18 Apr Winning Out Over Fear
Last week, I was scared. Come to think of it, yesterday I was too. And just before sending this out, the feeling hit for a flash.
Also last week, I was brave. Yesterday, I showed courage. And today, my acts of courage were more than a handful, including hitting ‘send’ on this email and posting it to my blog.
Fear. That crappy feeling that hits you like lightning, sometimes in three body parts at once with a punch to the gut, an achy skip in your heart or a rattling of a synapse.
It was also the theme for two recent talks I did. One at a women’s group that meets monthly, and the other, to employees inside a venture-backed software company. In both situations, the question that got asked most and where we spent most of the Q&A was: “Ok, so I admit I am scared of something. How do I move past it?”
Simple, but hard.
You gotta start with the truth first. Because until you do that, you won’t get on with it.
Like reducing a fraction to its lowest terms, when you peel away the common elements, you end up with the one thing: afraid of something that may happen. We’re scared of something that might happen. (Emphasis on “might”. Because it almost always never does.)
What are you really scared will happen?
You see, your first answer to that question is never the truth. There it lives several layers below the surface. Ask yourself “Why” 5 times to get to the truth.
One woman at the event shared her desire to ask for a raise at the nonprofit she works (and clearly kicks ass) at. I asked her to name the fear. The first three reasons she gave sounded logical enough, but wasn’t the deep-down truth. Until finally, she uttered the real reason: “I’m afraid I’ll get fired,” she said quietly.
There it was now. Out in the open in all its glory. It was fairly obvious to us all that this person had no chance of being fired given her strong and powerful presence and impression she made. But for her, the fear of being cast out and jobless for asking to be promoted and compensated further was real.
Once she said it aloud and named it, I could see her shoulders relax.
Being scared. Psyching yourself out… It’s the tie that binds us as humans.
It serves a purpose if you are out in the wild among lions, the possibility of becoming lunch looming. But beyond that. Joy and fulfillment sit on the other side of terror. We just think the cheap seats on this side are better for us, safer.
In everyday life, that fear game is bad news for achieving your greatest joy and realizing your dreams.
Let’s play a different game, shall we.
Turn that fear into a catalyst for action in your life.
Every single excuse or reason you give yourself for why something isn’t working, or why you continue to repeat the same patterns — that’s fear just dressed as something else that appears to be a legitimate and logical concern.
It’s why we hold ourselves back in a relationship. It’s why we stop ourselves just short of sending that important email. Or why we keep putting off until tomorrow the project we truly must and should do today.
- Fear of the unknown. What if it doesn’t work?
- Fear of not being enough. Am I really ready? Do I know enough?
- Fear of not looking good. What will they think of me?
- Fear of being rejected. What if they say, “no”?
- Fear of being exposed for a fraud. Am I truly an expert?!
- Fear of being unliked. If I speak up, she may reject me?
Just Get On With It
The way to get over it, so you can just get on with it is this:
Step 1: Imagine the thing you are afraid will happen.
Hold that in your head. Be sure you are being totally 100% honest with yourself. No BS’ing yourself. Say it out loud… to yourself, to someone else. Or simply write it down. The key is to give it life by naming it, in detail. “I am scared that XX will happen.” This is the most important step. You musn’t skip it. Trust me, I’ve tried and failed.
Step 2: Say this to yourself, “OK. So what. Now what?”
If like the woman asking for the raise, you not only get a “no”, but you also get a pink slip. Go ahead, cry in your soup. Be pissed. Vow revenge. Whatever it takes to get it out of your system. This would be the perfect time to invoke, → “OK. → So what. → Now what?”
Step 3: Make a plan. Diffuse the bomb.
There it is. Ugly and scary. Now start planning as if it were real. Ignore superstition or woo-woo that by planning for the scary thing to happen you’ve now somehow invoked that thing to come true. There’s a difference between ruminating and stewing in fear and planning in a way that takes away the power of what you’re scared of.
Remember in Wizard of Oz, the scene where Toto the dog pushes back the curtain only to reveal the truth of the matter. Wizard ain’t so scary after all. Fear exposed. The truth shall set you free. Not that much to be afraid of anymore.
OK. So what. Now what.
Now you can get on with it.
PS: I say this to myself weekly. I wonder if you’ll find it as inspiring as I do. Share it with someone you know and love.
From NY Times bestselling author, speaker and congressional hopeful Marianne Williamson, consider adding it to your own self-talk.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Check it out here from a scene in Coach Carter if you like the dramatic version.