When I was a kid, I was a pretty picky eater. My mom jokes sometimes that I spent the first 10 years of my life eating blue box macaroni & cheese and chicken fingers. It wasn’t so much a taste things for me as a texture thing. Things like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes freaked me out. Too many mixtures of crunchy and smooshy and I would lose it at the dinner table. I liked things plain and simple. I was stubborn.
As I got older, I had to adapt. I would eat at friend’s houses for dinner and their parents would cook. I was terrified of being rude moreso than texture overload (thank goodness) and that’s how I tried shrimp and clams for the first time. I tried a lot of foods far away from the comfort of my home because I didn’t want my parents to know if I liked it or disliked it and hold it over my head with a “told ya so,” if it was delicious. Most of the time, the food was pretty awesome.
As an adult, I’ve morphed into someone who is not very stubborn at all. I’ve had enough life experience with things like trying new foods, new relationships, new clothes, new music, and new adventures to know I revel in the unknown and I enjoy novelty. Even at the very least if I don’t like something, it provides me the opportunity to become more self-aware and strengthen that ever growing relationship I have with myself.
As a result, I have a hard time understanding the stubbornness in other adults, specifically my clients. Granted, I know where it comes from – it’s fear. Trying new things can be scary, especially if we don’t know ourselves well enough to handle the experience. Unfortunately, we don’t increase our relationship with ourselves by doing the same things over and over again. We have to look at the scary new things as chances to grow and learn who we are as people.
There are still times when I’m hesitant to try something new. I stay away from the dangerous things and the things I am sure I will not enjoy – heroin, for a far out example – but I’m willing to consider scary things like sky diving, rock climbing, scuba diving, and the like. I get anxiety when I think about jumping out of a plane, but it’s something I’d be open to doing because it would be an opportunity to get to know myself better. Maybe even a friend or my partner, who knows. I’ll never know until I take that leap.
In counseling, we’re trained to talk to our clients about the scary stuff this way. To not focus on the fear, but to focus on the opportunity. It goes back to vulnerability. Are you brave enough to be that scared? Are you courageous enough to take that leap of faith and try something new, talk about how you feel, run that first mile, apply to that school, call that long lost friend, or ask out that person you like? Are you going to take that opportunity to learn about yourself – and maybe someone else – or are you going to sit on the sidelines, stubborn? Sure, you can be quite content on the sidelines, but I’d much rather be an active player in my life. How about you?