When I was eleven years old, I sang a Backstreet Boys song, karaoke style, in front of about one or two thousand people. This in itself is remarkable; what made it even more notable, is that the person in charge of music had accidentally played the same song for the previous group, who went along with it anyway (after all, who didn’t know Backstreet in the ’90s?)… so me and my little group of brand new friends were to sing this song in front of an audience who was now hearing it for the second time, back to back.
I had two choices: I could either shrink back like I often tried to (I literally hid my face behind my hair when I returned to public school); or, I could embrace that I was already up there, onstage, with my new friends. After all, it would be even more awkward or embarrassing to back down, or to switch to a song that we hadn’t been practicing!
So there we were: awkwardly singing and dancing onstage at a huge provincial Girl Guide camp, in front of a couple thousand other girls. In case you’re unaware, young girls have (or certainly had, back then) a tendency to have the “mean girl” streak. But I did it anyway, it was fun and goofy, and what did we have to lose? Nothing.
Although I certainly can’t say that I have always been that outgoing in the 24 years that followed, nor so exuberant, confident, and shameless, that moment still sits somewhere inside of me, bolstering me in moments when I might otherwise back down. “Hey, I sang karaoke in front of a massive audience when I was just a kid, speaking in front of twenty or a hundred people is nothing!”
I have, in recent years, performed onstage at an annual banquet in front of many hundreds of people. Stage fright, shmage fright.
There is absolutely zero chance that eleven-year-old me could have considered what that single moment could mean for her future, which she basically never thought about at all. Yet it impacted me and shaped my life, to prop me up as being more courageous and outgoing when I would like to shrink back and encourage someone else to step up and speak.
It’s a good reminder that our present shapes our future, one small step at a time. Moments build on moments, minutes on minutes, and hours on hours. Days go by one at a time, and gradually add up to weeks, months, years, decades. It’s how people manage to stay sober, “One day at a time,” and it’s how we get through the more challenging times in life (like this year, hello 2020!).
So even when something seems insignificant, remember, you adult you, that the choice you make today impacts the you of the future. Your tiny spark of courage may be the flame that inspires others. While everyone else is waiting for someone else to step up, speak up, raise a hand, lend a hand, or start a revolution, you can be the one to step forward and say “Where do we begin?”
So? What can you do today? What is one little right step that you can take? What action feels expansive and more like growth, instead of like contracting and shrinking in? I hope you can choose to feel expansive! Remember, courage and bravery are traits that we have when we’re doing something scary. If it’s not scary, it’s not very brave of us to do that thing, is it? Let yourself grow!
And know, that every single time you do something courageous, every single time you speak up to a bully, or stand up for your beliefs, or step up to the microphone, or share a piece of your writing or your art, every single time you choose to expand, strengthens and bolsters you the next time you have to choose.
Every time you choose to expand, gives you more confidence the next time you face a choice.
You got this. Go out there. Be brave. Be loud. Sing the song. Do it all from a place of love, joy, friendship, and fun. Be passionate. Be truthful. Speak with integrity.
Don’t be hard on yourself for the times when you don’t feel brave enough to be loud and proud and expansive. Every single moment is an opportunity to choose again. Harness your energy. Get grounded. Feel good. Love yourself. And step forward bravely into the world, head held high.