Ok. It’s time to take a minute to get real. Whether you want to admit it or not, you let your life be run by your fears. Maybe you don’t take vacations because you’re afraid to fly, or you don’t bring your kids to the reptile section of the zoo because snakes freak you right out (making yourself feel better by saying you’re just like Indiana Jones). But you know what? Our dear Indy sure as heck didn’t let his fear of snakes affect how he ran his life. Do you think he took a second and pondered the chances of snakes being present before he went off on his adventures? Hard no. He didn’t let snakes stop him from achieving his goals and neither should you.
One fear that can really be holding you back is fear of failure. It’s what stops you from trying out for your company softball team, or attending a group fitness class for the first time, or going to a toastmasters class. It whispers in your ear that everyone is watching you and that you’re going to make a fool of yourself. It convinces you that you’re too old, or too fat or too unco-ordinated. It suggests, instead, that you stick to what you know you’re good at and avoid the unknown.
Fear of failure has always been crippling for me. I want to be the best. And not the type of best you become after practicing really hard and improving over time. I want to be awesome…immediately. This fear resulted in me strategically choosing university courses where I could get the highest marks regardless of whether I was interested in the subject matter. It also got me to stay with my first real employer for ten years instead of being bold and seeing what else I might like to do. Furthermore, it encouraged me to cultivate relationships that didn’t provide me a great deal of value. I stayed in them for one simple reason: to avoid being alone because it wasn’t in my plan to ever be alone. Fear of failure did not let me think outside this box that I had carefully constructed for myself. Not even for one second. So when my life went a bit off the rails this year and all of a sudden I watched my comfortable box light on fire, explode and then somehow drown (I told you…rough year!), I had to make the decision: do you sink, or do you swim? Well I chose to swim and I swam like hell. I re-evaluated all my relationships and made some hard decisions that still hurt when I let my mind linger on them for too long. I also took a long hard look at my career and figured out how I was going to be true to myself and let the real Molly shine through a little more. My fear of failure had slowly dulled my authenticity over time and I decided to get it back.
You don’t need to have some major life event in order to face your fears and honestly, I hope you never do. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Instead, start small and slowly take back what your fears have taken from you. Fear of heights? Take a bouldering class at a rock climbing gym, or even take a pole fitness class. It’s a perfect way of getting over your fears week-by-week with an instructor ensuring that you’re safe and in control. Fear of cold calling? Start by speaking with someone about tips to succeed (I can help you there!) and then just get on the phone. By your fifth call, you’ll start feeling less like you’re going to throw up and by your 20th, picking up the phone will be easy.
Fighting your fears isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. For example, if I let my fear of heights haunt me, I wouldn’t have been able to climb up to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica and I would have missed out on the bird’s view of Budapest. And all just because I was afraid? I’m better than that, and you are too.
*This article was originally published on Mable and Page.