I seem like a surfer girl. I really do. A California girl with long, blonde hair. Very chill. Extremely cool. Great style. 😉 You know all of the things. But up until recently, I had never actually tried to surf. Not even once. I have wanted to. Really. Just never did. I still travel to all of the cool hidden surfer destinations. Cause they are totally my vibe. There, the people I meet are surprised I don’t surf. They say to me. Awww, you have never even tried surfing? Why not? I reply. No man. The water is too cold in California. There are too many great whites. I work too many hours to have time. All excuses really. (Although they are based around truth which makes it easier for me to convince myself to believe them.) Because honestly, the real reason I never had tried is simply because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. I wanted to be cool and impress people. Not show them how I have no idea what I am doing.
I don’t know at what age this starts in people but I do know my nephew suffers from the same thing. He is nine. A few months ago when I was last in town, we all went to the roller rink. Sunday Funday. So we get out there in the rink and start skating. Having a great time for about five minutes. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see my nephew start to go down. Ut oh. He loses his balance and falls to the ground. He is embarrassed. My heart feels for him. It’s okay dude. Everyone falls. He gets angry. Obviously using this to cover his embarrassment. My heart again. Ahhh. Love. Anyways, he skates off of the floor, sits down on a bench in the corner, and says he doesn’t want to skate anymore. No words can convince him otherwise. Even if we pretend to fall also. His ego is strong. At nine years old. Which means this conditioning happens early. But how early?
Imagine if a one year old already had this ego developed. And that at one, he cares what people think about him. One day he is crawling and sees the coffee table out of the corner of his eye. He crawls over to it. His parents are watching. He grabs on. Begins to pull himself up. But immediately falls back down, right on his butt. He starts crying. His parents laugh. Embarrassed, he then thinks to himself, well that is the last time I am going to try that. Then goes on to live the rest of his life crawling because he doesn’t want to look like an idiot. He doesn’t want to feel the rejection and humiliation again that he felt that first day he tried and ‘failed’.
If our egos took ahold of us that early, can you imagine? Grown men and women crawling around because their pride is too strong?
BIKES ARE FOR KIDS
Luckily, babies aren’t conditioned to think this way yet, so they keep pushing through. But as children or adults, somewhere we let the ego start to control our decisions and dictate what we will and won’t do. We stop doing things simply because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to look dumb in front of others. How sad we have become.
Even if you don’t believe you are like this, because you are sure you don’t care what other people think, you are at least able to witness it in others. When someone tries something, does it poorly, and then gets embarrassed. Or someone refuses to try something and you don’t understand why they won’t even try.
I have even seen the most narcissistic people who ‘believe’ they are amazing at everything, act this way. One day I asked one of these types to come and ride a bicycle to the beach with me. He said he wasn’t interested in riding a bicycle and therefore didn’t want to hang out with me. Hmmm okay. I later find out that he just doesn’t know how to ride one. He has never learned. HIs ego was probably developed too strongly before he ever had the chance to learn. So instead of trying now, or even telling me that, he stayed at home and gave up a potentially delightful day at the beach. Or a chance for me to teach him how to ride one!
Regardless of when it happens, one day we go from being fearless and not even thinking about the opinions of others, to another day refusing to try new things because we don’t want to feel inferior.
So how do we stop letting pride get in the way of our experience? I don’t think this is something we are actually ever are taught how to overcome. Instead, we have just learned how to deal with it. We cover it up by becoming the class clown and giving others an actual reason to laugh. Or we use it as motivation to focus on becoming better at things we are actually good at. Or we convince ourselves we aren’t interested in doing the thing we are bad at anyways. There are many ways we learn to avoid feeling rejection. But why do we care so much what other people think?
Instead of learning something as an adult, we would rather not even try because there is a chance we will ‘fail’. And by ‘fail’ I mean look stupid in front of another person. I think this is something that we need to face head on. Something we need to practice by willingly putting ourselves in these types of situations. To actually work to eliminate the hold our ego has on us. It is the only way to get back to that baby-like mindset we once had.
TRYING EVEN WHEN THE EGO SAYS NO
So back to my surfing story. I am pretty self aware and notice times when I act this way myself. Because of this, I have started to embrace doing things I am scared to do. Especially if I am scared to do them because I don’t want people to look down on me. So I decided I want to learn to surf. Because it looks like so much fun and I love the ocean. But I have met so many cool people who surf and that makes it even harder for me to push my ego out of the way. Cool people watching me try to stand up on the board and fall? Eeeek.
And they very well might actually be judging me. But at some point, didn’t they also have to learn to do this for the first time too? Where did the empathy go?
Anyways, in Sri Lanka, at the age of 35, I sign up for my first surfing lesson. It is scheduled to happen in two days. When I check in to my guesthouse, I see the instructor. He casually says, how about we do it tomorrow morning instead? Tomorrow? That is in like 12 hours. That is way too soon. Too soon for me to look like an idiot. I need time to prepare myself. Or talk myself out of it completely. I need more time. But I immediately realize what is happening. My ego. So I tell him, okay, tomorrow is cool. I am nervous. But whatever, I am doing it. So why not tomorrow.
In the morning, I wake up and sit in my room for awhile before we leave in order to give myself a pep talk. To change my mindset. Girl you got this. Who cares what anyone thinks. You are in Sri Lanka and will never see these people again. Just learn this, get through it, and enjoy the process.
I am ready. As we head to the beach, even around my instructor I am feeling a little insecure because he has been surfing for years. Is he thinking in his head, man another loser amateur I have to try and teach. But I continue to tell myself. Ugh. I know it sucks for you dude. But this is for me. I decide who gives a shit. I am here to learn. For myself. Because I want to. Not to impress this dude.
HOW SURFING CAN HELP
It turns out, I am able to keep this mindset throughout the entire lesson. I soon realize that when I am dedicated to learning, I actually have no time to even think those kind of negative thoughts. There is too much going on. Noticing my body position on the board. Watching for the incoming waves. Knowing when to start paddling. When to stand up. Making sure my feet are planted in the right places for balance. For two straight hours, I am fully present. I even once get knocked (really freaking hard) in the head with the board. I don’t even care. I realize no one else cares either. And if they do, it doesn’t matter to me.
It occurs to me that I have embraced the same mindset I must have had as a baby. That fearless keep trying mindset when I learned to walk. The only difference is that as an adult, I had to talk myself into it. Earlier in life, we don’t have all of these self defeating ego centered type of thoughts. You see, babies don’t give a fuck. They don’t know any better. And that is how I want to learn to be again. That is how I am learning to be again. And surfing, for me, is a great way to practice this.
I think we all should try to be more like we were as babies. And in order to do that, we need to recognize when we are letting our egos keep us from experiencing life. These moments are huge opportunities. Opportunities to practice putting our egos aside and not caring if we look like a fool. Opportunities to remind ourselves that if we had this mindset earlier in life, we may not be walking or talking today.
Realize it is only the fear we have learned in our lives that is now holding us back. If we can overcome this, there is so much more in life that we can experience. Babies don’t give a shit and neither should we. Let’s remember this and use it to become, and to stay, fearless. Because it is when we are fearless that we open up the door to unforgettable experiences and the confidence that comes with that. And who knows, you may even enjoy your life a little more.