Yesterday, I saw a post by Chris Brogan that said that Julien Smith, his co-author on Trust Agents, was releasing a e-book for free on Amazon as part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project. The book is called Flinch. After realizing just how technologically not savvy I am, I successfully loaded the book on to my brand spanking new Kindle for iPhone app. I started reading at lunch today and finished reading at dinner.
I had intended on reading this book and offering a supportive review, assuming I liked it. See, here’s the thing. When I first started in social media, one of the first things I did was write a series of reviews on Trust Agents. I loved the idea of talking to authors as you read their books, and so I copied Chris and Julien whenever I had a new chapter’s review up. To my shock and wonder, both men were extremely kind and supportive given how very new I was. Sure, I was writing about their book, but I had no big audience. My opinions weren’t going to sway anyone. I don’t forget things like that. So, read Julien’s book, write a nice review, hopefully help him with his project.
Only that’s not what this particular journey ended up being for me. That’s not actually what this post will be. As it happens, Julien has given me another gift that I will not be able to pay back, so I’m just hoping I can pay it forward.
Life as a Little Person
As some of you who come here often know, I am by average societal standards a little person. I’m 4’5. I am not a dwarf like the folks you may have seen on Little People, Big World – Those folks have a condition called Achondroplasia, which means they are smaller than I am many times, and they also may have disproportionate arms, legs, etc. I am symmetrical (at least physically), just sort of miniature. You would think that a ruler’s length of height would not make much of a difference, but in fact, it does. For as long as I can remember, leaving the safety of my home has meant opening myself up to ridicule from even some of the most unexpected corners. In high school, I was mocked by custodians and bus drivers as well as other kids. I have been handed children’s menus countless times while on business lunches.
The ridicule is not the only issue when you are “different” – however that difference may surface for you. For me, a lot of every day things are painful or even dangerous. For example, in order to drive, I have to sit really close to the steering wheel, as in my tummy is almost against it. If I ever get into a fender bender hard enough to pop the airbag, the force of it opening could kill me. That’s not a lot of fun to think about.
Many people face challenges in their lives and certainly many of them are worse than mine. These are just the facts.
After reading Julien’s book, I find that I am able to describe these things with a sense of pride. Why? Because every time I get behind my wheel, I’m overpowering my flinch reaction, which is to say, “Heck no. That’s stupid and scary.” Every time I go to a restaurant or out to a store, I am fighting my flinch reaction, which is, “Man, I just can’t deal with people looking at me or making their snide remarks.”
I fight my flinches every day, and if you don’t mind my saying so, I think, all-told, I do pretty okay.
If I gave in to my flinches, my life would be less than what Julien describes. I wouldn’t be caught in corridors. I’d be caught in a box.
Fighting flinches can be really tiring
Julien talks about how a lot of people who always fight flinches don’t really think about it and people who always give in to flinches don’t really think about it. I had, to be honest, never really given myself credit for the flinches I’ve fought until reading this book, but I got an inkling of it back when I was doing those Trust Agents book reviews as a newbie to the online world. Why? Simple. In the online world, my words can float out here disembodied from this shell of mine that so many people find funny. People can meet my brain and my heart and there are no “Why are you so small?” questions, no knowing laughs or “You remind me of my tiny Aunt Helga” comments. Here in the online world, I am remarkably free of all that makes me flinch. Thanks to Mr. Smith, I now can see the contrast between that light feeling and all that I want to flinch against on a daily basis.
That’s quite a gift.
If I can do it, you can do it
If I can go out into the world knowing there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll get picked on when I’m out there in some way or another, I’m pretty sure there is a flinch you can conquer. But first you have to identify it. And to do that, I highly suggest you read Flinch and let your mind sail. Let Julien’s words about our primeval reactions take you deep within yourself, because that’s how you discover what makes you flinch and what releases you from that pressure. You may find, as I did, that you are a much better flinch fighter than you give yourself credit for.
I bet you are.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a_ninjamonkey/3565672226 via creative commons