As we prepared to chant the opening prayer, Kino advised us to speak up and avoid being shy. The words were in Sanskrit, and we'd repeat each line after her.
"It's better to not expect perfection than to sit in silence," she said.
Though the words were in the context of a yoga practice, later I considered how they can be applied off the mat.
How often in life have you waited to make a decision, to take action, to do something, because the timing wasn't right, because something was missing, because it wasn't perfect?
How many times have you said, "I might as well not try because I know I can't be the best"?
That you should quit (losing weight, playing soccer, studying French) because it isn't easy.
As a kid, I was paralyzed by the fear of not being the best. I was a straight-A student, a good dancer, and a talented writer. Tall and lanky, I was not an athlete. I knew I wasn't strong or fast, and my hand-eye coordination was lousy.
I didn't make it past the training wheel phase of bike riding until I was 26 (with a 21-year hiatus), and I never tried out for T-ball or soccer. In grade school, I deliberately wore dresses to avoid gym class, and when I reached high school, I feigned cramps. I refused to ride roller coasters, and I cried the first time I flew in an airplane. I hyperventilated at the prospect of ziplining.
I didn't try any of those things because I was afraid to fail, of making a fool of myself.
I sat in the proverbial silence because I was afraid.
To cope with chaos at home, I clung to control everyplace else. I followed every rule, I studied hard, and I did what I was told (until I became an angst-ridden teen, that is).
It should come as no surprise that I started suffering from panic and anxiety attacks in 11th grade, and I was hospitalized with anorexia at age 13.
Life was scary, and it was hard, so I buried myself in school.
All that hard work paid off. I earned a full academic scholarship. I graduated with honors and two degrees. I studied abroad, worked two jobs every summer, and ended up with a career I love.
And I've learned that fear is normal, that you can't run from it. I've learned there are time for sitting silently, and there are times to scream in excitement, to howl at the moon, to laugh out loud.
"Fear is the natural reaction to moving closer to the truth," says Pema Chodron.
When you start to take on your fears, be them riding downhill on a bike without braking (big fear of mine), moving away from home, or starting a journey to lose weight and get healthy, you will feel free. Yes, more fears will arise. Yes, "bad" things will happen. Yes, it will be difficult.
But you'll realize that the paralysis that fear causes is worse than any pain that fear can inflict. You'll experience good things alongside the bad, and things will get easier.
I'm not fearless, but as an adult, I am facing my fears. I moved to a country where I knew no one and barely spoke the language. I lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I quit a job that made me miserable.
And I survived.
If you sit in silence and do nothing, waiting for perfection, you'll waste your life away.
There's never the perfect moment to start losing weight.
There's never the right time to leave your life and start anew.
And there's never an easy way to let someone down.
But there are moments, there is time, and there are ways.
Be brave. Take risks. Believe in yourself.
And reject perfection. It doesn't exist.
So I ask you: Will you sit in silence? Or will you laugh out loud at your own imperfection?
What is your advice to someone who's afraid to try?
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