Last week was a big week for my son Sam and I. We both tried doing new things, meeting new people, and risked looking like we didn’t know what we were doing in front of people that might judge us.
Yes, Sam is 5, and I’m 42, but no matter the age, we all feel a bit of anxiety trying new things.
One of those new things was Sam trying a martial arts class again (the first time didn’t go that well). The other thing was me joining and meeting up with a local hiking group for the first time and heading off for an all-day hike.
These both seem like small things but they can elicit some surprisingly strong fears.
First up was Sam. He and I joined a Taekwondo school (Will Murray Martial Arts) for a “test” lesson at the local hub of community events here (a church two doors down from our house).
Walking up to the lesson was scary. There were lots of people in uniform (i.e. wearing ‘doboks’). The instructor was waiting for us and came to the door (he was great). The lesson started with lots of shouting and military-style warm-ups. It was pretty intense for Sam, and he was close to quitting. We sat on the side together and watched the first half of the class. Eventually, he was able to see that it was no big deal. The pads came out, and he got to start punching and kicking things. We introduced ourselves to another little boy that, it turned out, was in his class at school.
By the end, he was smiling from ear to ear and he couldn’t wait to go back.
Next up was me joining the local hiking group. I shared that experience already on Ben Lomond , but it was funny to think about it in the same context of Sam starting something new. I felt the same twinge of anxiety of meeting new people and doing something new, where I don’t really know what to expect, that he surely felt with Taekwondo.
And just like with Sam, in the end my experience didn’t turn out to be scary at all. I was grinning ear to ear just the same (although it was a soaking wet grin), and I can’t wait to join up again.
These might seem like silly examples of doing new things, but they took surprisingly long for Sam and I to finally do despite strong interest from us both.
I am used to telling myself that I’m an introvert and that is why I find it hard to try new things, and I lump Sam into this same bucket since he isn’t as social as his sister. This is probably unfair to Sam, and the wrong way to think about my own behavior (even if it is true that I am more introverted than not).
In the hundred or so years since Carl Jung popularized the term “introvert,” a few common misconceptions have emerged. Foremost among them is that introversion is the same as shyness or a lack of confidence. Jung’s more nuanced position was that introverts are people who focus their energy inwards, thoughtful and connected with feeling. Their extraverted counterparts, meanwhile, project outwards, thriving on interaction and attention.
My own fear of trying new things, along with my son’s fear of doing a move wrong or my daughter’s fear of singing loudly in front of her dance class, is most likely just the fear of being judged. As described in Fear of judgement: why we are afraid of being judged, this fear is normal, and it can be managed.
One of the ways to get past the fear of judgement is by starting small and building on the confidence that you gain, bit by bit (or kick by kick 🥋). So that’s what we’re doing.
I like to think of this fear of judgement as “good” fear. It’s a sign we are doing something meaningful, that we’ll learn from.
Taking that small step made it a big week.