Have you ever felt fear? You may have been in fear for your life, I hope not, but I bet you’ve felt fear before. I can almost guarantee it but you might not have recognised it. I’m fearful quite frequently, although most people wouldn’t know, and some fear is good. It gets you ready for fight or flight; gets the adrenaline going and can put you in optimum performance condition. But it can also paralyse you and stop you from doing what you need to do.
Looking back, it took me over five years to leave the NHS (I initially wrote 18 months but when I really thought about it, I realised it was much longer). I had thought about it on a number of occasions, had even explored other roles, but something kept me where I was. I know that one of the key reasons was that my identity was so much tied up with me working for the NHS that it was difficult to separate that from me. When I did eventually leave I found it so difficult to cut myself off from that identity, I wrote a blog about the fact that I was still working with the NHS, and I’m still working with it to this day.
What has this got to do with fear? Well, the truth is that I was scared of who I was if I wasn’t an NHS manager. What did that mean for me? That fear of being something different from the person that I was comfortable with and liked, most of the time, stopped me from moving on for over five years. There were other factors, such as loyalty, and the fact that other opportunities within the NHS ‘came up’ but even then there was an element of fear. Fear of what people would think of me if I left after I’d had all this investment in my development; fear of the unknown world outside of the NHS.
Apparently, one of the biggest professional fears is the fear of public speaking. People who really fear public speaking will often go to great lengths and sacrifice to avoid it. They’ll pass up chances to share their work on a small or a large scale. They’ll see the credit publicly transferred to others as they become seen as the face of the work. They’ll even pass up on great job opportunities because it means they’ll have to talk in public more often. Sound familiar? Again, a little bit of fear can help – that adrenaline will make you more aware, more focussed and, hopefully, more interesting. But if it paralyses you so that you either don’t do the speaking at all or freeze or become wooden on stage then that’s a real issue.
We fear so many things. Getting it wrong (because we have to be perfect, right?), so we don’t attempt it. Being made a fool of (usually because we’ve got it wrong), so we don’t do it or we over prepare taking up valuable time that we need for other things (like having fun). Letting people down (because we haven’t been able to do what we needed to do), so we over achieve by putting in way more effort than was required. And so much more. Are you sensing a pattern yet?
Sometimes, we even fear success. With success comes the risk of failure further down the line but you’ll be dropping from a bigger height. Success can mean that you move up and move on, away from what is comfortable and from what is you (linking back to that identity fear I expressed earlier). Success can mean that others treat you differently, your relationships with people whom you saw as colleagues and friends can change. Success can mean that you get into situations that are more challenging and where there are more opportunities to ask yourself, am I up to the job?
(By the way if any of the above rings true, check out my recent Facebook Live on The Imposter Syndrome)
Fear is one of the key reasons why we don’t set and why we don’t achieve our goals, and, just accept it, you are going to feel fear. It’s a really good indicator that something is new, exciting, challenging and, probably, that it’s something you should seriously consider doing. (Unless it’s physically dangerous, then you need to have a word with yourself – says the woman who did a skydive from 15,000 ft and loved it!)
Feeling fearful is natural. As I said at the start, it gets you ready for fight or flight. Just be aware that flight than fight isn’t always appropriate. Even worse, you may be the antelope that freezes and does nothing at all. When you’re questioning your goals, actions and decisions, be aware of fear and how much it’s driving you and in what direction. There was a reason why ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ caught on; sometimes you just have to.
About Steph Edusei, A New View
I coach women in middle to senior leadership roles who are too busy with competing demands at work and home, trying to do it all and focusing on everyone but themselves.
They feel like they are constantly battling, fear they are not good enough and that they are going to be caught out. They are always busy and never have enough time to do what they need.
With compassion, honesty and a sprinkling of humour, I support them to take back control and step into being a high value leader who is competent and confident, by focusing on the things that really make a difference to create a high-quality life.
For a free 30 minute introductory session book now