Are you avoiding something? What happens when you hide from risk.


I have recently returned to playing piano after a 20-year break. I didn’t return to piano or music because I miss it, or because I’m talented, or because I have no musical aptitude, or that I loved piano, or that I longed to play music again. I returned to it because I’m wondering why I stopped playing. What was so terrible about playing that has kept me from it for so long? What am I resisting? What does returning to music have to teach me? 

When I think of playing music, the one of the variables that screams the loudly in my ears is the terror of playing wrong notes.  My perfectionistic mind would go down the rabbit hole whenever I played a wrong note, reminding me that I’m a fraud, that I’m not talented, that I shouldn’t play. However, after years and years of being afraid of playing wrong notes, I stopped. I was sick fearing playing wrong notes, feeling like I was wrong, or a fraud, a disappointment. So, it felt like a life or death risk I was taking, every single time I sat down to play piano.

In actuality, I was beguiled by the shroud of perfectionism. I had the illusion that if I were perfect, or played everything perfectly, I wouldn’t be criticized, wrong, or a failure. In my mind, if I were perfect, I would be lovable and wouldn’t get hurt.

You may be thinking, “I’m not the creative type,” but, I urge you to look a bit closer with me. Where in your life are you afraid to take a risk of playing a “wrong note?” Does avoiding risk look like never telling your leader about a great idea? Is it never trying that yoga class? Is it never answering a question in class? Is it not speaking up in a meeting? Is it never telling someone how you really feel? Is it avoiding going back to school to learn something new?

The definition of risk is a situation involving exposure to danger, harm, or loss. Now let’s pause…is playing a wrong note dangerous? Is hearing “no” to your great idea truly harmful? Is being not being a yoga guru during your first yoga class really a loss, dangerous, or harmful?  Yes, we may feel uncomfortable or exposed. But, what are you missing out on if you don’t take a risk?

According to Investopedia, “a risk averse investor is an investor who prefers lower returns with known risks rather than higher returns with unknown risks.” How far are you willing to go with lower life returns?  Never traveling abroad? Never studying what you yearn for? Never creating change in your workplace, or the world? Never performing on stage again? Never exploring the possibility of sharing your heart and soul with someone?

As we sit in the paralysis of our comfort zone, the perceived electrical shock from our invisible fence gets stronger and our yard area gets smaller. We anticipate the shock before we get near the project, the application, the interview, the stage, the piano, the class. Then, before we know it, life passes us by when and we’re full of regret and “what ifs.” If we hide from risk, we miss out on life’s teaching moments, rewards and possibilities.

Being a life-liver, woman, artist, teacher, nurturer, musician, healer, intuitive, entrepreneur, and contributor to the planet’s evolution, I want to be catalyst for creating conscious living. If I hide from risk, I keep myself small. I’m keeping YOU small. Examine which risk you’re shying away from, and do it! Experience the greatest return you can imagine.

Jessica Sharpenstein, M.S., C.W.C.