Often, there’s a theme to the client conversations I’m having. Last week, that theme was fear. Mostly, we’re not speaking about big fears but rather, everyday worries that keep us from living courageous and fulfilling lives.
It’s the small fears that hold us back most. Like speaking up in a meeting, making conversation at a networking event, inviting an acquaintance for coffee or starting the search for a new role.
When you’re locked in a mindset of fear, sometimes this keeps you in circumstances that aren’t great for your wellbeing. Fear can cloud our decision-making and the ability to think rationally.
Here are a few of the most common fears and some practical tips about how to overcome them.
Worrying about what other people think
Rationally, we know it’s inevitable that some people will agree with our choices and others won’t, but many of us are overly worried about what other people think.
The people who care most about you might express concern about decisions they don’t fully understand or that don’t fit with their values, however at the end of the day, they’re concerned because they want you to be happy.
If you’re facing a decision that impacts others, have an open conversation with one or two people who are close to you. Listen to their concerns and acknowledge their opinions. Resist the urge to run your decisions by too many people and accept that it’s impossible to please everyone. Then trust your intuition and back yourself – the most important decision you’ll make is the one where you listen to your heart.
Fear of making a mistake
We all make mistakes in our lives. In fact, we’ll make many across a lifetime. This is part of our learning.
As Seth Godin says, we’ve been raised from birth to avoid failure and yet if we look at the trail left behind by anyone we admire, it is almost always a trail of failure. “The work of making a difference is the work of figuring it out.”
Don’t allow fear of failure to paralyse you. If you make a decision that isn’t right, it doesn’t have to be for life. You may need to risk failing in order to discover something better than what you have now.
It’s not enough to stay comfortable if it’s making you unhappy.
Fear of being rejected
At the heart of many of our fears is the concern that we’ll be rejected. If we put ourselves out there, we might get a ‘no’ (which is entirely possible and even likely at times). The flipside is that when you’re in the right place at the right time (and there is a right time for everyone), it’s likely you’ll get a ‘yes’.
Remind yourself that every rejection brings you one step closer to a yes. If you find yourself on a path where you’re not getting traction after a decent period of time, revisit your values and goals and make sure you’ve chosen a vision that’s really right for you.
An action plan for facing your fears
Make a commitment to tackling one of your fears in the coming week. Start with something small like asking a new friend for coffee or going to a networking event alone before working up to more significant fears.
Work through the following exercises to assist you in tackling your fear.
Start by naming exactly what it is you’re afraid of. Write it down and say it out loud.
One interesting research study found that naming your fear is one of the most effective ways to overcome it.
What is the worst that can happen? Is it a life or death situation? Or just likely to be uncomfortable? List all of the possible negative outcomes.
What small action step can you take this week to move forward despite your fear? This is the key to building courage.
Who can you reach out to for support? Find a friend (or a psychologist or coach) to support you if it feels like too much to do on your own.
While challenging yourself to face a fear, what can you do to manage your stress levels? (e.g. exercise more, learn to meditate, attend a yoga class).