Breaking through the Chains
When considering a prison, I think of chains that constrain prisoners. But the prison I am thinking about lacks metal bars and cold concrete walls. This prison is self-consciousness, and it dwells in my mind. It traps me in chains, confining me to one way of life that does not permit me to be myself. When I look back on my childhood, I remember that I was very shy. The night before my first day of middle school I was so nervous about meeting new people. I was afraid my new classmates wouldn’t like me. The next day at school, I barley talked to anyone I didn’t already know, clinging to my friends from elementary school. Remembering it now, I realize I was shy because I was afraid of what people would think about me. Although I am still a little shy at times, I overcame my fears, and now I interact with people easily. I believe that the most important fear to overcome is self-consciousness, because it puts limits on our lives.
There have been times in my life where I have let the fear of others’ judgments hold me back from being an individual. I remember riding the bus to school one day, and kids were talking about American Idol. Now, at the time, I was an avid viewer of American Idol. I was prepared to join the conversation when one of the kids said they hated American Idol and it was a ridiculous show. Suddenly, everyone began to agree with this person. Rather than being bold and sharing my thoughts on the matter, I swallowed my opinion, and I continued to stare out the window. Instead of summoning courage to state my opinion, I remained silent, bound by the “chains” of self-consciousness. I thought I was protecting myself. Instead, I was giving up my freedom to express myself.
When you allow the feeling of self-consciousness to rule your life, you are placing invisible limitations on yourself. I can’t tell you how restricted and out of control my life felt when I was overly self-conscious. Hiding my insecurities by creating a false image of me that mirrored the socially accepted was not a fulfilling way of life. I have learned that it is really difficult to control my life and live it how I choose, when I focus on how others view me. Submitting yourself to self-consciousness is like placing metal chains around your ankles, and you can only go so far before you trip and fall. I believe that breaking through the metal chains is immensely important and once you do, the feeling of freedom is empowering and satisfying.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.