When I was a kid, I did gymnastics for a while. When I was maybe 12 or 13, I learned how to do a roundoff back handspring back tuck so I could move up to level 6.
One time at practice, my coach was telling me my back tucks were getting really low to the ground, because I was throwing my head back instead of setting properly and going up first. So I tried again, and in the middle of doing the skill, I went “wait wtf am I doing?” In midair, upside down is not a good time to experience sudden self-doubt. I fell on my head. Nothing serious was hurt, but I was done with practice for the afternoon just in case.
And after that, I couldn’t do back tucks without someone spotting me. I fixed the actual physical problem, I could do the skill better than I ever had before, but I could not make myself do it unless someone was standing out on the floor to spot me. They weren’t helping me, they didn’t even have to touch me, they just had to be there.
This went on for ages. I could do the thing with a spot. I could even do a back tuck from standing, which is objectively harder because you don’t have any momentum to help you. I could not do it in e.g. the level 6 compulsory floor routine.
And the most helpful thing a coach said to me wasn’t “you can do it!” It was “look. realistically? the worst thing that could happen is you land on your knees. you’ve done that before, it’s not that bad.”
And so finally, at a meet, mostly out of sheer frustration, I went “fuck it, I probably won’t die,” and did it. And I landed on my feet.
And I feel like there’s a metaphor there. For the times where by any objective measure I can Do The Thing–but that doesn’t matter if my brain won’t let me because it is convinced that flinging myself up into the air, backwards, is a fucking terrible idea and what the hell am I thinking?
There’s a lot of things about life, especially right now, that feel a little like I’m flinging myself up into the air, backwards. All the evidence suggests that I will land on my feet. But nobody’s standing there to catch me, and what if? What if I get up in the air and forget how to do it and fall?
But what if I fall?! is my brain trying to protect me. It doesn’t help to yell at it about how wrong it is. What can help is saying “OK, then you fall. But you know how to fall. You’ve done it before. You fall, you get up, you figure out what went wrong and you try again.”