All my life, I thought of myself as — well, I have to give it to you the way I thought it – I’m not athletic. I told people I couldn’t do this or that because I had lousy eye/hand coordination. I never thought much about it unless questioned: I just didn’t do things. It’s true that I am naturally inclined toward mental activity, but I often envied those with natural athletic ability and thought I might enjoy playing some of the games they played if only I could.
Anyhow, when I was about 45, I accompanied my husband to a convention that was being held at The Cloisters on Sea Island. It’s a lovely oceanfront resort with many amenities and it was a treat to be there. One afternoon, my husband decided to go to their sporting clay shooting club. I was along for the ride and he said, why don’t you try it? I said, I couldn’t do that – I’ve never touched a gun and —- I have lousy eye/hand coordination. Well, he wouldn’t settle for that answer and I gave in. The staff was very helpful and found the right gun and a vest so I didn’t hurt my shoulder and a gentleman took me out to the range to give it a go. He was patient in his instruction and helped me hold the gun correctly and showed me where to aim and generally guided me through the whole thing, literally holding the gun with me and helping me aim. I hit a clay every once in a while, but not often. After a while, I said, can I try on my own? He said sure and I did and I never missed after that. Turns out I’m a great shot. Who knew? Who even imagined? You see, you can’t do that if you have lousy eye/hand coordination. You just can’t. And that turned my view of myself upside down. Since then, I’ve learned to play tennis (pretty badly) and golf (pretty well) and I’m a great fisherperson and eager to try new things – new athletic things.
I don’t know why I thought I was not athletic. I don’t remember any painful events and my parents didn’t tell me that. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably tried some things as a child that I didn’t know how to do and just decided on my own that I was limited in that way. But I do know that those beliefs held me back and limited my view of my self as well as my opportunities for decades. I’m grateful I got the chance to revise them in light of new information. This little experience also led me to look anew at other limiting beliefs and ask myself hard questions about them and to do that for other people with a new conviction that doing so would be helpful to them.
A very long time ago, around 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Socrates wrote, the unexamined life is not worth living. I think he may have been onto something. Self-awareness is the key that unlocks the door to everything else. Without it, nothing changes: we are stuck with the same old limiting beliefs and behaviors. With it comes hope and possibility.
No matter where we are in our lives, young or old or in the middle, succeeding or failing, striving or resting, reaching or retreating, it’s always the right time for self-awareness. We are all more than we know and the more we know, the more we have to give. It matters.