On my journey so far... I've encountered both friends and foes along the way. I've been my happiest when I've been surrounded by friends and learned how to keep the foes at bay. When I say "friends" though... I don't mean the typical kind of friend you're thinking of. Nor do I mean "foe" in the traditional sense of the word. Perhaps you'll know one of these foes well...
There is a terrible monster out there that gets in the way of all good change... A monster named "FEAR". This monster has far reaching tentacles that wrap around our arms and legs and tether us to the status quo. It tells us lies about our abilities and talents... Convincing us that we aren't "good enough". It poisons us with doubt, negativity, and resentment while simultaneously sucking every ounce of hope, light, and optimism from our souls. Fear is an ugly, cruel monster that can transform into other emotions too. Sometimes it will morph into anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. It can permeate through everything that matters to us and often grows like a cancerous tumour from one part of our lives to others. It keeps us down by feeding our insecurities and while convincing us that it is just better to stay safe where we are... under the radar... out of view... in the shadows.
There are different types of Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of success. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of loss. Fear of shame. Fear of being let down. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being judged. I think I've felt all of these at some point on my journey, but in terms of my business ventures - including Kemba... I think Fear of being judged was the greatest Fear of all.
Fear is a formidable foe for many of us... But Fear is not invincible. Fear is actually much like the little dog with the big bark... And although Fear may be persistent and keep coming back, I truly believe we ALL have what we need... Inside of us right now... To keep this foe at bay. We have a trio of friends that I call "Whatever", "Try it", and "Believe".
Oddly enough, Kemba all began with a single strand of light blue gemstones. I found them while cleaning out my basement one day. I can't recall where or why I ever bought them but when I held them in my hand trying to decide if they should go in the "throw" or "keep" pile... I was drawn to them. The colour! The smooth texture! The coolness of them on my skin! How they were so much more beautiful strung together than they would have been as a single stone. I sort of fell in love with these little rocks and as you might have guessed, they ended up being keepers. I think I knew there and then that these beads were begging to be made into a piece of jewelry.
It was a slippery slope my friends. One strand of beads does not a bracelet make! If I was going to DO something with these stones... I was going to need string, or wire, or SOMETHING! And then how on earth do you attach a clasp? How long should it be? What tools do I need? Well, I got so brave as to wander down the jewelry supply aisle at the big box crafting store and suddenly realized... There's an entire UNIVERSE around jewelry making. I'd never given it a second thought until then. It was an epiphany of sorts that OH... So this is actually a THING!? This is right about the time that Fear showed up. I felt overwhelmed by looking at all the different tools... Types of stringing material... Charms, chain, beads... Books... And there were other people in the aisle shopping for their stuff who all seemed to know exactly what they were looking for and how they were going to use it! My mind raced to..."I'm going to have to take a course or read a book to figure this out... But who am I to think that I might have any kind of talent in this area?". Only people with natural talent take these kinds of courses... Courses cost money, after all and why would I waste my money taking a course on something that I'd never be able to do? Why would I spend my money to go to a course only to look dumb and foolish? To be judged by others? What would I do with this jewelry anyway? Fear was making quite the little nest for himself in my brain. I had gone from wanting to make a harmless little bracelet with my pretty little stones to suddenly feeling overwhelmed and inadequate while standing in a craft store aisle. I put my basket of supplies back and grabbed a how-to-make-jewelry magazine instead. It seemed like the safer route and by this point, I just wanted to get out of there!
So the magazine... It was filled with beautiful pictures and even patterns that the 'experts' had drawn up to help beginners like me make something out of a string of beads. Even the instructions seemed overwhelming though. It was a whole new vocabulary... "seed bead, crimp bead, crimp tube, toggle, 24 gauge wire, headpins, knots, peyote stitch, bead caps, spacers..." seriously... WTH? I just wanted to string the pretty beads and have some type of clasp added on so I could prevent the bracelet from falling apart! Feeling entirely exasperated at this point... I realized one of my very first friends on this jewelry making journey. I call her "Whatever". "Whatever, Mr. Magazine and all your tips and tricks! Whatever Mr. Craft Store and all your beads and tools. I'm just going to string these damn beads onto a stretchy piece of cord, tie a simple knot, try it on and see what it looks like". "Whatever" was my first friend that showed me that rules are made to be broken. "Whatever" was my first clue to finding a grander freedom from Fear.
You can probably guess that the bracelet fit perfectly. The beads were gorgeous and the whole "making" process took no time at all. I was quite pleased with myself for telling that little FEAR monster "Whatever" and for making the bracelet anyway. I did it without the magazine. Without the course. Without all the fancy supplies. I did it MY way. Take THAT, you little monster!!
So now what? What would happen if I actually wore this thing to work one day? Would someone see it and instantly think that it looked like a child hacked it together? Would others think I was silly for making my own jewelry? Would I be judged for wearing a self-made bracelet with my high-end-fashion outfit? Would it make me look like an amateur in my professional work environment? Good grief... FEAR was at it again. It sounds so silly now, to trace my thoughts back then. My current self says to the old one... WHO CARES?? Wear the damn bracelet and to heck with anyone that has something negative to say! But I have to be gentle with my old self. She was feeling trapped and scared. She was in an environment where judgement DID happen. Maybe not with jewelry... But with bigger things. There was such a thing as "career-limiting moves". My old self... She was always aiming to please and impress. She was living with Fear nested in her brain and it had spread to effect so many aspects of her life. The bracelet was merely the symbolic, tangible piece of evidence that I was STUCK by Fear in so many ways.
It was at this point that another one of my good friends, "Try it" stepped in. Whenever she spoke, I felt safe. "Trying" something wasn't the same as "Committing" to something. We can try things out without declaring "this is me and this is my handmade bracelet". Instead, we can try wearing the bracelet (maybe with long sleeves just in case) and test the waters carefully. If it's noticed and it is judged... We haven't committed to doing this all the time so we can retreat! If it is noticed and it is liked... Well... Why would THAT ever happen?
I wore it. It was noticed. It was not just liked... It was LOVED. Something so unexpected happened that day. Someone did the exact opposite of what Fear was telling me would happen. A co-worker asked to see it more closely and was actually impressed that I was able to make something so beautiful. Impressed!? She admired me for the fact that I was "so adventurous" to try making my own jewelry. Adventurous! HA! But all I did was string on the beads (it wasn't hard... they had holes after all) and tie a knot. But here was another new friend that entered stage right... "Belief". This colleague of mine asked me to make her one too. She believed in, trusted, and had faith that I was capable of making her something special. I started to question the monster... "So if she can believe in me... Why can't I believe in me?".
The rest of the story that has brought me to today has had plenty of ups and downs and Fear still tries to sneak back in from time to time. But here's the thing... I've found freedom on my journey. The bracelet was just the beginning. A very small and relatively insignificant event in the entire scheme of my personal and professional growth. It was just a damn bracelet, after all!! But those blue stones taught me a lot and they introduced me to some very important friends.
It is because of "Whatever", "Try It" and "Belief" that I am free from the Fear of being judged. It's not that I don't care what other people think, it's just that I care about my own happiness more. I know that I am happiest when I'm following my joy and when I'm expressing myself through my imagination. I have found Freedom through imagination. Not just with jewelry! By imagining "What if" (another new BFF), I now coach others on stretching their wings. I consult with organizations that are looking to implement large scale change. I no longer feel tethered to "What is" because I truly believe that anything is possible. That belief, and this freedom means more to me than the opinions of others. This is why I am committed to now to helping others find their own way and how to deal with the Fear monster. I will continue to create and try new things and if there was one message I could leave you with today... It would be something that a very good (in the flesh) friend has taught me. Through her own journey, she has discovered her mantra... Her personal expression... "Faith Over Fear Everyday." She's so, SO right!
Surround yourself with the right friends. I know I am forever grateful for those in my circle.