It can cripple you, this fear of exposing yourself. It gets easier, though, once you have done it a few times. The trick is, you must be prepared for the process. Just like everything else in life, there are stages.
First there’s fear. It is a cold fear that paralyzes . But if you plunge in with a rush, it is like diving deep into freezing water — numbing at first, but it only lasts a moment or so. It’s liberating. Just turn around and you’ll see all of the others who will not ever leap, even though they desperately feel as if they should. Those are the people who are waiting for a push. (It never comes.)
Then the birds arrive. Now, birds are usually glorious creatures. In other areas of your life, you can encounter small, sweet songbirds who only want to serenade you. Or large, majestic birds who can fix their eyes upon you as if to say “Admire me from afar. Respect me. Fear me.” These are not the birds you encounter when you expose yourself. Oh no. For they sense you, you see. The scent of your vulnerability carries through the air and it attracts them. They feed upon it. They will now feast on you. They squawk and they squawk and they squawk. They point out your flaws and provoke you:
“You are too pale”
“You think you can do that? Why bother? You will never succeed.”
“Your ears are peculiar. You can never pull off an updo.”
“Ha! That’s the stupidest idea I ever heard. Don’t make me laugh”
The flock grows with each barb. They multiply. They’re around you even now, if you look closely. You can recognize them easily, always waiting for their moment to point out your inconsistencies or challenge you. You can deal with them, though. It just takes enough experience to realize it. Failure is their banquet and you are the main course. Every time you respond to them, they soar higher. It is the only way they can fly. They must push you down in order to propel their own current. Do not acknowledge them, they will eventually drown in their own screeching. I wish I could tell you that they disappear. But they are always there, waiting. Tune them out successfully and you will reach the next phase:
The fear fades. Not completely, never completely. But enough. There are new birds flitting around. Do not let them worry you, they are on a similar journey and just want to see if you might inspire them. Screeching and squawking are replaced with a melody that reflects your own. It is your time to soar, to create, to feed your own joy. Find what sustains you. Grow your own wings. Choose the course and follow it.
You do not have to travel alone, of course. Trust your instincts and choose wisely which flock to surround yourself with. By this time, you can recognize the ones whose talons will hold you back and push you down. Ignore them and fly.
This post includes Le Crépuscule by Bouguereau, La Nuit by Bouguereau, Le Jour by Bouguereau, and Night by Burne-Jones