Have you ever done something you thought was brave and exciting, and then recoiled in regret because you felt like an exposed nerve?
Mel Brooks “High Anxiety” movie comes to mind.
I experienced this kind of high anxiety a couple of months ago when I sent query letters to literary agents.
I stepped into an unknown arena to try something new.
The minute I hit the send button, I seriously had a seismic panic attack.
Every flaw in the book suddenly flashed in my mind in glaring high-resolution.
Laurie, what were you thinking? The story arc wasn’t strong enough; it covers too much time; it’s too personal, and not nearly dramatic enough. Seriously woman, what were you thinking? Call every agent that expressed interest and tell them ‘never mind.’ Tell them to forget it. You hit ‘send’ too soon and you need to spend the next several days contacting agents and apologize for wasting their time.’
I yearned for a reset button that could erase the entire day and every last email.
Doug stared at me, baffled by my anxiety, especially because many agents expressed interest and wanted to see either parts of or the entire manuscript.
“Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?” he asked, totally perplexed by my racing pulse.
Yes, and no, I thought.<;/em
I didn't realize how desperately vulnerable I would feel having so many agents reading and critiquing a manuscript I knew wasn't perfect. And, I couldn't control anything after I hit that "send" button.
They could hate the book, detest my writing, criticize my family, my religion, me, my life, my values, and everything from my sentence structure to my hair color.
Everything that matters to me was on the line. Talk about an epic fail!
Brené Brown, the author of Dare Greatly, calls these feelings of embarrassment and regret, "vulnerability hangovers."
When I stumbled upon her book and read that description, I immediately glommed on it.
(If you haven't heard of Brené Brown, check out this speech. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html)
The book title, “Daring Greatly,” comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizens in a Republic,” given in 1910.
“It is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the triumph of high achievement, fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Writing a book and taking the first step toward getting it published was my attempt to “dare greatly.
In the book, Brown asks, “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
I wish I knew the answer to that question.
She wrote that, “vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our own purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
If we go through life trying to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, what do we get?
If we don’t take some chances, we end up with very little that really matters to us.
If we can’t love because we’re afraid of being hurt, won’t write because we might get rejected; or refuse to go for the job we really want, or not run the race because we might come in last, we are living in a place of fear.