I’m reading a book right now called The Flinch by Julien Smith. The flinch is our instinctive reaction to fearful or potentially risky events. The flinch happens, for example, when a guy sees his dream girl standing at a bar with her girlfriends. Will he overcome the flinch and walk up to her? Or will he tell himself that she probably wouldn’t be interested, and then watch her leave at the end of the night with someone else?
Just before I started reading The Flinch, I had an epiphany about my own “flinch.” My epiphany has to do with self-sabotage. My example might seem trivial, but if I ignore this flinch, I might carry this problem into more important areas of my life.
I started on a fat loss program a couple of weeks before Christmas (bold, I know). It was going very well. I came to within a pound and a half of my goal.
But then I noticed something – somehow I had lost all discipline and motivation. I hadn’t even reached my goal yet. I had ALMOST reached it. Now was NOT the time to fall apart. Now was the time to dig deeper. So, what was going on?
Then I remembered an incident from long ago. Grade school. I was one of the fastest runners in my school. I was long, lanky – and fast! But Gwen was known for being THE fastest. She was a bully and quite volatile, but she was the fastest.
Well, the school had a race. It was me and her. Actually, it was me. It was a 50-yard dash and I was absolutely going to beat her. Then I did an amazing thing. I threw it. I threw the race. On purpose. Right at the last moment, I pulled back so she could win. I did it because it meant more to her than to me. I did it because I was okay with knowing that I WOULD have won. I did it because I was afraid of her anger. I did it because I was afraid, period. I flinched big time.
And that set up a dangerous precedent. A year later, in the 4th grade, I was “best friends” with another bully. Tonisha. Tonisha, Tina, and I were the three musketeers. Kind of. Tina and I were the flunkies for Tonisha. She was always playing one of us off the other. We were both afraid of her, even though we outnumbered her. One day she was absent, and Tina and I had the best day of our lives. But we were both too afraid to say so out loud.
Anyway, I was smart. Nerdy smart. Big vocabulary smart. But I purposely threw my grades for Tonisha. Though I was capable of A’s, I turned in C’s. Why? Because I didn’t want Tonisha or anyone else to be mad. Fortunately/Unfortunately, my teacher was not stupid. She figured out what I was up to, and put a stop to it. I was separated from them and put in a new class with people I didn’t know. But I was free. Without the pressure to dim my light, I was able to shine.
Nevertheless, I never quite shook my tendency to be afraid to stand out. Once I joined the work force, I had the same problem.
At one of my jobs, a crop of haters would sit in the lunch room and run me down. I had one “ally” in the group who would run and tell me everything that they said. In another job I had a group of women gang up on me and spread lies about me to new people because I was doing well. I was sad and lonely. Eventually I learned to ignore them, but it was really hard.
Now, here we are. The bullies and haters are gone. For the most part. So, why was I sabotaging my fat loss goals? This was that grade school race all over again! It was me pulling back just before tearing through the winner’s tape. Except I’m not eight years old anymore!
I must face the fact that if I don’t shake this habit, I will never achieve the lifestyle I know I was destined for. I cannot allow this bad habit to persist a minute longer. But I realize I still get uncomfortable when I stand out at work. I wonder what other people are thinking. I wonder if I’m going to be ostracized or sabotaged, or gossiped about. But I refuse to let this stop me..
Now I have a plan. Recognition and acceptance are the first steps. I recognize I have a problem and I accept responsibility for fixing it. But there’s more to it. Whenever this tendency comes up for me, I must reject it – verbally, mentally, and in action. That’s what the book The Flinch is about.
Once you get close to your goals, that’s the time to lean in, not shrink back. I am publicly acknowledging my self-sabotage here so that I will have no choice but to hold myself accountable and fix it. I must remind myself of the following:
- I was born to become all that I am capable of.
- Dimming my own light will not make other people shine brighter.
- It is an insult to my Creator to waste His gifts out of fear.
- I can help more people by being excellent than by being mediocre.
- There are people out there who can handle my Light. I’ve just been hanging out with the wrong crowd.
I hope my personal epiphany was helpful for you as well. Your suffering is of no benefit to anyone. If people in your life can only feel good about you when you’re struggling, you, too, need a new group of people.
Have a bright and shiny week,