Today I suggested a thing. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, what matters is how I felt about the thing. I had a suggestion for a group of colleagues, and I wasn’t sure how it would go over. I’d been thinking about it a while. It was something that had bothered me, and I wanted it changed, but I wasn’t sure if it was bothering anyone else. In fact, I rather suspected it was just me, and I would sound like a nitpicky complainer if I brought it up.
So I didn’t—at least not for a while. This was what I like to call “Past-E” taking control. Growing up (and actually into college and beyond), I was always incredibly shy. I was also convinced that my opinion didn’t (and shouldn’t) hold as much weight as pretty much anyone else’s. I was meek with a capital ME. Over the years I’ve managed to shed a lot of that, but clearly not all, because I hesitated so long with this thing.
So anyway, it finally bothered me enough that I brought it up. In an email, I explained what was was bothering me. I laid out what we could do to change it. I even explained why I thought making that change midstream might be an asset, rather than making us look like we were inconsistent. Pressing Send was much more difficult than I’d’ve expected. My heart was in my throat, and as I hit the button, I clenched my eyes closed and silently said “screw it!” Then I sat on tenterhooks, waiting for the first reply. And guess what?
I wasn’t the only one bothered by this thing.
The first response started with “Oh thank the goddess it’s not just me.” And then more responses flowed in. Everybody was annoyed by it! In addition to a profound sense of relief, I experienced a mild wave of self-kicking.* Why be so nervous about having an idea? What’s the realistic worst that’s going to happen? People will say no, and life will move on. Such a small risk when on the other side you have the possibility of improving your life/work/day/whatever.
It reminds me of being in high school and being afraid to ask questions. (I almost never raised my hand in class.) When someone else asked a question I was thinking of (but too scared to ask), I’d breathe a silent thank-you to them. I now wonder about all my unasked questions. How many similarly-shy kids were wondering the same things?
So if you’ve had an idea and been afraid to put it out there, I encourage you to do it. You may not be the only one who’s thinking it!
*Note: It was mild. I’m getting better and better with the self-recriminations. Nowadays it’s more like laughing at myself than actual anger. And yay for that!