When it comes to your bold idea, are you playing hide and seek?
Like a lot of people I know, I wasn’t the first to be picked for a sports team when I was a kid. In fact, I was more likely to be picked last.
Still, I wanted to be picked.
That hasn’t changed much 50 years later. I frequently harbor a longing to be picked. It wasn’t all that long ago that I opened a fortune cookie to read, “Someone you know believes in you.”
Even knowing it was a silly mass-produced sliver of paper baked into a sugary confection, I still felt delight in reading it. Could it be true? Even at my age?
I suspect that may be true for most of us. There’s a longing we all have to be recognized; to have someone say, “You’re important.”
Yet, there’s another dynamic I’ve seen at work in my own life. Perhaps you’ve seen it too.
Maybe it just an extrovert thing I do, but out of my longing to be noticed, I hide. I know it seems strange. Extroverts don’t hide. But, often, I find myself waiting for something before I give myself a push. I procrastinate on the thing I might want to do, until…what? Someone says they want it?
That’s like a perverse game of hide and seek. I hide hoping someone notices. Surely, if they notice when I’m hiding—seeking me out for my advice or to make that big we-can’t-do-it-without-you contribution—then it tells me I’m even more special.
Social proof is what psychologists call it when we esteem something as valuable because others do. We buy products on Amazon that have the most positive reviews, for instance. We look at the viewer count on YouTube videos before we hit “play.” We get excited to see the “Likes” pile up on our Facebook post.
But what if we have no social proof? What if there’s no crowd? What if there are no seekers?
It’s easier to stay in hiding—to not bring forth what you and I are meant to create—than to risk an unacceptable answer to the question of our value. Some of us hide, ironically, because we want others to take notice. Others because we don’t. Shame has us believe that what’s defective in us is terminal. Revealing ourselves would expose the failure we believe ourselves to be.
But to stay in hiding is to suffer a greater loss. For while the world may be blind to our presence, something greater than our personal validation is at stake. To stay in hiding is to lose the exclusiveness of our contribution to the very world that may not seem to care.
No one else is designed to bring forth what only we can. And the truth is, we don’t need the world to notice us in order to do so.
So, it’s time to pick yourself. Believe in your greater purpose and stop procrastinating on what you’ve longed to create.
It’s time to let go of what others might say or think and go make it happen.
It’s time to quit the game and finally say, “Olly, olly in come free.”
A version of this post originally appeared on learygates.com.