Whether you’re boldly walking into your boss’s office to discuss a conflict on your team or you’re walking onto the stage to deliver an important keynote address, you will likely be confronted with the rush of unease, nervousness, or, let’s face it, outright fear.
As women, we are all too familiar with how this feels – your palms get sweaty, your heart begins to race, you feel energy rushing through your body and all you can think about is how to avoid it: flee, fight, or freeze.
I’m not talking about the self-protective, instinctual fear that has evolved as a protection mechanism. That kind of fear is good for you. It rushes in when you’re in true danger and spikes your adrenaline so you can defend yourself or get to safety should the need arise. I call this rational fear.
The fear I’m talking about is the one that comes from your thoughts and is linked to your limiting beliefs about yourself and the world around you. This kind of fear is based on scarcity and self-doubt, and it keeps you stuck in a loop of inaction, rather than moving you forward toward what you want. I call this irrational fear.
In my workshops and private coaching, I help clients see their irrational fears for what they are: Falsehoods that keep them stuck in the status quo and prevent them from becoming the fullest expression of who they are.
I’ve compiled a list of fears that I think shine a spotlight on the most common fears that cause women to shrink and shut down. The first step in getting rid of them is being able to identify what they are.
How many of these fears ring true for you?
Fear of being seen – This is when you try to fade into the background or hide rather than speak up, step forward, or insert yourself into situations.
Fear of living outside your comfort zone – This is when you refuse to try something new or to do anything that causes you to feel uncomfortable or awkward.
Fear of failure – This is when you avoid any situation, task, or commitment where the uncertainty of success comes into play. You don’t try; therefore, you can’t fail.
Fear of feeling like a fraud – This is also called the imposter syndrome. It’s when you are convinced you have no idea what you’re doing, so you just fake it. You are sure that eventually “everyone” will find out.
Fear of being unprepared – This is when you never feel like something is quite ready. It could always use one more tweak before you show it to anyone. You never move from novice to expert because you are plagued by self-doubt.
Fear of rejection – This is when the fear of hearing No keeps you from trying anything at all. You are more concerned about the possibility of rejection than you are about reaching your highest level of success.
Fear of being wrong – This is when you don’t want to be seen as uninformed or ignorant. You lack confidence so you refuse to assert your opinion or to contribute your knowledge and experience.
Fear of being ridiculed – This is when you are afraid of what “they” might say about you so you refuse to put yourself, your work, your opinions, or your answers out for others to see.
Fear of not knowing enough – This is when you refuse to trust yourself. No matter how much education, training, or real-world experience you have, you are trapped by insecurity.
Fear of sounding stupid – This is when you are so afraid of what others think about what you have to say that you sit quietly and bite your tongue — even when you know you are right.
Fear of Success – While it may sound counterintuitive, many women are afraid of success. Success requires you to be seen, to speak your mind, and to do more. The fear of others’ expectations, letting people down, and letting yourself down is what fuels this fear.
Fear of speaking your truth – This is when you are certain about a visceral truth, yet you hold back your words anyway. Women often yearn to speak their authentic opinions, but go along with corporate norms for fear of backlash.
Fear of standing in your power – This one is HUGE. This one is a combination of all the other fears combined. It embodies a reluctance to honor your space in the world. This is a refusal to acknowledge your core values and your right to have a voice.
How many of those did you identify with?
If you’re anything like me, you have several of these fears colluding together at any given time. They’re toxic and they can become paralyzing. Isn’t it crazy how much we allow something that’s irrational to stop us from achieving our full potential?
The thing about these irrational fears is that once you step outside the self-talk loop and get a fresh perspective, you can see the folly in believing them.
If you’re really ready to release these fears that are holding you back, I recommend choosing ONE to start with.
Here’s a three-step practice that you can begin to use immediately:
- Acknowledge your fear –Your body doesn’t know the difference between rational fears and irrational ones. Your physiological responses are the same. Take away some of the fear’s power by choosing to see it and deal with it.
- Ask it what it’s trying to tell you – The root of your fears is self-preservation. Yes, even the irrational ones are only trying to protect you. Ask your fear what it is trying to teach you, stop, and listen for the answer. If you want to get a little advanced, write it down and you’ll start to see patterns emerge that you can address.
- Take one step away every day – Make a daily practice of taking a small, bold step away from your fear. Take control and defy it. Small wins away from fear will build your confidence, and several small wins will result in big accomplishments.
Overcoming your fears won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight. It takes commitment and persistence, and often, support from someone who can offer you a different viewpoint. But, if you stick with the practice, you can eventually see your fears for what they are and work around them.