Why You Should Stop Explaining Yourself
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
I’ve seen this quote everywhere. I’m pretty sure it has been rePinned approximately one jillion times. It’s designed to shake you loose from the rigid confines of your own expectations and chip away at the quick-setting emotional concrete so many of us get stuck in. Forget reality, forget circumstances, forget the limitations of the time-space continuum – what would you do if you knew success was guaranteed?
When I was a child this answer was easy: rule the Universe with an omnipotent, benevolent, candy-sticky fist. Then my ambitions evolved to include marrying Ricky Schroeder, becoming a pop star, writing professionally, and developing magical powers. If the Harry Potter books had been published then, I’d’ve been hoping for a letter from Hogwarts.
These days the question is much more existential. What would I do? I’d take chances. I thought about it as I dangled hundreds of feet above the ground, suspended from a zip line harness in the Alaskan wilderness. My brain was 99.7 percent sure I could not fail, and the baby-faced 19-year-old guide who fastened my gear and told me I was going to “rock it out” assured me so. My body, however, was convinced death, or at least catastrophic injury, was imminent, and had helpfully released life-saving levels of adrenaline because there’s no situation that can’t be made better by uncontrollable shaking. The point is, the fact that the chance of failure is small does not equal motivation.
I’ve recently decided that we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. It’s not so much the fear of failure that stops me—although that explains why I won’t even attempt to try on that pair of white skinny jeans–it’s having to justify myself. This also works with the skinny jeans example.
What would you do if you knew you didn’t have to justify yourself?
How about that? What if you didn’t have to explain yourself or your goals, however humble or lofty, to anyone? What if you just went for it and stopped questioning yourself or worrying about how it looks to other people? (Again with the white skinny jeans! Ok, maybe in that case you should worry how it will look. Because of adulthood.)
Seriously, though, it might be something like this:
I want to write a book about all the shit I went through growing up / open up a flamenco bar / take up cosplay / raise Puggles.
I’m not going to question this brightly burning spark of desire and ambition. Is it something I may have to examine later in therapy? Yes. Am I going to squash it now with worry and overthinking? NO.
People may or may not: ask me if I’ve lost my ever-loving mind / become furiously butthurt / point and laugh / quietly begin planning an intervention. I am going to put on my metaphorical Teflon helmet and let all the doubts and speculation slide off. Instead, I’m going to proceed with step one, which is getting started. I’ll learn as I go.
I don’t know about you, but when I just played out that scenario in my head, I realized the tremendous amount of energy I spend having imaginary conversations in which I explain the thing I’m about to do. Or the decision I’ve just made. Do you know how much freaking time that wastes? I’d be completely finished marathoning The Vampire Diaries by now if I’d cut that crap out.
So, my dearest darlings, here is my challenge and my wish for you: No more justifying. You, a beautiful, weird, quirky, flawed human being are completely and inherently valid. When some light kindles inside you, don’t question it. Cup it close and feed it. Let it burn big and bright. You can work on all that pesky verbalization and explanation later. For now, go after it.
This essay was originally published on Sweatpants & Coffee, here.