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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kuhn

Fear of Being Average: I Do Difficult Things

Today we are talking about the fear of being average. This is something that has really touched me personally. Recently, I feel like I have been paralyzed by fear, and it's like it's probably going on almost a month now, which is kind of embarrassing to say, because the last thing that I want to do is get up in front of a bunch of people and say, I'm really afraid. I'm afraid that I'm not enough. I'm afraid that I don't know enough to share. I'm afraid that the things that I say don't make any sense. I'm afraid that I'm not helpful. I just have all of these fears that are paralyzing.

And at the same time, I have all of these ideas of things that I want to do. But then it's like, is it good enough? Is it okay? Is there anybody out there who wants to hear it? Who needs to hear it?

So it's like this paralyzing feeling of I want to do all this stuff, but I don't really want to do it. And it's just so much easier to sit on the couch and watch TV. It's so much easier to buy another book and tell myself, okay, when I get to the end of this book, then I'll do something. Except that I have, like, ten books sitting on my couch now, and there'll always be another book right?

There are so many projects, things that I've said that I'm going to do, things that I know are going to happen, but I keep putting them off. I'm writing a book, and I have the title of it. It's called Relentless Understanding, which I love. I have redone the outline about 25 times. I think I've finally landed on an outline that I like, and that makes sense. But there's still this fear that's holding me back from sitting down and writing.

There's a lot of other things. There are some new decisions, some new things that I want to make as far as my blog and my YouTube channel. But a lot of it just comes back to putting myself out there in general. I just feel paralyzed by this fear, and I think a lot of it comes back to a fear of being average, of feeling like I'm average, feeling like I'm not good enough.

I've always had this fear of being average. As far back as I can remember, I've always thought that I was supposed to do something really special, that I was supposed to be some kind of extraordinary person who did more than normal people. I watched a lot of my friends in school get married to somebody that they met in high school, and I grew up in a really small town. So it wasn't like there were a lot of people there, but I watched them all get married and have kids, and they live these ordinary lives.

Now there's nothing wrong with living an ordinary life. There are some times when I long for just being ordinary. But for some reason, I've had this voice in my head telling me that there's something else that I'm supposed to do, and I feel like it's my intuition telling me that it's not okay for me to play small, that I need to do something else.

So as far back as I can remember, this has been my thing. When I was in grade school, I had to have straight A’s. I knew that I could do really well in my work, and it came really easy to me. So I was the straight A student. That's how I defined myself. When I got to college it got a little bit more difficult, and the answers weren't so easy for me. I had to work at it a lot harder.

But I also wanted to pick something to major in that was amazing. It wasn't just normal. Why be a business major when you could be an engineer? But why be a regular engineer when you can be an aerospace engineer? Wouldn't that be, like, something really awesome? And when you tell people that you're majoring in aerospace engineering, they're like, Whoa, really? That must be really hard. I even thought for a while about studying quantum mechanics because nobody took that class, and I was like, well if nobody's taking it, I want to take it. I want to do something that's really awesome. So how many people actually study and understand quantum mechanics? Wouldn't that be so cool?

But I never wanted to be normal. That was nothing that wasn't acceptable to me. It had to be something special and extraordinary. Part of it, though, was I didn't want to do things that I wasn't good at. So it's kind of funny, this paradox, I guess in my head, I want to do something really awesome and wonderful and amazing that nobody else does. But I don't want to do anything that I'm not good at. So if I'm not naturally good at it, then I don't want to do it.

I kind of let that drive me for a long time until I started running. I think it was like, 2013. I hired a running coach because I decided that I was going to lose weight and get in shape. And I don't know where I got the idea that I needed to start running. But somehow I got this idea. So I hired a coach because I felt like I was doing it wrong. Surely there's only one kind of running, right? But I was reading all these blogs and these books, and they're like, no, there's a certain type of way that you have to run. And if you don't do it correctly, then you could injure yourself. And I'm like, well, I don't want to get hurt, and it feels really difficult.

So I hired this coach who was super expensive, and after a few months of paying him, I remember sitting down and talking to him and I'm like, listen, I feel like there's something that you're not telling me, and I just want to know why this is so difficult. What am I doing wrong?

And he's like, laughing at me. He's like, Sarah, it's not that you're doing anything wrong. It's just difficult. It's difficult for everybody. And I'm like, Well, they don't talk about it being difficult. He's like, no, because they don't complain. They know it's difficult, and they're fine with that. But the longer that you do it, it doesn't get really any easier. You just get better at doing it.

And I'm like, well, that's disgusting. That's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that I was doing something wrong, and if I just changed a little bit of something, it would be super easy. He's like, yeah, it's not super easy. Running is never easy for anybody. It's always difficult. But the thing is that you're doing something that's really difficult and you're making progress and you're getting good at it. Isn't that a good thing?

So that kept me going for a couple of years, I would say. I think for a couple of years, I was working out, like, six days a week, and I ended up running a 10K, which I think is just over 6 miles. I was like, the second to the last person to finish. But I tried to focus on the fact that I did finish, which was a good thing, that I wasn't the last person and that most people don't run 10K's. So that still made me qualify for doing something extraordinary.

The fear of being average can actually be a really good thing

Having said that, I think that the fear of being average can actually be a really good thing, right? Because it pushes you to do things that most people don't do. There's this famous thing that I'm sure that you heard Shoot for the Moon, because even if you missed you'll land among the stars. That was something that I was clinging to when I was pretty young because I wanted to do something that was really cool.

I had a lot of impossible dreams in my life. I went to England when I was in college. I spent three months there working for a nonprofit organization, and it was something that nobody else in my family had done. In fact, my parents told me that they never wanted to leave the United States again. And they had only been to places like Canada. And I don't know if they've been to Mexico, maybe Mexico. But they told me they didn't want to leave the United States, and they couldn't understand why I did. And I was like, well if you've never been there, don't you think it might be fun to go? Don't you want to see somebody else's perspective?

I really think it was one of the best things that I've ever done because I learned so much about other people. I learned so much about their perspective and how they think differently than we do. And what some people think of Americans, which was kind of a wake-up call for me, which was a great thing as somebody who was about 22 years old. I thought that the United States was the greatest place in the world. And I thought that everybody thought that because that's what they teach you in school or that's what they taught us in school when I was in school. And so I go to England, and the family that I was staying with had a lot of really negative, nasty things to say about the United States. And it was like a big slap in the face for me because I'm like, wait a second. What do you mean? You don't think that the United States is the greatest place in the world, and they're like, looking at me like, are you stupid? And I'm like, no, I thought everybody thought that. They're like, Why would we think that? And I'm like, oh, okay. Well, maybe you think that your country is the greatest place in the world. And they're like, Duh.

The couple that I was staying with were probably old enough to be my grandparents. And one time we were having this conversation, me and the lady we're having this conversation about, she was telling me that Americans are so rebellious and they don't follow the rules. And they just do whatever they want to do. And I'm like, I'm sitting there listening to her, trying to be polite. And I'm like, that doesn't sound like me at all. I very much follow the rules. If my parents told me not to do something, I would never do, it like, that rebellious thing, that's not me.

And so the more that she talks, and the more that she talks, I was like, hold on. Are you talking about the Declaration of Independence? Is that what you're talking about? She's like, yes, of course! That's what I'm talking about! You know, a lot of those people were English people. And then they just go over to this new country and they sign this paper that says that they're independent. Who does that? And I was like, oh, my goodness. That was like, 300 years ago. And you're still upset about it, really? I thought it was so funny because I think I told her something that was like, super snarky. I never really understood why people signed the Declaration of Independence then. But I do now. And if I had to sign it again, I would be one of the first in line to sign it. She didn't think it was very funny.

But that whole experience of being in a different country and seeing the world from a whole different perspective meant so much to me. It really changed my views on the world. And it changed my views maybe not exactly on the United States because I still believe that the United States is the greatest country in the world. I still believe that I am incredibly fortunate to live in such an amazing place, but it definitely changed my views on other places in the world. And it helped me see more of what other people see. That was one of my impossible dreams.

Another impossible dream that I've talked about quite a bit. I wanted to work in NASCAR. I fell in love with race cars when I was in high school. I just thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I thought that the cars were so awesome. It's such a dangerous sport. Seeing the cars in person, too, is a whole different experience because they're so loud and they go so fast. And at some of the racetracks, the ground literally shakes. And so it's this whole amazing experience. And I just wanted to be a part of it.

When I was 18, telling people that I was going to work in NASCAR someday, I remember so many of them were like, oh, yeah, that's really going to happen. I lived in a different part of the country from where all of the NASCAR shops were, and the more that I grew up and started learning about how the sport works. The majority of the teams hire people that they know, they hire their friends and their family members. So if you're not related to somebody or you're not very close friends with somebody or you haven't been racing since you were, like, five years old. It was really difficult to break in.

So I knew that that was going to be really difficult. But I would say about ten years after I started dreaming this dream, I actually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, which is where all the NASCAR teams are. And I decided that I was going to make it work. And I didn't know how I was going to make it work. I didn't know anybody there. Aside from just sending my resume to different teams, I had no way in. But some of these things, I really feel like I dreamed them into existence because I didn't know what to do. I just knew that it was going to happen. And so it was like, okay, this is a really big thing.

Moving halfway across the United States by myself was a huge thing, right? And it was super scary. And I didn't know exactly how to do that at that time. I think I had only had one apartment by myself, and so I really wasn't even very good at paying my own bills or understanding all the money that I needed. I just knew that I couldn't focus on all of the steps at once. I just had to focus on the next thing. What's the next thing that I need to do? What's the next step? That was it. And in doing that, I moved 1000 miles away from my family all by myself, and I ended up getting a job for a small Xfinity Series team, which is like, it's not the highest series in NASCAR, the second highest. But I worked there for about six months. And then I got laid off on my birthday through a text message, which was horrifying, and I ended up having to go home for a year and spend a year regrouping with my parents.

And it was almost a year to the day later when I decided to go back to North Carolina, and I remember them being so mad at me and my mom telling me, you need to stop this. It is time for you to grow up and be responsible. And this is not a responsible thing to do. And for me, that kind of hit me quite a bit because I'm the responsible child in our family. I'm the one who does the right thing, the thing that my parents want me to do. Up until that point, I had never done anything that they didn't want me to do. So it was difficult for me to be like, I understand that you think it's not responsible, but this is what I have to do. I can't not do it. And it was really difficult for me to throw all of my stuff in the car again and head off on this journey, but it actually ultimately it worked out. It took me another couple of years. That was January of 2012, and it was September of 2013 that I ended up getting a good job. I went to work for a marketing agency that managed race car drivers and sponsors, and I spent three years working there, and I got to go to the racetrack every single weekend. And I learned a lot about NASCAR, a lot of stuff that I wanted to know, and a lot of stuff that I didn't want to know.

But I felt like I had accomplished this impossible dream, and I had so much fun in the process. And even though it turned out to not be what I thought that it was, it was still for me. It's one of those things that when I think about something now, that's really impossible. I don't know if I can do that. There's a couple of things that I go back to. I go back to going to England because that seemed impossible at the time when I went to England, I had only ever been on a plane twice. Before that we flew out to Las Vegas to see my niece because she was born in Las Vegas. So I had only been on a plane twice, and then here I was flying. I think it ended up being almost 24 hours over to England because I had to fly to Amsterdam and then back all by myself, and that felt pretty impossible for me until I did it. So now when I think about something that's impossible. I think about going to England.

I think about working in NASCAR, and I think there were so many people who told me that those things wouldn't happen, and then they did. So if there's something that I want to do now, and there's somebody that's telling me that's not going to happen now, it's just like, oh, I know it's going to happen, because if I want it to happen, I can make it happen.

Moving to Boston was another one of those things. There are people who told me you'll never make it in the city. You don't want to live there. People are rude there. It's so expensive. And for me, that was just like, okay, let's go. It's going to happen. I have to do it now.

Building my own business has been another one of those things. Like I said, there's a lot of fear recently that's been holding me back. But I keep going back to those things that I've done in the past.

I've been looking for a lot of inspiration recently, too. And a lot of the people who I love who inspire me haven't really been in the mood to listen to their version of inspiration. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's just at different times in your life, when you're feeling different ways, you need different types of inspiration. So I don't know why. But I've been listening to Gary Vee. I don't know exactly how you say his last name, but he is an amazing business person who wants to inspire people to start their own business, to do their own thing. And so he has tons and tons of content on YouTube and social media. He literally has somebody who follows him around all day every single day with a camera. He produces that much content.

But he says, I've heard him say this over and over again because I've been watching so many of his videos recently. He says that most people don't make it because they don't put in the work. Most people think that when you're building your own business, that it's going to happen overnight. You think about people who you think are overnight successes. But you don't realize the amount of work that they put in. You just realize that you saw them like, you didn't see them one day, and then all of a sudden they blew up. And it's like, oh, they must be an overnight success.

I think about Glenn Doyle, one of those people, the first time that she wrote a book. It was like on the New York Times bestseller list. And when I found her, it was like, 2014, 2015. And then she started getting incredibly popular around that time. She writes this book and it's on the New York Times bestseller list. And it's like, wow, that happened really fast. But what I didn't see and what a lot of people don't see is that she spent ten years writing a blog every single day before she had that kind of success.

You think about people like Evan Carmichael. He spent ten years on YouTube before he started having an amazing amount of success.

And Gary Vee himself, he spent, like, 13 years building his parents business, which is a wine business. I think he spent all that time creating content constantly before he really started having a big following.

Imposter syndrome

So I think a lot of people get stuck in that fear kind of like the fear that I've been talking about, a fear of not being enough, a fear of not knowing enough not sharing enough, which is really called imposter syndrome. It's feeling like everybody else knows more than you do, feeling like they have something more to share than what you do. But when you talk about that kind of fear, a lot of it comes back to just fighting that fear. That's how you put in the work. You just keep pushing through that kind of fear.

And even though things aren't going the way that you want them to right now, even though, for me, I've been building my business for almost three years. Next month will be three years. And to be fair, I haven't been very consistent. I was sick last year, so I took, like, six months off. And there has been a lot of time where there's been a lot of fear that's holding me back. But I think it's important, especially now to recognize that fear and to push through it because maybe four years is what it's going to take. Maybe it's going to be eight years, maybe it's going to be ten years. But you just have to put in the work and you just have to keep on keeping on.

The reason why I was listening to GaryVee. He talks to a lot of young kids, like teenagers and people that are in college. And he tells them that they have to put in five to eight years’ worth of work before they can expect to have a big following. So for me, I was kind of thinking about it the same way, thinking, okay, five to eight years. That means I have a good solid, at least two more years, possibly five years. But the thing that keeps me going, I go back to the thing that keeps me going, right?

And that's why I started my blog, started my Instagram account, my podcast. I want to help people. I want to help INFJs who are exactly like me, who I think about, the person that I was in 2012, 2013, 2014 when I was really struggling. I was just diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I felt like I really didn't have a purpose. I was working out six days a week because I thought that if I could just lose the weight that I wanted to lose, that I would be happy. And I realized that happiness is not found in the gym. It's not found working out six days a week. At least it wasn't for me.

Happiness started for me when I started to understand myself better. That was the beginning. And I realized that for me, it's more of a journey. Part of that journey is pushing past all the things that I'm afraid of. So it really helps that one of my biggest fears is being average, because that pushes me to do things that other people won't do. And it helps to push me through all of the other fears that I have, too, because there's a lot of other fears, right.

The first time that I recorded a podcast episode, I was afraid to listen to it because I didn't want to listen to myself on tape. The first time that I recorded a video, I was afraid to watch it. In fact, I think that the first few videos that I did have slides over them because I was afraid to be on camera. I didn't want videos of just me. I can't tell you how afraid that I've been of just sitting in front of a microphone or a video camera and just talking, like, when I first started this podcast, which this is episode 93. So 93 episodes ago, one of my biggest fears was just talking, like, what am I going to say? How am I going to organize my thoughts to make it sound normal, to make it sound rational? I don't want to just ramble on about something so literally. For the first 17 episodes, I wrote everything out, word for word that I wanted to say. And then I was afraid that I would sound like I was reading.

Somebody told me just the other day from my Instagram messages, somebody wrote me a message that said, I love your podcast. I went back and I'm listening to every single one of the episodes, and I'm like, oh, no, please don't listen to the first one. They're terrible. She was so sweet. She was like, no, I love them. They all sound great. And I'm like, Well, you were very sweet because the first ones I'm not that proud of.

But I was able to push through all of those fears because it's like, Well, you have a choice. You can let the fear hold you back. You can let it stop you, or you can push through it. And you can say, it doesn't matter. I'm going to push through it. I'm going to overcome it. I'm going to witness it and move past it so that I don't stay where I'm at right now. I don't want to be in this spot for the rest of my life. I want to keep moving, keep growing, keep doing something different.

You do difficult things

I was talking to Evan Carmichael a while ago, and he said, you do difficult things. You have to tell yourself that you do difficult things. And I thought, that's so true. I do difficult things. I have never told myself that over and over again. But a lot of the stuff that I do, I like to do it because it feels impossible, and it might take me a while to figure it out. It might take me a while to get it done. But I feel so accomplished when I do something that people tell me that I can't do.

In order to get into that mindset, you really have to train your mind to believe that you love to do difficult things. Then, like I was just saying, you can get past the fear, all of the fear that you have a lot easier. If the only thing that you're afraid of is being average, then all the other fear, it feels so much smaller. It's a lot easier to move past it. I love taking on difficult projects. It makes me feel so good when somebody says you can't do that, that's not going to happen, because then there's, like, this different part of my brain that gets activated. That's like, oh, I'm going to do it now. I'm going to do it. I was kind of busy before, but now I'm going to do it now. I'm going to do it twice and take pictures just because you said that I couldn't do it. I don't know if it's like being competitive or what it is, but it's like as soon as somebody tells me that I can't do something, then I'm absolutely going to do it.

And for me, it almost feels like I believe things into existence. I don't know if that's the same as manifesting. Maybe it is. I don't know. But I really do feel that because I know that if I believe in something that I want to do enough that I'll figure out how to get it done and it'll get done.

So I want to leave you today with a challenge. What is it that you're thinking about doing? What is it that you're planning something that you would like to do? I'm sure that you have something because we, as INFJs were so good at planning things. We're so good at thinking about things. I want to challenge you to take action on that thing. Whatever it is, don't get stuck in planning mode. Don't get stuck in imposter syndrome of feeling like somebody else knows more than you. So why would you do it? Don't get stuck there. Take action on it. Whatever it is that you're planning, don't make a plan. Don't keep planning. Start doing. Do something today. Do something tomorrow. Do something the next day. Do something every single day until this thing that you want becomes a reality. And whatever it is that you're planning, whatever it is that you're taking action on now.

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