Monday, August 24, 2015

A little epiphany about fear

Fear is an elusive subject for me. It's tricky to define, tricky to conquer, and tricky to write about. In fact, I usually steer clear of posts and books about fear because so few of them offer up anything new. So I don't blame you if the mere title of this post bores you to tears.

As most of you may know, I have pretty high anxiety levels. I get myself worked into a frenzy over the smallest things. Making and posting this video felt like a huge accomplishment to me, even though most people might consider it a simple task. I never, ever thought I would have the guts to put myself out there like that, but I did. And even better, I received a good response. Some of you were even greedy enough to ask me to post more videos! (Not happening, folks.) ;-)

Facing fears has been something of a project of mine lately. Proving myself worthy of the things I'm afraid of has been like a minor addiction. I've been inspired to work on my verbal communication skills, open up to people more than I think I ever have, start setting goals again, take risks, and look for opportunities to better myself both personally and professionally. I haven't made any sweeping changes in my life (I prefer baby steps), but some seeds have certainly been planted in the right places.

And the more I learn about fear, the easier it is to face. There's still a lot I don't know and a lot I need to work on, but I experienced a pretty inspiring epiphany the other day: The lead-up to the thing you're afraid of is WAY worse than the actual thing you're afraid of. 

The hour before the job interview or first date.
The plane ride before the skydiving.
The sleepless night before the big decision, presentation, or other work/life experience.

But once you're face to face with your fear and have reached the point of no return, anxiety tends to dissipate. You made it. The thing is happening. There's no turning back. And most importantly of all, you're still alive and well!

It's a comfort for me to know that the build-up of tension and nerves is the worst part --- not whatever it is I'm afraid of. Once I've taken the jump, it can't get much worse. In fact, it's usually all uphill from there.

And don't even get me started on the relief, joy, and/or sense of accomplishment you feel once it's over! Most of the time, reward and growth can be found on the other side of fear. By simply getting to that other side, in whatever capacity makes sense, you've already made a ton of progress and shown yourself what you're capable of. It's a wonderful feeling.

Class dismissed.

<3 Madison

Monday, August 10, 2015

Choosing your army

I've never been one of those people who has tons of friends and acquaintances. I haven't been in a ton of meaningful relationships, and it still baffles me that it's so hard for me to talk to and reach out to people when I'm not typing words behind a computer screen. Friends and family have come and gone like the weather, love interests have moved on with impressive speed, and meaningful moments of human interaction have turned to dust.

Maintaining relationships is hard, and creating new ones is even harder. 

The redeeming factor of this disheartening fact and seemingly endless struggle in my life is that I don't need a ton of people by my side to be happy. I've discovered that the less friends you have, the easier it is to actually keep up with them.

I only have 25 friends on Facebook. (Yes, I finally joined. Double yes, I regret it at times.) I don't see that number increasing anytime soon, nor do I send friend requests to people I don't know or have no interest in truly connecting with. That's huge for me. It's interesting that the people who have the largest social media followings are the people who tend to feel the most alone.

For the most part, genuine connections and interactions are extremely undervalued these days. For so many years, I've struggled to understand why so few people seemed to accept me or want to spend time with/talk to me, and I've recently decided that a few people is better than none at all. Why obsess over who doesn't like you when you could turn your attention to who does?

I can count my friends on one hand and my acquaintances on about three (not that I have three hands). And I'm okay with that now more than ever. The best part about my little friend group is that each person fulfills me in different ways. They are all unique people who fill unique roles, and maybe that's what finding "your people" and choosing your army is all about. I know who to turn to when I want to laugh, who to turn to when I want to bear my soul, who to turn to when I want to be spontaneous, and who to turn to when I simply want to hang out and do nothing.

Here's what I've learned about finding and keeping your own army of companions:

1. If you have to work for their affection, they are not your friend. 

This is so important that I want to annoyingly say it again in all caps. IF YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR THEIR AFFECTION, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. In middle school (some of the worst years of my entire life), I spent more energy focusing on how to impress people than I did on my math homework. I manipulated my brain into thinking that people who didn't like me at all were my friends. I cringe just thinking about it. It took me until the end of 8th grade to find a group of people who seemed to genuinely enjoy my company. Although it's nice and perfectly normal to want to impress your friends to some extent, it's even nicer to know for a fact that they like you just as you are. You will never have to question how your real friends feel about you.

2. Having things in common is wonderful, but differences keep things interesting. 

Some of the closest friends I've had in my life have been like my polar opposites, yet we've still gotten along great. So many people stress the importance of finding common interests, but too many common interests can get old really fast. I love being introduced to new things and new ways of thinking. I like to be challenged from time to time or have silly debates over whether or not reading books is better than playing video games. I like the sense of being changed in a good, healthy way by someone who has something to teach me.

3. Relationships take time and patience. 

As nice as it would be for a friendship or relationship to effortlessly blossom on day one, it rarely happens. It takes time to warm up to and get to know people. It takes time for someone to become a worthy and integral part of your life. It takes time for relationships to evolve into what they are meant to become. I often get impatient with the process of getting as close to someone as I'd like to be, but rushing things never works. I've been on both ends of that spectrum. That said, it shouldn't take forever to form a real connection with someone. If that's the case, there is resistance coming either from you or the other person. Find people who love you as much as you love them. They are out there somewhere.    

4. Everyone you love is going to hurt you at some point, whether it's on a small scale or a large scale. Deciding whether or not to keep them in your life depends on the ratio of pain and happiness.  

Getting close to someone opens the risk of being let down by them. And if you're a part of someone's life long enough, they will eventually disappoint you. Does this mean you should run for the hills? Hell no. Deciding who is worth keeping in your life comes down to how they make you feel in the grand scheme of things. Do they drain you and constantly put you down, or do they fill you with joy and make you a better person? Love and friendship means you are willing to forgive the bad and only look for the good. It means knowing the difference between what matters and what doesn't.

Now go forth, and assemble your army! Because I can't even describe how wonderful it feels to finally have mine.

<3 Madison         

Friday, August 7, 2015

Facing my fear + answering your questions

Well, here I am, guys...In all my awkward, imperfect, unedited glory.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a question! Thank you for caring, encouraging me, and being excited about something that I wasn't too excited about myself. And if you still like me or like me even more after watching this, I profusely thank you for that as well.

Overall, I'm really glad I did this. It will give you all an opportunity to see the real me, help you get a feel for my personality outside the blogosphere, and hopefully inspire you to face your own fears...even if your voice shakes or you blink your eyes too much.

As an added bonus, here are 10 self-deprecating thoughts I had while watching this video. I won't be offended if they match your own.

1. That rapid blinking though.

2. I really do sound like I'm about to cry. I'm glad I pointed out that I'm not.

3. I should've brushed my eyebrows before I filmed this.

4. I wish "um" was a more intelligent sounding word.

5. This is painful to watch, but at least I have a few semi-charming moments here and there.

6. "I don't know if this is backwards or not." Seriously? It's a webcam, not a mirror. Ugh.

7. Arrgghhh! I forgot to say the name of the guy who asked the funny question about braces. THANK YOU, ERIC. I'M SORRY I FORGOT TO SAY YOUR NAMEEE.

8. DAMN IT. I also forgot to say the name of the guy who asked question #11. Sorry, Grant!!!

9. That junk food analogy wasn't bad. High-five to myself.


Thank you. I love you. Please stick around.

<3 Madison