Today, I want to talk about what happens when you give in to your fears. I want you to learn from my mistakes so you can have the courage to do what you need to.
I have a lot of fears. That’s just part of who I am. I’m risk-averse, and I tend to focus on mitigating the risks I perceive as a priority, rather than focus on potential gains.
(I’ve written about fear before, check out this post in particular where I tell the story of nearly drowning. It’s a fan-favourite).
My dumb cold-feet mistakes
Sadly, I have a long list of times when I chickened out. When I gave in to my cold feet. I did ok despite these events, but every time I say no to something I should do, or want to do, it makes it that bit harder next time, and the more you say no, the more chance people will stop asking.
Here is a small sample:
- Back when I first started out writing tutorials in the ASP programming space, I nearly quit when a popular community member slammed one of my articles. He pretty much tore it apart, not because it was inaccurate or badly written, but because he felt threatened. My wife talked me down from that one.
- I stopped guest posting at Copyblogger, despite my Copyblogger articles being my best source of leads. Say it with me … Stupid, stupid, stupid. There were two reasons:
- Negative feedback from people who, looking back, were either trolling or I should never have listened to in the first place. Most notably several people who said “Who the heck do you think you are”, or words to that effect.
- Fear of not being good enough a writer to appear on a top writing blog (even though Copyblogger wouldn’t ever publish something that was not good enough. I never said fear was rational!).
- History repeated when I stopped writing for Social Media Examiner. Yeah, I got busy, but mixed in there were similar fear reasons to what had come before too.
- I’ve turned down multiple speaking opportunities in exciting far-flung countries, because I didn’t feel up to the spotlight or the “exotic” location, only to see other speakers step up who I thought were great, but no better than me.
- TV scares me so much I have never accepted a single opportunity. Not even pre-recorded shows.
Why did I chicken out from these valuable opportunities, when I have taken risks and big leaps elsewhere in my life and business? As anyone who knows me could confirm, my family and I have been through some pretty white-knuckle stuff. What was different here? What did all of these have in common?
Know your comfort zones … and challenge them
I am going to give you some advice then immediately contradict it, but stay with me!
Your rewards will directly relate to how far you push your comfort zones.
OK, that’s the advice. And I really believe that.
So why do I allow myself to wimp out from stretching my own comfort zones?
Because I can.
If you are always pushing your comfort zones then you will not have a very enjoyable life. It’s about finding a balance.
Some comfort is a good thing! Plus, as you stretch your comfort zones, they can become the new normal for you. When you don’t stretch, you actually shrink.
That doesn’t make it right, however. Just because my business hasn’t fatally suffered from turning down or walking away from opportunities, doesn’t mean it was the correct decision.
You have to work out your comfort zones and either face them or work with them.
I know where my anxiety comes from in the above examples. All of the experiences above come from two fears that I have always had to work on:
- Over-emphasising what other people who don’t know me think.
- Being over-exposed and shunning the spotlight.
It comes down to “Who the heck do you think you are?”.
The answer should be “Good enough for this”, but if you let doubt creep in, it becomes “Not up to the task”.
I don’t just fear the spotlight, I really don’t like it. I’d much rather be the song-writer than the rock star.
Strangely, once I got over the worst of the initial fear of public speaking, I found I love to teach. I just don’t like the feeling of people looking at me, or noticing me much for that matter. While I can focus on the content, I am ok. Once I feel like people are taking notice of me rather than the content, that’s when I pull back.
I’ve been able to work around it, and work on it. You can do the same, I am sure:
- Why the fear? – Work out when you feel resistance where that resistance is coming from.
- Identify the risks and mitigate them – Lower the risks and downside as much as you can to make sure you are as confident as you can be.
- If you can’t face it right now, work around it – there are usually multiple ways to get the same or similar results. For example, I do webinars rather than streaming headshot video.
- When you can work on it, work to improve – Since the age of 16 I have devoured many self-help books. Some actually helped.
- Pick your battles – We are not all great at everything we are expected to do. Some things I turn down, other things I partner for. Some things I tell myself “suck it up princess, we have work to do”. Your mileage may vary.
I nearly didn’t post this article for all the reasons I mentioned above. But I have, and will take any negative comments on the chin, because I need to follow my own advice 🙂
Over to you. What do you fear? What holds you back? How do you manage that, or intend to in future? Let me know in the comments …