Why worry doesn’t make risk less risky

Editor’s Note: Every month we send out a newsletter with info on upcoming events, giveaways and links to stuff we love. Late last year, I started writing a more personal note in the newsletter that ended up being a pep talk of sorts. We’ve just decided to start publishing these ‘pep talks’ here on the blog as well! Here’s the second one.

P.S. – If you’re interested in getting our newsletter, click here.

How to push past worry and take risks in your creative business + life from Dear Handmade Life

Last Friday, I spent an hour holding hands with three dozen strangers. The Wednesday before, I had a weird dream about dancing and couldn’t stop thinking about. I wanted that feeling back. I knew that someway, somehow I HAD to dance.

And it had to be with someone else. Closing the door to my studio, turning up the radio and having a one-lady party wasn’t going to cut it. I found myself Googling my way into a swing dancing class near my house.

I went back and forth all day long about whether I’d actually go. In fact, it wasn’t until 15 minutes before that I slapped on some lipstick and dragged myself down the driveway to my car. I longingly eyed every freeway offramp on my way there as a last-chance escape. Knowing I’d have to introduce myself to complete strangers AND touch them was pressing all my panic buttons.

Sure, I may seem like an extrovert when I speak to a crowd of nearly 500 people at Craftcation, our annual business & makers conference, but that’s my comfort zone. I’m able to push through my jitters because I assume that everyone is an artsy weirdo just like me.

So, you better believe that serious self-talk was going on as I pulled into the parking lot of the dance class. I decided on these two things:

1. I would take this experience in a series of small steps. As in, just park your car, just walk in, just approach the instructor and introduce yourself…  If you’ve seen the early 90s Bill Murray gem What About Bob?, you know what I mean about baby steps.
2.  I would keep my work mode in mind. When things get pressurized with my business, I’m usually able to center myself, quiet my worries and perform.
Anxiety be damned.

I’m proud to say that I made it through the entire dance class and didn’t run out screaming. I pushed through various dance partners and seriously awkward moments of not knowing if I should look at my partner or avoid eye contact all together. I pushed through my compulsion to run to my purse and slather on anti-bacterial gel. I pushed through my worry that I was doing all the steps wrong.

And 20 minutes into it, I started to have a little fun. I stopped focusing so much on myself and my own worry-fueled issues and started being present, in the room and in my body.

The first thing that I noticed was a palpable nervousness in 80% of my dance partners. Knowing that they felt as awkward as I did, somehow made me more confident and I pushed myself to be extra friendly to make them feel comfortable (which inevitably took my mind off my own panic).

On the drive home, I felt a bit silly about how dramatic I’d been. I’m 40 years old and have taken so many bigger and more serious risks in my life. I’ve battled my anxiety demons for years and didn’t need to stress so hard about something that was supposed to be fun.

And then I let myself off the hook. Taking a chance IS scary, no matter how your brain is wired. There’s no mantra or coping skill that can make risk, well, less risky. You may as well show up and see what happens.

So maybe there’s something that’s haunting your Wednesday night dreams too. Maybe it’s a small risk like dancing with strangers ­­­­–– or something bigger like finally starting your own business. Will there be awkward moments? Likely yes. Will you always know what step is next and exactly how to do it? Likely no. Will every risk pay off and be totally worth your time? Probably not. But chances ARE high that you’ll learn something useful.

Consider exploring whatever that thing is that’s burning a hole into the “I should really do this” part of your mind. Even if you’re not ready right now, just know that it feels SO much better to take the first step (even if you sweat, stumble and crash into your partner).

-Nicole S.

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