Author Terri Giuliano Long believes that when you are afraid, you should take a chance, believe in yourself and make your dreams come true…
Forgive me if I seem arrogant – I have few regrets about the choices I’ve made. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve certainly made some iffy decisions, but I’ve tried to make the best of them. There are no do-overs, after all. There’s no time machine to transport us to the past, allow us to reconsider and choose differently.
Things happen – we make choices for a reason. We may not know or have the insight to articulate our reasons at the time – sometimes we never quite figure them out – but the road changes as we choose paths; doors close; new doors open. Best, I think, to move forward, settle in, and enjoy the new scenery.
I do regret my inertia. I’ve missed opportunities because I was afraid, unsure of what the future would bring. I had no faith in myself. Fear of judgment paralyzed me. For months after publishing In Leah’s Wake, I kept the book a secret. Not even my parents knew I’d published it. Terrified of failure, I worried that readers would hate my book, other authors would judge me, and they’d all think I’m a loser.
When I finally smartened up, realized I could either promote my book or watch it die, a few naysayers did judge me. One person, when I admitted my dream of selling a thousand books, laughed. She told me I’d never sell 500, never mind double. Her words rang in my head. Had I not been in the midst of a blog tour, I might have pulled the book off the shelf. Feeling a need to honor my commitment, I soldiered on.
A year later, I’ve sold over 100,000 books and a second novel, a psychological thriller, is in the works.
Flagging confidence, compounded by fear of judgment, has been a recurring theme in my life. This may seem an odd example, but when I think about fear of judgment, this day always comes to mind:
In our twenties, my husband, Dave, and I spent a week in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. When we arrived, I was an intermediate level skier. That week – granted, not with the most elegant form – I’d conquered several expert trails. Eager to advance, learn to parallel turn, I registered for a lesson.
To determine class placement, we had to ski down a short hill, strutting our stuff for the teachers. I joined the Level 4 hopefuls, the advanced intermediates, at the head of a gently rolling beginner slope.
The baby hill was a joke. Still, I was nervous. What if I’d aimed too high? If I’d over-estimated myself?
The first person in our group skied flawlessly. My heart thumped. As the others went down, I grew increasingly nervous and scared. My stage fright was absurd. First, nobody cared. This was ski school, for heaven’s sake, not the Olympics. Second, why should I care if they did? I wasn’t thinking rationally.
Big shot, hissed the voice inside my head. Level 4? Hahaha. Loser! You’re gonna fail.
I worked myself into such a tizzy that I did fail. Four times I fell. Four. On a nearly flat, 100 foot slope. I was assigned to Level 2 –a step above the beginners, with the novices learning to buckle their boots.
It wasn’t the end of the world. The instructor, noticing I was too advanced for the group, asked how on earth I’d ended up in Level 2, vindicating me. Still, it was too late to change levels – again, my paralyzing fear of failure and judgment held me back. Those same emotions nearly derailed me as an indie author.
Over the last year, I’ve faced those fears many times. While I’m still a work in progress, I’m getting better, taking more chances. I’m learning to believe in myself, trust my instincts, and tune out the critics.
Aristotle said: To the thinking soul images serve as if they were contents of perception…just as if it were seeing, it calculates and deliberates what is to come by reference to what is present. In other words, our mind interprets internalized images – the way we imagine ourselves – as if those images were present reality, predicts and, by modifying our behavior, shapes our future based on our perceptions. I imagined myself failing and failed. If we picture or imagine ourselves as confident, we become confident.
Ours is a big, wide, wonderful world of unlimited opportunity. When you’re afraid, remember Aristotle: you are what you think you are. Take a chance. Believe in yourself. Make your dreams come true!
Terri Giuliano Long is a frequent blog guest. A contributing writer for IndieReader, she’s written for news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the US East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.