deference | noun | /ˈdef(ə)rəns/ 1: respectful submission or yielding to the judgement, opinion, will, etc., of another. 2: respectful or courteous regard.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly inspired to write anything. Part of that is the typical “I’m busy with life” excuse, but another part of that is that I have always felt like this blog is a place for me to capture moments of my life that are worth documenting. And to be frank, I just haven’t had too many of those moments in the last few months.
Sure, I’ve taken on new challenges, met new people, committed to new habits, and witnessed some pretty outlandish actions taken by the current government. While all those things are definitely things of note, I can’t say that they ever compelled me to comment to the world. In a day and age when commenting is just a tweet away, I’m starting to move towards a mindset of quality over quantity. Needless to say, I was taken by surprise last week when what I thought was going to be a brief conversation with a former professor sparked something in me, changed the way I think, and pushed me to get outside of my own head.
This conversation impacted me so much that it caused me to post the following on my social media:
Has anyone else ever struggled with verbalizing a dream for fear of failure? It’s like once a dream has been voiced into the universe it turns into a goal and then that goal somehow belongs to you less because the factors that facilitate its realization are no longer in your control. The vision you built in your head is subject to the criticisms, actions, and inaction of everyone to whom you verbalize it. Ironically, to turn your dreams into reality you have to let others in because no one has ever built anything on their own. Anyone who says they have is lying.
People talk a lot about “formative years” and higher education. I do not contradict those discussions, but I also want to add that I have felt more growth in the last year and a half than I have ever felt during the entirety of my formal education. This is not a commentary on the value of formal education, but rather a commentary on the value of growth.
I’ve spent the better part of the last two years reflecting and writing about these ideas. The idea of challenging myself, taking risks, going down paths without clear road maps. As I look back at some of my previous writings, I can see some of my ideas for what they are. They were insecurities tinted with a veneer of confidence, disguised as “things-learned.” I wanted you (and myself!) to think that I was OK, that the choices I made were because I absolutely wanted them, not because I felt like they were my only options.
So, I forged ahead and traveled from country to country, returned to the US, went through a job hunt–“adulted” if you will. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there were so many moments when I felt stagnant, lost, frustrated, and alone. And the worst part was that I couldn’t quite figure out why.
It wasn’t until this conversation with my former professor when I finally realized what the problem was.
She told me, the problem was fear and deference.
At first I was a bit taken aback. I had never seriously considered myself as someone with those problems. But the more we talked, the more I realized she was right.
I am afraid to do the things that I really want to do because I am insecure. There. I said it.
Unpacking why I am insecure? That’s a complicated story for another day.
What it boils down to is that I have spent my whole life telling myself that there are only certain things I can or can’t do based on how I see myself. This didn’t stop me from dreaming, but whenever I had big dreams, I hardly ever articulated them to people who could actually help me. Instead, I deferred. I deferred to limitations I had constructed in my head. I deferred to my fear of judgement from others. I deferred to ideas that had been done instead of ideas that could be done. While I openly worked hard on the things I deemed “appropriate,” I quietly worked on the dreams I cared about the most.
If I’m going to be completely honest, it wasn’t just my professor who called me out. I’ve had similar conversations with different people over the last few months. I’ve actually had two other amazing, truthful, powerful women call me out on my shit. It just took three times for me to actually hear it. I would just like to say that I am incredibly lucky to have people in my life who are willing to say the things that need to be said, over and over again.
Where does that leave me now? Well, it leaves me with plenty of things to work towards. In some ways, identifying the problem is the hardest part. Because once you know what the problem is, you can start working towards a solution.
So, fear and deference.
Fear–I’m pretty sure that never goes away. In fact, I’m actively working on embracing it as a welcome sign for the things that are most worth pursuing.
But deference, waiting for permission–I am done.
I am so done with deference.