If you know me at all, you know I deal with fear all the time, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize. So, I want to teach you some of its favorite disguises and share how I learned to spot fear in my life.
About eight years ago, I was a mother of two young children, ages two and four, and very young in my career as a coach. Brand spanking new to the Handel Group® and to a whole new social circle of people who were almost all more successful than I was, and older than I was and, well, seemingly more sure of themselves.
I was invited to my boss’ birthday party, a “gals-only” weekend in the Hamptons with ten or so of these women whom I admired, and I was intimidated to say the least. I tried to use every excuse I could think of to get out of going, but it was so obvious I should be there. It was a birthday, (remember how seriously I take those?) and it was the exact right social and professional situation in which to put myself. So, bravely, I went. But I was not without my exit strategies; I brought a book, my headphones, my own food rations, certain there’d be many points in the weekend I might need (umm, want) to escape to my room, my car, maybe the woods.
True to my expectation, I felt very shy the first day. I didn’t want to have a drink because I was afraid maybe I’d act dumb or un-cool. Instead, I said I was tired, didn’t feel well, etc (and that was true) to avoid deep conversations or really connecting with the others. Turns out a lot of the weekend was spent in sort of a creative conference about what the future held for each one of us. Ugh. I was just getting used to motherhood and working fulltime again. I didn’t want to expose my uncertainty or be challenged when I was just getting a handle on things.
So, on Day Two, the birthday girl noticed me and started asking me what I saw for myself in my future. This was a woman who had, in the past, helped me move beyond my limits and reach for goals out of my comfort zone. No wonder I wanted to see if I could avoid her all weekend. I was terrified of what she might suggest next for my life, and rightfully so.
As soon as she started asking questions, I told her I missed my kids uncontrollably, and I really did. My heart was aching. I was in tears. I felt like an awful mother. I felt I was betraying my kids for leaving them. I was already working too hard, anything she might suggest, a bigger job, travel, would rip me away from them even more and I couldn’t bear that. Right there and then, I had a pre-emptive nervous breakdown.
Today, I have to chuckle at how big and emotional my overreaction was and how misplaced. I am still capable of throwing my children in front of me to shield me from that bullet called growth. So I have to watch out for these reactions, because, as I’ve learned from these episodes, they have nothing to do with my kids and everything to do with my fear about going to the next level in my career.
Did you notice how noble my excuse sounded? And did you notice that my ammunition was ready to fend off anyone who would suggest my expansion? Yours is, too.
What are your excuses for why you can’t have what you want?
Not enough time? Money? Have to take care of the kids? I have heard it all and it’s BS. I know the reasons seem true and everyone agrees with you. But, believing all these reasons does not make you happy. Pursuing your dreams, in one way or another, even on a small scale, even if you fail, will make you happy. Because facing your fear is what makes you feel powerful and happy. There’s no way around it.
We think avoiding what we fear or don’t know how to do will make us more comfortable, but ultimately it erodes our self-trust and self-confidence. I know it’s not easy to “go for yours,” that’s why it’s good to hang around other people who are, too.
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