“Stop that.” I interrupted.
“Stop what?” she said.
“That thing you’re doing.” I teased.
“What thing?” she asked.
“That thing where you’re trying not to let a giant smile devour your face right now.”
I was sitting on my friend’s couch sipping some wine as she told me about someone she’d recently started seeing.
“Ahhh, I knowwww…” she beamed, ‘it’s just that I don’t wanna get too excited. I really like this one.”
“Then why not smile about it?! Celebrate it!! Shoot, even if it all ended tomorrow you’ve made a connection with someone and that’s totally something to get excited about!”
“I know, I know.” she said. “And i am! I really am… I just wanna be safe.”
Lately I’ve noticed the alarming frequency with which we hold back full expression in the interest of staying safe. We downplay our excitement, contain our enthusiasm, and make less of that which we are crazy about. For the sake of what?
Take football for example - its late September so between college and the NFL you can now watch football Thursday through Monday. On the initial drive of each game they go through the offensive and defensive starting lines. At the bottom of the screen the player’s head pops up as they say their name and what college they hair from . While the schools are impressive, what stands out the most is the rare player who smiles while saying his name and alma mater.
But Betsy, these are NFL players - they’re supposed to be tough. Tough guys don’t smile.
Oh, really? Seems to me like being paid millions of dollars to play a sport that you love is something to smile about. If I’ve worked hard to hone my skills so that I’m the league leader in sacks, when I take a stance before the snap you better believe I’m smiling under my helmet because I know I’m about to eff up the QB’s day.
Maybe football isn’t the best example, but I’d venture to guess you won’t have to look long or hard to find a situation in which someone isn’t completely celebrating the moment. Or maybe you don’t have to search at all because you;re the one holding back.
We hold ourselves back because we want to stay safe. We fear that if we let it all out we’ll open ourselves up to being hurt when things don’t work out the way we’d hoped.
But what if we’ve got it all backwards?
If we really want to play it safe, we should celebrate the now - immerse ourselves in each moment - for these are all we have of life. The fear then becomes not that we will be hurt, but that in failing to fully own the depths of whatever we feel we will have missed an opportunity to know what it means to be truly alive.
So, stop it!
Stop doing that thing where you make less of your greatness.
Own every bit of it, for as long as you have it, and stay safe by living now.