I am soooooo courageous, dynamic, graceful and eloquent — INSIDE my head. I can easily conjure up images of myself leading, speaking or singing to thousands and bringing the house down with my penetrating words and brilliant, power-packed delivery. But in real life? Not so much. I stumble over my words and shake in my boots, my voice quivers as I hope against hope that I can discover some little window through which people could get just a glimpse of the braver person rattling around in an untapped compartment in my head.
This “life inside my head” was once again stirred up when I spoke at a sweet little church across town a couple Sundays ago. It had been a couple years since I did any public speaking; and though I didn’t hesitate for a second to say “yes” when I was invited to speak, I have to admit that afterward I couldn’t get OVER how new and clumsy I felt… how my meticulous notes did me ZERO good when I stood before the expectant listeners that morning… how the more-dynamic-me went into hiding the moment I stepped up to the front of that church.
I remember one particular vocal instructor I had when I was an awkward teenager trying to find my voice. Her name was Linda Adler and she was the closest thing to the ideal person I had ever met. She actually lived out the kind of exciting personality I thought might be trapped inside me, behind my guardedness and perfectionism. Whatever she said, I believed and wanted to emulate. Her boldness both inspired and horrified me, though. She used to make me sing loudly – really loudly – urging me not to worry about whether or not it sounded perfect. This was not cool. The whole reason I wanted to take voice lessons in the first place was to make the sounds came out of my mouth more perfect… and here she was trying to ruin my plan by making me blurt out random crazy vocal exercises at a volume the entire neighborhood might hear.
Up until that time, I had no intentions of opening my mouth unless I was very sure that what came out was going to be on-pitch and unoffensive. When I finally mustered up the courage to do what she was asking, she would go nuts with praise and tell me how great I sounded. And I’ll admit it felt pretty good. Linda showed me that I could do things I never thought I could do.
Linda and I both moved to different parts of the country. I grew up and life took me in a direction I never dreamed possible. I became a writer! Finally, the person in my head could sneak out behind the safety of well-edited words! I could sit in my pajamas and slippers, in desperate need of a shower, and say things I would never begin to say with my stammering tongue. I write so much more boldly and eloquently than the “me” you might see speaking at a church in Indianapolis – or even placing a drive-thru food order. I just thought you should know that.
The “me inside my head” found a place of discovery. For years I wrote anonymously then eventually baby-stepped my way to actually being willing to put my name on some things. Blogging was a scary step, but an important step out of anonymity. It’s been a long, fairly slow process but, as I learned from Linda Adler, the only way to keep making progress is to keep doing horrifying things that firmly kick me out from behind the well-edited script I’d like to call my life.
Really living requires us to put ourselves out there… to be true about who we are… to accept the fact that we will never get a personality transplant. It’s a daily battle to accept challenges that feel uncomfortable with courage. But once the fear of risk is overtaken by the greater desire to be everything we can be… we begin living out the purpose for which we were created.
Anyone else out there struggle with this internal tug of war? Please tell me I’m not the only one.