I had never been so afraid to leave the house before. Could I really step out the door like this?
Finally, I worked up the courage to turn the doorknob with the hand that was wearing a weight lifting glove, open the door, and step outside. This was it, no turning back now.
What was wrong with me? Why was I so afraid to go outside?
You see, I wasn’t always an agoraphobe. I was only terrified because of what I was wearing at the time.
I had on a stocking cap, a pair of coke bottle glasses I had from childhood, a red button-up collared shirt with a yellow T-shirt from a bachelor party on over it that proudly read, “Big Mistake” on it below a picture of two newlyweds. I wore a pair of grey shorts (it was winter at the time) held up by rainbow belt that somehow found its way into my wardrobe, one black dress shoe with a white sock, and one white tennis shoe with a black sock. And of course, the lone weight lifting glove on my right hand.
I was a fashion abomination.
What is it that drives an otherwise average guy to put on the most horribly mismatched clothes he could find in his closet and go for a walk on a cold winter evening?
Frankly, I was frustrated and fed up. I had always been shy and reserved. Everyone knew me as the quiet guy. I never spoke up at meetings at work, I had a hard time making friends, and I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a Don Juan with the ladies.
I was afraid of being the center of attention. It scared me to death. The thought that everyone;s eyes would be on me made my hands sweat and butterflies churn in my stomach.
And to be honest, this was the best idea I could think up. I figured if I could put myself in a situation where there was no way to back down and stay in my comfort zone, then surely I could overcome this fear.
As I walked down the street, I couldn’t help but feel very anxious. I saw a couple in front of me, headed my way. I fidgeted, trying to tuck my gloved hand into my pocket to hide it, only to realize that it revealed more of my bachelor party T-shirt. And, of course, there was no way to hide my mismatched shoes.
I braced myself and I walked past them, preparing for some kind of snide comment or snickering. But it didn’t come. They didn’t seem to pay any attention to me whatsoever.
I breathed a sigh of relief and marched on, turning to go up to a somewhat busy street filled with shops and bars.
Once I hit the main street, my anxiety was really screaming at me. “Go back home where it’s safe!” It told me. “Why are you doing this stupid thing? What if you run into someone you know?”
But I knew that if I was ever going to overcome my shyness and get used to stepping out of my comfort zone, I had to keep going.
I marched down the main street, walking by bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. I was worried that a passing stranger on the street, or a group of people having a smoke outside would see me as I walked by and say something. It was clear that I was drawing attention, but no one said anything.
It was at about this point, that a switch seemed to flip inside my mind. Suddenly, I wasn’t scared of this anymore. Instead, I felt… excited!
I actually wanted to get some kind of reaction of someone as I walked past them. I actually felt disappointed when I wouldn’t get any reaction at all. I purposefully crossed the street just to walk by more people at times, but still nothing. I couldn’t believe this, but I actually went from completely dreading being the center of attention to actually going out of my way to be it.
I finally returned home about an hour later after having a blast doing something that scared me to death not too long ago. Over the next few days, my fear was completely gone. I felt more compelled to speak up, push myself further, and pursue things that used to scare me.
That night, I realized that fear and excitement were actually the same feeling, we merely label one as a bad thing and the other as a good thing. You can easily transform fear by changing your perception of it (or apparently wearing a bunch of hideous clothes and going for a walk).
Have you ever done something crazy like this to break through a limiting belief (or am I just insane)?
Either way, if you ever see me walking down the street, I hope you stop and say “hi” no matter how strange my clothing might be.