written by eric fleming
I’ve been listening to an absurd amount of 70’s and 80’s jams and love songs as of late, one of which is Shalamar’s Make that Move. Aside from this song just being a jam of all jams, the lyrics really stood out to me. Shalamar stepped up into their respective pulpits, clad in shiny suits with flowing manes of jheri curl juice and preached hunties! “Make that Move! Right now baby! You only go around once in this lifetime!” The first verse begins with “So many times, by holding back I let the good things pass me by…” So simple, yet so profound as only a song from the 80’s can truly deliver.
The more I listened and did spins in the middle of my kitchen, I started to tear up, and it wasn’t from the onions I was cutting. Shalamar was sangin’ to me! I started thinking about how many times I passed on opportunities– for love, for deeper connectedness, for career– because I stopped myself with all the “what-if” questions. What if I say something and things go badly? What if we act on it and the friendship gets ruined? What if he doesn’t feel the way I do? What if people think I’m not qualified enough? What If I’m not good enough? You know…the “what-ifs.”
Why are they here? Perhaps the “what-ifs” emerged, out a need for self-preservation, to protect us. Maybe they’re seeking to keep us safe, within a container that feels familiar and free from threat.
Built-in soldiers actively looking out for us. Sounds great, right? What if by listening to those “what-ifs” we were actually harming ourselves? What if those parts of us, those “soldiers”, were no longer serving our best interests? Here’s where the “what-ifs” become problematic: oftentimes the voice driving them doesn’t represent what you stand for, or support the person you want to emerge into. In my case, more often than not, that voice is an old story from a very scared part of myself that still senses it needs to be protected. For example, growing up, I had fears of being vulnerable in front of people, so now those “what-ifs” work really hard to make sure I am protected and not vulnerable at all costs, despite the fact that openness and vulnerability are actually two values I hold very highly in my adult life. See the disparity? It’s rooted in an old need for protection that clearly still rears its head and has an influence on how I operate today. That “what-if” voice can keep me from asking out that guy I really like, or keep me from showing up to that networking event because itâ€™s safer to stay in the small, familiar place rather than stepping into what I really long for.
These skeptical soldiers keep us small. They keep us from attaining what’s deep in our heart of hearts. What would happen if we put the “what-ifs” to the side? If we were able to silence them, what answers would be standing there, in your face, screaming for you to notice them? Would you go for that job? Would you say yes to that relationship? How have your “what-ifs” kept you small? What have they prevented you from receiving?
So let’s kill ’em all, right? Death to the “what-ifs”! Here’s a thing to note about them: they’re a part of us and some have been around, working to protect us, for a really long time. They’re soldiers. They’re standing at their post, on the front lines, and have been for years. They’re loyal. Because they’re a part of us, we can’t rid them completely. We can, however, shift our relationship with them. That voice emerged because a need somewhere is or was not being met. Start by getting in touch with what that need is. What does that part of you need? What is that part of you dying to say? Why is that part of you still around? Bringing awareness to the fact that a fear is old, or that a need is no longer present, or perhaps even that a need is presently not being met can change everything. Awareness becomes empowerment. It’s the first critical step in shifting that relationship and taking power back over the what-ifs”.
What would our friends from Shalamar have to say about all of this? Hmmmmm. Let me tell you! “…nothing is certain. You’ve got to go for it when you feel it! ….make that move! Right now baby!” I usually don’t trust people with jheri curls, but I think they were on to something here. We have one chance in this lifetime to make it beautiful, full, and magical so why not just go for it? What do you have to lose? More importantly, what are you losing out on by staying small in your “what-ifs?”
Eric Fleming is a life coach based in New York City. Eric says of his work, ” I help clients make shifts when the cost is too high to stay put any longer.” His work focuses on challenging outdated notions of self, as well as social patterns that inform how we operate today. For more tips about ways to overcome your “what-ifs” or to find out more about how coaching can be beneficial for you, contact him at ejf.coaching (at) gmail.com.