Something must be in the air because in the last few weeks I’ve felt like I’ve been running a confession booth where women (mainly strangers) have been opening up to me about some of their deepest fears. What’s so amazing is on the surface these beautiful, brave, successful women seem to be the epitome of confidence and success, yet underneath the facade there is a undercurrent of fear coursing through their veins, stopping them from achieving their full potential. So what is this powerful force and what can we do about it?
Years ago I read a book by Susan Jeffers called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway and if I’m going to be honest I don’t remember the entire book but what I do remember is this take away message. – everyone is scared! It’s normal to be scared. Doing something we’ve never done before or putting ourselves in a confronting situation is going to be uncomfortable. That said, if you’re going to stop yourself from doing what you want to do because of that fear, thats when it becomes a problem.
I’ve learnt to “lean in” to the fear as I’ve gotten older. I find myself embracing my inner voice in certain circumstances, repeating internally “what you’re about to do is going to suck, but not doing it is going to be worse” and it comes up more regularly than one may think. For example one thing I hate, really hate, super duper hate is talking about money. It makes me really uncomfortable. But here is the reality, we live in a world that requires us to talk about money and part of my journey as an adult requires me to have to participate in the awkwardness whether that be with my housemate, my boyfriend, a friend, potential employer or my tax accountant. Added to that, I generally freelance as a TV Producer / Digital Consultant meaning that more often than not I have to have “the talk” about my fee. It’s always a challenging conversation but if I don’t face it, I’m not going to be paid the amount I’d like to be paid and I cannot have others dictate my value especially if they’re more inclined to undervalue. So my experience goes as a follows, I sit in an interview and we’ll talk about all my credentials and then the inevitable question will come up – what’s my fee? At this point my heart will race, my breathe will shorten and I’m pretty sure my cheeks slightly redden. Now I have a choice about what number comes out of my mouth. There’s the number that is easier to say because it’s lower and will not require a discussion or there’s the number I actually want and believe I deserve. Despite the fact that it scares the shit out of me to say the higher number, I take a little deep breath, attempt to smile with my eyes and extract the most confident version of a statement out of my mouth. I’m feeling the fear all the way BUT I’m still doing it – and guess what, people are listening and paying me properly.
There are so many other things besides financial chatter that makes my skin squirm. From job interviews to seeing spiders, giving my honest feedback in a meeting to showcasing my body in a bathing suit – I don’t enjoy any of those experiences. But what I do know is that the power I have in those moments is choice – I can choose short term comfort or long term comfort. Yes, I could reduce those experiences in my life that induce fear but I also know those experiences help me to live my most truthful, authentic life.
My point is this – we are all scared. All of us. So don’t feel like you’re in deficit because you’re not strong in every circumstance. Years ago I read a quote which I believe has dictated my life to a certain degree – “Be brave or at least pretend to be, no one can tell the difference”. This statement has become a mini mandate. I act bravely a lot. For those who know me in person, they’ll see on the surface, a strong confident woman but don’t be fooled, I too have moments where I crumble. I find it comforting to know I’m not the only one who gets impacted by fear. To me there’s a collective comfort, knowing that it’s human to be scared and somehow that gives me permission to not let my fear call the shots.
So ladies. It’s okay to be scared. It’s normal to be scared but where you will fall short is if you let that fear stop you from being whole. So take a deep breath, know the scary moment will be… well, scary… but know doing it anyway is where the strength lies. So be brave, accept the fear and discover it. You are stronger than you realise and the more practice you have of just doing it, the better you will become at taking back the control of your desired life. And remember – pushing through fear is less frightening than becoming a victim of it.