Did you ever get to play with a piñata as a kid? Your friends or family would place a mask over your eyes and a stick in your hands and they’d spin you around until you felt lost in space. Then they’d set you free to swing through the air looking for clues that you were close to the fantastic stuffed prize that could unleash a bounty of treats with one glorious, well-aimed strike.
I believe life is like a tantalizing game of piñata. We’re unleashed into the world, blinded by expectations and external narratives, and it’s up to us to move through the space around us looking for clues that a bounty of delicious fulfillment is nearby. Occasionally, we make contact with these fulfilling experiences and, like a child, we find ourselves energized and renewed, knowing we’re in the realm of the prized experiences we seek.
I like to refer to these giddy sensations as Wiggles, and they let us know that our piñata is within reach! But sometimes we give up and stop trying before we reach the destination in our game. Why?? I’ve had many such moments in the past, where I became stopped even though I was making meaningful progress in this game of life. I’m now calling these cringey moments.
I recently discovered the term cringey, which is defined as “tending to cause one to cringe” and “causing feelings of acute embarrassment or awkwardness.” Though the word is relatively new in my vocabulary, I know the concept well.
For me, cringey describes my awkward moments that are visible to others, and they usually trigger my insecurities.
I fully admit that my fear of cringey moments has stopped me from engaging in activities that might otherwise be meaningful or impactful. But I recently had an experience that challenged this fearful narrative and it has begun to shift my mindset around these awkward moments.
A couple of months ago, I was invited to be a guest on the Athena Wellness podcast with Kathy Robinson. I admire and respect Kathy and I deeply enjoy her podcast, so I accepted her invitation and I went into the interaction feeling both nervous and excited. As we wrapped up the 45-minute recording session, I felt a pit form in my stomach and the immediate sensation of regret began to rise up in my body. I couldn’t remember most of what I had said and I was suddenly fearful that I had blabbered on and on without allowing the host to get a word in edgewise.
I immediately thought, “Uh oh! I want a redo!” But there are no redos in podcast guesting. Whatever takes place goes out into the world for everyone to hear, forever immortalized in digital history. A stream of negative and fearful thoughts followed: "What was I thinking?? This was a terrible idea! I'm not a professional public speaker! Why did I think I was capable of engaging at this level? I can't take this back and it's going to be in the world forever! It's going to define how people think of me! I don't think I should do this again."
In all honesty, my heart didn't really believe those statements, but you couldn't have told my mind or my body otherwise in that moment. So after I did some deep breathing, I began my anxiety management.
My process for navigating this cringey moment involved 4 steps:
1. Remembering why I took this action in the first place and why it is meaningful to me
2. Connecting with the source of my fear and putting it in perspective
3. Identifying the worst-case scenario
4. Realizing the value in the experience
1.) Why I took this action
Podcasts play an important role in my daily life. I have a lot of windshield time with my job and this time behind the wheel is when I get to listen to incredibly wise and articulate voices that engage and inspire me throughout the day while I work. My mind becomes filled with imagery and concepts that expand my world and enlighten my own experiences. The ideas and stories shared by others tickle my wiggles and stimulate a sense of purpose and meaning in my life.
I began writing about wiggles and the meaningful process of personal reinvention several years ago because I wanted to positively impact the lives of others in the same way that I’ve been impacted by the positive messages of the thought-leaders I follow. It made sense that a logical progression for me would be to continue sharing meaningful ideas and stories through the platform of podcasting, in addition to writing.
2.) Connecting with the source of my fear
What I fear most in the present and the future is usually pretty deeply rooted in my past. When I was a child (an awkward one at that), my embarrassing moments made me the target of bullying. The prospect of podcasting touches on these emotional nerves and I immediately envision myself as a pre-teen and teenager, sitting in class with my ADD mind everywhere but on the subject the teacher is teaching. Then comes the dreaded moment when the teacher calls on me and my usually busy mind is suddenly blank. I imagine my eyes are big like a deer in headlights, the silence in the room is severe, and a disappointed look is on the teacher’s face. Then the snickers from other students begin and my self-loathing follows.
For me, this is an absolute nightmare, and I’ve actively avoided experiences that could trigger this memory and the emotions associated with it. But I also recognize that I’m not a vulnerable teenager anymore and my uncomfortable experiences don’t define me or reveal weakness. If anything, these awkward moments help me learn how to be more skillful in navigating these experiences in the future.
3.) Identifying the worst-case scenario
I identified two worst-case scenarios—one real and one perceived. In reality, the worst thing that could happen is I bomb the interview and I choose not to share it with my audience or anyone I know. It’s then broadcast to a group of total strangers and everyone forgets about it within a matter of days. Yes, it will still be on the web, but it will become lost in the noise and (hopefully) overshadowed by other, more meaningful work that I do in the future.
My perceived worst-case scenario is that I bomb the interview, interpret it to mean I’m a failure, descend into a deep depression, and cease to be able to function in life. Wait, what?? Seriously?? Whose voice is that?? Oh wait, that’s my 16-year-old self, to whom I would say, “Oh sweetheart, we are so far past that BS!” I’d then remind myself of my old mantra—“If I don’t mind, then it don’t matter.” I’d end up laughing it off and chalking it up to a failed experiment.
4.) Realizing the value in the experience
Regardless of the outcome of this singular experience, I realized there would be some really valuable benefits I could look forward to as a result.
1. I did a lot of preparation for this interview and I created a great outline I could use in the future.
2. I would learn what worked and what didn’t work and I could improve on the cringey parts.
3. I could learn how to hone my message better to be more impactful in the future.
4. Not everyone who listens to this podcast is going to love or relate to my message, but someone, somewhere, is struggling and my story will provide them with hope and inspiration.
5. Many of my past audios and interviews felt overly scripted and I’ve wanted to learn how to be more spontaneous and relatable. In this interview I became truly present and immersed in the experience (which is probably why I couldn’t remember it afterward). So I could consider that a success!
6. I know that achieving anything worthwhile requires stepping out of my comfort zone, and I did exactly that! I can feel good that I did something that scared me and I built more courage muscles in the process!
Six weeks after the original recording of my interview, I sat down with my cringey coping skills and listened to the debut of my conversation with Kathy on the Athena Wellness podcast. I fully admit that the first four minutes of the podcast were indeed cringey. I had over-prepared and I was nervous, so I blabbered on and on in response to a simple introductory question.
But then something beautiful happened! As the interview continued, I noticed that I had become fully present and began sharing my story from a very compassionate and wise place. While listening to the remaining 35 minutes of the episode, I felt my body relax and I became immersed in my own narrative. I even found myself feeling inspired by my own story! I listened to my voice as if it were coming from an older, wiser me. I nearly forgot the voice coming through the speaker was my own. Rather, I envisioned the voice belonging to a mentor—my own inner mentor!
So yes, there were a few cringey moments in this game of piñata, where I swung blindly, hoping to connect with my own potential. But those awkward moments were quickly overshadowed by the breaking-open of my purposeful piñata and the outpouring of a deep knowing that I can do this!
If you’d like to listen to episode #197 of the Athena Wellness podcast: Inner Exploration and Reinvention with Karen Salita, please click on one of the links below. In this episode, I share how competitive snowboarding and punk rock culture helped me to transform my painful childhood experiences and to become outspoken on topics that matter to me. I also delve into how injuries from snowboarding exposed some of those childhood wounds and the spiritual process I used to enable my healing (a process which continues today, as this blog post reveals).
As an additional bonus, episode #198: Disrupting your Deep Grooves with Karen Salita offers a short 10-minute deep-dive into my decision to go back to school and pursue a graduate degree.
I would love and appreciate any feedback you have for me on either podcast interview or this blog post itself. Please feel free to comment below or send me a note through the Contact page on this website.
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