How often do you follow your own advice?
I write a lot about living the good life as a multipotentialite with more confidence, plenty of self-acceptance, and fewer apologies. Almost all of my articles have to do with overcoming some sort of fear that keeps us from living authentically. But this month, I wanted to spotlight how I was doing at taking my own advice.
I asked myself: How often do I allow fear to take the reins in my life?
When I conceptualized my month of fearless living, I imagined myself striding into business meetings, making eye contact with everyone in sight, shaking hands vigorously or fist-bumping with zest. I pictured myself laughing louder than what I was taught was polite, taking up space, winking at strangers… And then I woke up. Because none of that was ever actually going to happen. Those things aren’t, and might never be, authentically me. My version of living fearlessly looked a lot quieter than I’d first pictured, but it was no less scary than I imagined.
As you read this article, know that you get to decide what is living fearlessly in your own life (freeing and fruitful!) versus what is living recklessly (dangerous and destructive). It’s not about anyone else’s judgement about the intensity or audacity of the fearless acts you choose to pursue. Choose your brand of fearless living, then share what you learned…if you dare!
Welcome to my diary of a month of fearless living.
Living fearlessly at work meant reclaiming my time
I didn’t need to change my personality or leadership style to be more fearless at work, because I am pretty close to my authentic self there. I am incredibly fortunate to have great teams and great bosses at all of my current jobs, so fear doesn’t keep me from doing too many things I secretly want to do. A lot of my work roles involve educating, supporting, or advocating for others, and I find it easy to be fearless in service of other people’s goals, so I didn’t need to make big changes there.
What’s much scarier for me is advocating for my own needs, so that’s what I focused on changing this month. I asked for funding (got it!), pitched two passion projects (approved!), and…um…I worked normal hours.
As an elder millennial, it really makes me cringe to admit to you that I work more hours than I’m supposed to. I can’t decide if it’s more of a cliché or a humblebrag to say that as a team lead, I am the first one to tell my team to “go home!” at the end of the day, yet I am usually the one who leaves the office last. But it’s the truth. So for one month, I lived fearlessly by regularly being the first to leave the office. I’m embarrassed to share this, but I’m writing it down for those of you who also struggle with taking responsibility for more than is necessary.
The results of advocating for my needs and protecting my time at work were pretty impressive: I felt relaxed, focused and, well, pleasant. I got all my work done. I wondered where I had found so much time. To my great relief, no one accused me of not working hard enough.
Showing your authentic self at work as a multipotentialite
I learned that my biggest fear at work is my supervisor thinking I don’t work hard enough. As a child, my favourite subject was math because most of it felt intuitive. I quickly learned, however, that I would lose marks if I didn’t “show my work.” This idea of showing my work has permeated into all areas of my life. As Kay Glass points out, multipotentialite brains work really quickly—sometimes to the point of leaving others behind! When I do a task quickly, folks have sometimes taken it to mean that I don’t care enough about what I am doing. I’ve preemptively responded to this at work by adopting an approach that my high school math teacher called “logging the hours.”
As multipotentialites, we care about a lot of things! But we also want to do a lot of things, and that involves being efficient with our time. When we work in spaces that expect us to show our work, some of us have adapted to multipotentialite-unfriendly environments by logging the hours to show that we care just as much as everyone else.
Maybe my next fearless act should be an honest conversation with my supervisors about that.
Living fearlessly at play meant believing in myself
Unlike at work, I don’t always feel the same sense of trust and support in some of my recreational activities. This is not because I play in spaces full of mean people. Some of them are new to me, and some of them are (necessarily, healthily) competitive environments—like a local community theatre group I recently auditioned for.
When I got the part that I wanted in their latest musical theatre production, fear (aka imposter syndrome) tried to tell me that it was a great miracle that I got the part at all, considering my brief musical theatre resume. My part had once been played by the great Whitney Houston, so I was tempted to keep my head down and do my best to look like I knew exactly what I was doing.
Making your voice heard
But, because this was my month of living fearlessly, I gave myself permission to ask a lot more questions than I normally would about my character in the musical. Normally I worry that asking too many questions makes me sound annoying or look incompetent, but I resolved to lean into curiosity in order to overcome my tendency to feel self-conscious. I also spoke up when I didn’t understand my director’s instructions…several times. I tried on costumes and gave my opinion about which ones I thought did and didn’t fit my character.
Even writing this makes me uncomfortable because I am already worried about how using my voice in this way makes me appear! Do I seem arrogant? Do I sound like a diva? I did say that my character was played by Whitney Houston. In reality, everything was fine and I have not been replaced by another actor. My director answered my questions, the costume designer took my notes, and my scene partner and I had a lot of fun playing off each other.
Overcoming fear by trusting your intuition
I guess the jury is still out on whether living fearlessly benefitted me in the long run. Only time will tell whether my approach makes directors want to work with me again! I learned that—as much as I talk about the benefits of living unapologetically—I still want to be liked and accepted by my communities. While I can trust myself to speak up if my safety or integrity is at risk, I will still sacrifice my voice in lower-stakes situations if I don’t stay mindful.
In the short term, I’m very glad I asked so many questions. The answers gave me a deep understanding of my character that I’m excited to play with, refine, and get feedback on as we keep rehearsing. I want to contribute to a truly magical experience for the audience (and perhaps make my director cry…in a good way)! I’m happy that I shared my perspective when asked for my opinions. I learned that when people who I haven’t known very long ask my opinion, I fear missing the social cue that I was not actually supposed to answer honestly.
I expected to be more afraid about being found out as an amateur, but I learned that my much bigger fear is about being labelled as difficult to work with. That would impact future opportunities to work with great people doing the hobbies that make my multipotentialite life so richly fulfilling. I realized that I have to trust in what I do well. I can’t control what everyone thinks of me, but I can show my humanity to others and hope that the good outweighs the annoying.
What does living fearlessly look like to you?
The fears that I uncovered this month looked so different than I expected. My month of living fearlessly ended up being about showing myself more love and respect by being vulnerable enough to name what I really needed from others…and from myself. I learned that you don’t have to become a different person if you want to live more fearlessly. You might just need to be brave enough to ask for or take what you need in order to come deeper into who you secretly know yourself to be—then dare yourself to show it to the world.
How could you benefit from a month of living more fearlessly? What impact do you think it might have on your life as a multipotentialite?
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