Thursday, November 03, 2005

Intimidating... I think not

Intimidating? I think not . . .
30 September 2005

I have been told several times that I am ‘intimidating.’ Growing up I thought that was just an easy out for guys because I never saw myself as being that way. As I have gotten older, I realize that it may not just be a lame excuse. However, I do believe that is the wrong term for what guys/girls feel around someone who may be amazing, impressive, talented, etc. I decided to check out Webster’s explanation for ‘intimidate’ and discovered that this is definitely not something that I aspire to be nor do I think that this describes my personality. The definition states “to make timid; fill with fear; to coerce or inhibit as if by threats.” Ouch. So often ‘intimidating’ has been used in a positive context to describe someone who has a strong and independent personality, but I do not think that it is being used in the correct context. As if the definition weren’t bad enough… the synonyms seal the deal: browbeat, bulldoze, cow, bully, bludgeon. I don’t know about you, but I never want anyone to tell me that I am ‘intimidating’ if it’s used in the correct context.

So what do people mean? Well, that is really the question at hand. Most often, this term is used in reference to someone whom we revere or admire or who has amazing qualities in that we feel somewhat inadequate in their presence. I suppose you could substitute the word ‘awe’ as well. I am in no way claiming that I am magnificent or amazing, but I have been trying to figure this one out for almost a decade. What makes someone so ‘intimidating,’ as we say? I am not a bully. I do not bulldoze people. I have never bludgeoned anyone. And I don’t think I am very scary.

I have been told that doing the Ironman is somewhat intimidating, but the only bludgeoning going on there was on my own body. In terms of that accomplishment, it’s a part of me. It’s something I wanted to do and did, and I would not change that. Does it make me superhuman? Absolutely not. Does it make me different from everyone else? Only because I have the medal that says I did it. What separates me from everyone else is that I wanted it bad enough to put the time and effort into doing it. I believe most people could finish an Ironman if they really wanted to. Is it a big deal? I suppose that depends on how you look at. It was one of the best experiences of my life, but it does not make me better than anyone else. I would venture to say that anyone who has accomplished something they set their heart on and mind to would say that it was a big deal. But I doubt many of those people would say that it makes them better than anyone else. It’s a personal triumph. Lance Armstrong is an amazing cyclist who has won the Tour d’ France seven times, and although he is a better cyclist than just about anyone, that doesn’t make him a better person. I admire his abilities but I am not intimidated by them. Inadequate, probably.

Let’s shift the focus. I have at times probably said that so-and-so was intimidating to me. Maybe he/she has amazing talents, can play the guitar like Dave Matthews or has a voice that belongs on Broadway, did the Ironman faster, went to Harvard and Columbia at the same time, has an intellectual capacity that far exceeds my own, is ridiculously good looking, makes more money, has a sexier job, drives a nicer car, lives in a hipper neighborhood, etc. If I really think about it, I don’t think any of these people are scary. I think at times I feel inadequate or in awe at what they have accomplished or are able to do, but they do not strike fear in my heart. Perhaps the fear comes when we feel as though we are somehow unworthy of being in their presence, being their friend or possible love interest. We are afraid of talking to them, being bold, taking a risk or having courage for fear of rejection or not being accepted or looked down upon. I know because I have felt that way before. But those feelings generally come because we are comparing apples to oranges.

I am not an investment banker. I didn’t go to Harvard, and I don’t drive an Audi. I can’t sing to save my life, and I hate being on camera so acting is out of the picture. It doesn’t make sense for us to compare ourselves to anyone who has done those things or has been blessed with those talents. Maybe you are a prima ballerina or an accomplished artist. Maybe you have done a dozen marathons, gone to Boston or done the Ironman and qualified for Hawaii. Maybe you are witty and come up with puns quickly, have an electric personality or the ability to make everyone feel like your best friend. Maybe you are an amazing cook or have the ability to write in such a way that it touches the souls of anyone who reads it. Maybe you play the guitar or the piano, write musical scores for films or teach people English. Maybe you have an eye for photography and capture images that evoke nostalgia. Whatever it is, I guarantee that we all have something to offer those around us. It should never be a matter of feeling unworthy or as though we have nothing to contribute to the other person’s life. That is absurd.

In the end, it’s really a matter of knowing, understanding and loving those things that are uniquely us. We are all amazing individuals with beauty emanating from our countenances. We all have talents, intelligence and creativity, but what value do we place on it? If we value those things that we are good at and that we have accomplished, other people will value them too. But if we somehow place less value on them compared to someone else or something else, then it is inevitable that we will feel inadequate and at times afraid of those around us. Things can be intimidating, but people should not be referred to as such unless they are a military drill sergeant or the neighborhood bully.

We should remember that those people that we often feel inadequate around probably feel inadequate about things too, but if we never give them a chance, we will never know. It would be a great tragedy to miss out on the intimate associations of many of the world’s finest because we felt inadequate, unworthy and unable to contribute. And the world’s finest may live across the street from us, be standing in front of us or smiling at us from afar. Take courage and value what makes you unique and amazing. You have nothing to lose by offering a piece of yourself but everything to lose by keeping to yourself and always wondering what ‘might’ have happened had you taken the risk.

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