor somehow managed to keep his laughter inside and picked up the board from the sand for her. Which was nice, but he could have given her a heads up that the next wave was coming.
The second wave throttled her equally as hard as the first. It completely enveloped her with water, buckled her hands and knees, and forced her face first into the sand once again.
I only had two thoughts in this moment:
- Oh, that poor, poor lady! And,
- Could this GET any more hilarious???
After she got situated again, she hopped back on that board, made it past those damn waves, and successfully stood up on her first try! I wanted to give her a standing ovation.
“Okay,” I told my husband, “I’m ready to try it now.”
Why risking embarrassment is actually a win-win
It’s easy to see the “win” when we risk embarrassment and then don’t end up embarrassing ourselves, but where’s the “win” when we actually do embarrass ourselves?
Well, first let me ask you this: How do you feel when other people embarrass themselves around you?
I know it’s not super “PC” to say, but other people embarrassing themselves always makes me feel better about my own self. I feel more relaxed to be me and inspired to put myself out there because I can now see an imperfect part of their humanity, which makes me feel like the imperfect parts of my own humanity are more normal.
Do you feel similar?
This lady trying something new and embarrassing herself was exactly what I needed to go out and try it myself. I’m grateful for her and her failure to SUP perfectly on her first try.
But here’s the thing: Sometimes we are inspired by this lady, and sometimes we ARE this lady.
On the surface, being this lady for other people sucks. But if we dig deeper, there is actually a certain dignity to it.
This woman’s embarrassing SUPing moment doesn’t diminish all the great things about her. It doesn’t lessen anything she’s accomplished or negate anyone she’s ever helped. All it does is show us that she is human and that she’s courageous enough to put herself out there. Both of which are inspirational and contagious.
When we see the imperfect humanity in other people, we feel better about our own imperfect humanity.
When we see other people courageously trying new things and pursuing their dreams, we are inspired to do the same.
In this way, being a pillar of comfort and inspiration for other people is the “win” of embarrassing yourself.
Why do you think I’ve shared so. many. embarrassing. stories. on this blog? Getting vulnerable and sharing the imperfect parts of my humanity is actually really rewarding for me. It can be the same for you.
You won’t always embarrass yourself when you try new things. But when you do embarrass yourself, do it with a giving heart, because you’re giving other people comfort and inspiration whether you are aware of it or not.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to try something new or pursue your passions and end up embarrassing yourself. The worst thing in the world is to never try.
So go try that thing you’ve been too afraid to do. It is a win-win either way.
Photo by Nicolas Cool.
Originally published at ourweirdlives.com on November 28, 2017.