The Year of 'Doing It Anyway'

In nine more days, I will turn 41 and will complete what has turned out to be an amazing year, my "Year of Doing It Anyway."

I spent the first four decades of my life not doing a whole heck of a lot of things simply because I was afraid. I didn't want to be rejected. I didn't want to fail. I didn't want to be embarrassed. I would start projects and never finish them because there was no 100 percent guarantee they would be the GREATEST CONCEPTS EVER, LOVED BY ALL!

I would avoid reaching out to people because I thought they wouldn't like me, or because I didn't think I was good enough for them to like me. And God forbid I take on anything that I wasn't sure precisely how to do.

Don't get me wrong, I was still successful, but I was successful at doing the things I knew I could do. You could count on me to make the safe choice, never pushing even one inch past my comfortable boundaries.

There's something about aging, though, that has given me just enough courage to be dangerous. While I'm still afraid of rejection and failure, I'm starting to believe such things won't kill me if they happen, and that taking chances will allow me to succeed every now and then even when I thought I wouldn't. Sort of like throwing a lot of darts at a dartboard and hitting the bulls-eye every so often.

Last December, when I turned 40, I decided that I would spend the next year "doing it anyway." If there was something I wanted to do, even if every voice in my head said "No! Don't do it! It won't work!" I would just do it anyway. That was my mantra. This would be my year where failure was an option.

I would love to tell you this was a wild success from the start, but that's not the case. It actually took the first six months of the year for me to build up enough guts to follow through on this new policy. But then ...

A few years ago I wrote a book proposal for a woman-to-woman guide to postpartum depression (PPD). It wasn't a very good proposal, mainly because I wasn't clear yet about exactly what I wanted to say and why my book would be different. I sent it to my agent, who proceeded to tell me how much work it needed, and then I bonked. Big time. I dropped it. I didn't email her back and she didn't email me back. The whole thing just disappeared, like snowflakes melting on the Georgia asphalt. I have since learned that one of the worst things you can do with a literary agent is pitch to them when you are completely unprepared to do so. Oops.

This summer, almost two years later, I decided I was ready. I knew what I wanted my book to be and why it would be different and better. I was going to write this book, no matter what. So I sent that agent an email. The subject line? "She's baaaaack." I cannot begin to tell you how physically sick it made me to hit send. What was I doing reaching out to this professional out of the blue and requesting a second chance? I was just asking to be reminded how I'd blown it. I sent the email anyway, and the agency -- a very well-regarded literary agency that I still can't believe is representing me -- accepted my new proposal and recently has submitted it to publishers.

This "do it anyway" thing worked, for Pete's sake!

I then pitched the fine producers of "The Today Show's" Today Moms. I didn't think I had a chance in hell of hearing back from them but, wonder of wonders, they agreed to meet with me in New York at the BlogHer conference to learn more about my blog on postpartum depression. They did a short web video piece with me that day, but it never ended up running on their website. Later, though, they published one of my articles on that site. You should have seen the happy dance I did that day. I know I would not have had that opportunity if I hadn't put myself out there. I did it anyway.

What else? For years I have wanted to start a nonprofit to support women with PPD. I didn't do it, of course, because I didn't know how. I have no experience fundraising or managing a nonprofit, so how the heck do I think I'd be any good at it? Screw that. Nancy Brinker probably didn't know what she was doing when she founded Susan G. Komen For The Cure, either. So I did it this fall. I incorporated, wrote my mission, convinced a bunch of awesome people to join my board of directors, and tomorrow (ack!) I'm hosting the first-ever board meeting of Postpartum Progress Inc. I'm scared to death, and I still don't know how this is going to turn out, but I'm doing it anyway. Many more wonderful things happened this year as a result of putting myself out there despite my fears, including joining ParentDish as a columnist.

To be sure, I also did things that didn't work out. There have been rejections, losses, a little embarrassment here and there. I tried to reach out to the famous blogger Heather Armstrong, known the blogosphere over as Dooce, and never heard back. I figured she cares a whole heck of a lot about postpartum depression, and so do I, so it would only make sense that we find some way to work together. But all I heard back was crickets. I'm not going to allow myself to feel like a loser because I didn't hear back from her, though. I'm choosing to look at the lack of response as being due to the fact that she's crazy busy, probably gets 5 million emails per day, and likely never saw my email among the masses. Or maybe she has other priorities. Or maybe she really doesn't like me. Whatever. Do it anyway.

I plan to carry this new policy into my 42nd year. It's worked so far. The feelings of triumph I've had have far outweighed the negative outcomes. It still hurts to make these leaps outside my comfort zone, but no pain, no gain as they say.

What about you? We all have passions and gifts to give, and we often prevent ourselves from giving them for no good reason. What are yours? What should you be doing anyway? What would you like to do, despite your fears, lack of self-esteem or the potential of falling flat on your face? What could you be missing out on because you reject yourself before anyone else gets the chance to?

Perhaps 2011 can be your "Year of Doing It Anyway." Go for it, girl.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.