How to Free Yourself from the Glare

2. Think through your limits—not to them.

"You can't break that board by hitting it," my karate teacher told me. "Hit something 10 inches behind it. As far as you're concerned, the board doesn't even exist."

"But," I pointed out, "it does exist." (I am a trained observer.)

My sensei shrugged. "That's what you think."

Mentally noting that this man had been hit in the head many, many times, I proceeded to batter my hands to smithereens, trying to break that unbreakable board. When every knuckle was swollen, tender and bleeding, I said, "My hands hurt."

"Yes," said my sensei. "Your mind is really damaging them."

You get the metaphor: We smash into barriers of shame, embarrassment, and regret because we pull our punches in myriad social situations. Stopping at what we think is the limit of embarrassing behavior, we let others claim the credit, the opportunity, the job, the person we love from afar.

The next time you feel performance anxiety in any form, remember that the negative attention you fear does not exist except in your mind—if this works with the hard, cold reality of my ice block, I guarantee it will work with something as vaporous as other people's opinions. Act as if there is no spotlight on you, even if there is one. Say, do, and be what you would if no one else were looking. It will be scary at first, but if you persist, there will come that liberating moment when you'll feel yourself sailing straight through your life's most inhibiting barriers without even feeling a bump.


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