I want to write about people telling us we can’t do something, or that it will be difficult. Because it sucks. It plants a seed in our fertile mind—a seed that says “Not possible” for us--and too often, once this happens, we don’t try.
This may seem like a simple thing, but here is a perfect example: I am in Argentina renting an apartment. I have rented apartments in this building three times now and have spent 8 weeks total here. I have never done laundry here. Because the first time I arrived, on my day of check-in, when I was exhausted from the over-night flight, the young host told me doing laundry in the building was difficult and that it was so much easier to just drop it off at a laundry place and have them do it.
What he (and I) didn’t take into account was my size and gender (lugging laundry back and forth is much harder for me than for a big man, and I do laundry much more often than most men—I love clean sheets.)
He said I would have to go to a place to buy tokens, I would have to buy detergent, I would have to go to the security guard to get the keys, that I could only have the keys for two hours, and that I would have to make a reservation. He also said the laundry room was in the basement and he never showed it to me.
So, I believed him: doing laundry in the building would be difficult. And for the last three visits I have lugged my sheets and towels (plus my clothing) five blocks to a laundry place that I like. Rushing in the morning to get up early enough to drop it off, and rushing back to get it before they close that evening.
Until today. I finally decided to talk to the security guard about doing laundry in the basement. He said I could buy the tokens from him and that he’d call me when the laundry room was available, in an hour. My intercom just rang, I went down and bought tokens, I went to the laundry room, and the machines are in English. It was SO EASY!!! And so much easier than schlepping my heavy bags for blocks back and forth.
But, I’m writing this because it is such a wonderful example of self-doubt. When we have self-doubt, we believe the people who tell us we “can’t.” When we have self-doubt, we are afraid of trying something new. When we have self-doubt, we defeat ourselves before we even try. In this case I was afraid of asking in Spanish, afraid I wouldn’t understand, and afraid I couldn’t navigate the foreign machines. But, I could. Easily.
Perfectionism is also mixed in here somewhere. Needing to be perfect speaking the language. Needing to not look like a “stupid tourist.” Where did that even come from? Why would I be stupid just because I’m a tourist? I think it comes from a very deep seated place of needing to fit in, to blend in. Something I learned in childhood. Something that was crucial to my existence. But, blending in became ingrained so deeply that some part of me felt like when I travel I have to look and sound like a local. And I often do. People here often mistake me for an Argentine woman. But, why is what they think of me important?
After all the work I have done on myself—after all the growth—I didn’t realize I still carried these old behaviors (ways of being/ways of thinking) deep inside me. I have been afraid to do laundry here!
Well, today I overcame that fear! And as it happens every single time we do something we are afraid to do, or think we cannot do, I got stronger today. In that basement laundry room I discovered more of my superpowers. I feel victorious! I feel more confident. I have less self-doubt. I feel proud of myself. Like a little kid learning to tie her shoes, I feel so happy and empowered. Just from doing laundry in a foreign country. But, it is these types of achievements in life, these small steps out of our comfort zone, these moments facing our fears, that make life worth living. They are also small important steps toward Greatness. Because we can do it. We can do so much more than we ever imagined we could. We just have to try.
You may think after reading my books that I am not afraid of anything, but the truth is: I'm afraid almost every day. Every time I go snowboard by myself in a foot of powder, I am afraid. Every time I travel by myself, I am afraid. Every time I paddle out in big surf, I am afraid. Every time I surf somewhere new, I am afraid. Every book signing, I'm afraid. Every interview, a little nervous. I was terrified to dance tango again after not doing it for so long. So terrified I trembled in the arms of a street performer when I finally danced again after 12 years of not dancing. And then I broke down crying when he asked me why I had not danced at all the three weeks I had been in Argentina that trip. The answer was: I was afraid.
Fortunately for me, I do face my fears. Eventually. I feel the fear and I do it anyway. That is courage.
May my Argentine laundry adventure give you the courage to say “yes” to something you are afraid to do today. And may your "yes" lead to more and more and more "yes, yes, yes!" Feel the fear, and do it anyway!