The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Life And Career

I’ve dedicated a great deal of energy in my life trying not to make a fool out of myself.

When I was in junior high, I remember thinking EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD was allowed to watch TV shows I wasn’t allowed to watch and listen to music I wasn’t allowed to listen to (at 13, most of life happens in caps-lock).

So to avoid looking foolish, my solution was to wait for the moment my friends began talking about the latest pop culture phenomenon and pretend like I knew exactly what they were talking about.

“Oh, I know! Boyz II men are so bad-ass!”

“Isn’t Clueless like, so totally awesome?!”

Even now that junior high is over (thank God) I still find myself, at times, going to great lengths to not make a fool out of myself.

These days, it looks something like this:

  • I prepare and prepare and prepare and over-prepare for speaking engagements, so I make sure not to say anything weird.
  • I sometimes agonize over what to post (or not post) on social media.
  • I obsess over blog posts. “Did I say it right? Did I miscommunicate? Am I going to look stupid? Do I know what I’m talking about?”
  • I hold back from doing things that feel outside of my comfort zone (even something simple, like playing frisbee) because I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing.

And what good have these obsessions ever done me? Are they preventing me from making a fool out of myself? Probably not.

My latest realization is this:

The harder we work not to make fools out of ourselves, the more foolish we end up looking.

Trying not to make a fool out of myself has kept me from so many things I wanted to do in my life.

It has kept me from trying something new for fear of coming across as incompetent or unintelligent or unrefined (recently a friend offered to let me paint with watercolors and I nearly refused…for fear of looking stupid. I’m so glad I didn’t!)

It has kept me from taking risks.

It’s kept me from speaking up about things that matter to me.

It has kept me from being myself.

What has your fear of looking foolish kept you from doing in your life? When you consider the opportunity cost, ask yourself this: was it worth it?

What if making a fool out of ourselves could actually work to our advantage?

What if the things we think of as “foolish” aren’t really that foolish after all (like being out-of-the-know when it comes to pop culture)? What if they are the pieces of the puzzle that set us apart, that make us who we are?

What if making a fool of yourself could teach you an important lesson?

What if the chance of making a fool of yourself meant you got to try something new? What if you succeeded in an area where you never thought you could?

What if a willingness to make a fool of yourself is a prerequisite for creativity and innovation?

Would you give it a try?

I have a challenge for you—and it’s the same challenge I’ve been giving myself lately. It goes like this:

Go ahead, make a fool of yourself.

Seriously. I mean that as a literal challenge. Look for ways this week you can make a fool of yourself and go for it.

Wait for a moment when you would have, in the past, stayed on the sidelines or held back. But this time, don’t retreat. Don’t back off. Don’t give into fear. Move forward. Make a fool of yourself.

Just see what happens. I think you might be surprised.

9 comments on “The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Life And Career

  1. Hey Allie , loved your blog today. When a woman is betrayed in marriage and the vows …..she can feel very foolish and humiliated. This is interesting to me. And to be divorced is humiliating and the betrayed feels foolish. So thanks for your words…sometimes feeling foolish is actually false thinking. And don’t expect those around you to understand you. That’s God …..for you. You helped one traveler on I 5 today. Love you girl.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! It’s so scary to step outside of our comfort zone. We don’t realize that doing so can lead to self-discovery. I recently stepped out of that “safe zone”, and I’m so glad I did. I picked up some hobbies I had been neglecting due to fear, self-doubt, and yes, “looking foolish”. I have now given myself permission to pursue some of those interests and cultivate them into useful skills. And you know what- I found that putting myself out there can lead to some pretty great things! I’m not as bad as I thought, I have some talent after all, I’m learning new things, and (gasp) I’m happy!

  3. Loved this…and was reflecting on this very subject earlier this week. My husband has a terminal illness and his birthday was Tuesday. I was thinking about what made him so extremely successful and I realized it was his lack of caring about embarrassing himself in all arenas of his life. And when things did not go as planned or turn out as he expected, he regrouped and headed a new direction tackling the task in front of him with a new strategy. He was never embarrassed by a perceived failure but saw it as an opportunity to reenergize and refocus his “game plan”. I realize I am not so comfortable with embarrassment or failure-and need to add more risk into my life if for no other reason than to honor him & carry on his legacy for our children. Thanks for the post! Love your blog & your writing course!

    • Wow, thanks for sharing, Chrissy. That is simply beautiful. What an amazing tribute to your husband. And such a huge encouragement to me as well. Hugs and prayers for your family!!

  4. Well, just his week I participated in my school’s teacher dance at the Homecoming assembly! I am not a dancer by any means, I hate embarrassing myself in front of anyone (especially students), and I’m five months pregnant. So dancing was not high on my list to do! I’m glad I did it, though, because I want to show my students that it’s important to step outside our comfort zones once in awhile!

  5. This year I’m teaching a new class that I’ve avoided taking on for quite some time and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt anxious, stressed, and lost sleep over making a mistake and looking like an incompetent idiot in front of my students or not knowing ALL of the answers! Being a perfectionist is both a blessing and a curse and at times I wonder if I’m going to make it through the year with all of the stress I’m putting on myself to do this job perfectly. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to look a little foolish and learn something new from the mistakes, I’m glad that other people have this struggle. Now, if only my brain and my heart could get on the same page on this one.

  6. This exact struggle is something I’ve been aggressively battling recently. I came to the realization that even though I was trying so hard to make people happy, to seem perfect at my job, they didn’t think I was perfect anyway. And I don’t want to miss out on opportunities, shy away from risks or not be myself to please people who can’t be never fully be pleased. It has been a super liberating time and I feel so much stronger and bolder in everything that I do.

    Since then I’ve been encouraged to keep being myself and stop worrying about making a fool of myself constantly – in the positive reactions of the people around me, through a friend’s random text, a book I happen to pick up, a blog I happen to check. Seeing your post made me smile. I love how God communicates in so many different ways & at just the right time!

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