There’s something that happens when you let yourself open up: it can either be dreadful or delightful—gruesome or glorious. It can tear you apart if you let it. It changes you.

I spent five years closing myself off. Five years of keeping everyone at an arm’s length. I convinced myself that I was doing the best thing; building support beams for all those walls I put up. The problem with that is you tend to create more fear. What if someone broke through? What if I wasn’t ready? What if I was?

I was numb to my own reticence and the only solution was to tackle those fears head on. So, I took a leap of faith. I dove head first and I was shaking the whole way, but when I came up for air, I was still. I got involved in the community theater circuit. What better way to scare my social phobia than letting an audience judge me every night? I threw myself to the sharks with no cage, no reinforcement to protect me.

We performed ten shows; I trembled through nine. And then, during the closing night, I stopped shaking. It wasn’t due to lack of nerves, but rather I had grown comfortable with criticism. For the first time, I had opened up—to rejection, to imperfection, to the idea of letting my guard down. Without it, how could I improve?

I was at a standstill before. Suddenly, everything I so adamantly opposed became an option. I was moving forward and, with a slightly less protected heart, I jumped.  I broke down the walls. I wasn’t ready for the rejection, but I was ready to let my guard down. That’s the thing about heartbreak: we expect to be spurned. We assume that by jumping into shark infested waters, we’re asking to be attacked. However, I would never take back that experience. I would never want to be afraid of letting myself be vulnerable because I didn’t think I was ready. No one is ever ready for that.

The thing about choice is we tend to forget we have one, especially when we’re afraid. When you chum the waters with your fears, of course, the sharks are bound to bite. But what happens when you stop panicking? What happens when you let yourself see below the surface? It’s like opening your eyes to a whole new world…and it’s not so scary after all.

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