Embracing fear to go beyond it
JULIE CHASE | MARCH 21, 2021
For someone who’s taken many risks throughout my life, I don’t love change — especially the kind I can’t control (which just happens to be about 90% of the time). And when it comes to the job search, our clients (even execs) have fears and limiting beliefs on achieving their career goals, networking, asking for help, making a good impression and so on.
Fear is real and can be paralyzing. Everyone feels afraid and doubtful at times, especially when making big decisions and moves. The leaders you admire and the high achievers who impress you act despite their fears — again and again.
Two simple questions drive our fear: what if I fail and what if I never achieve success? Truthfully, thinking about them makes me a little anxious.
And here’s an unsettling fact, our brain is wired to keep us in our comfort zone. So when we start to make changes, even when it’s for self growth, our brain fights against it by filling our minds with a lot of nonsense.
So how do we get beyond it? While there’s no magic pill, I’ll share some practices that have helped me and others overcome fear enough to take action.
Acknowledge its purpose
Fear keeps us safe by alerting us to threats and dangers. It gives us the spidey sense about suspect people, places and things. It also helps us understand what’s important to us. Sometimes we’re afraid because we care deeply about what we’re working on and want to deliver exceptional results. A small dose of fear can actually motivate and push us to do our very best. And at a deeper level, it can guide us to the areas we need to work on most.
Stare fear in the eye
As the saying goes, the only way past it is through it. Give yourself space, time and stillness to process the feeling. Journaling is a good exercise for this to see — and often surfaces thoughts and feelings we weren’t aware of. If nothing else, it serves as a great release.
You can also write out the worst case scenario. Often there’s a swarm of negative outcomes running through our minds, but when you write the rock bottom scenario in detail, you’ll hopefully see how unlikely that is to come to fruition and/or realize you can handle and overcome it.
Recognize your pattern of success
List all the times you’ve failed, big and small as well as when you were the most afraid, but did it anyway. Ask yourself: what did I learn from this experience and how has it shaped who I am today? Did it help you build resilience, patience and compassion? Did it help you achieve a major goal? Did it point you in an even better direction? Hopefully, this helps you gain perspective on your current challenge and allows you to see your courage and strength in the toughest of situations.
Build awareness of your negative thoughts
We’re not only our worst critics, we can also be downright cruel to ourselves. This is something I’m working on now — catching myself when I start to berate myself or tell myself lies (“I’ll never be able to…” or “it’s not worth it”). And the hardest part is not judging myself when I recognize the negative thought (oh the harmful patterns we weave). I’m trying my best to respond in a loving and kind way. My counselor suggested that I imagine speaking to my 9 year old self, which has been helpful. I’m happy to report I’m starting to make progress, bit by bit.
Reinforce belief in yourself
You can create positive thoughts and build confidence by integrating some of these exercises into your daily routine.
- Say affirmations about how amazing and capable you are — in the mirror, every day.
- Make a vision board (which can be as simple as copying and pasting inspirational quotes and images of things you want to be or accomplish in a slide). Print it and look at it often.
- Meditate: do a short 5 or 10 minute guided meditation (there are so many free ones on YouTube) every morning to set yourself up for a successful day.
- Read inspirational stories and books focused on self growth. The book I always recommend is The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks. He explains why we reach our upper limit and how to get beyond it to reach our zone of genius.
- Watch inspirational videos like these ones: The Secret to Stopping Fear and Anxiety by Mel Robbins; What I learned from 100 days of rejection by Jia Jiang at TEDx; and The Space between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion by Kristin Neff at TEDx.
Try some or all of these exercises and resources and see what works best for you. Incorporate into your ongoing practice and see if fear rears its ugly head a little less and less as time goes on.
If you need some extra support and structure to make your next career move, watch our video and book a session with one of our job strategists. We’d love to talk to you!