Although you’re happy with and grateful for what you have, do you also feel sometimes that you’re capable of more?
Do you want to challenge yourself and grow, but something is holding you back?
Fear of visibility, fear of embarrassment and fear of failure are some of the most common fears I’ve seen my clients and new entrepreneurs experience. The passion for our vision and what we do propels us forward to explore and learn, but when it comes to taking the necessary business-related actions in a consistent way, many of us struggle and find ourselves stuck.
“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
I’ve been there. In fact, l lived there for quite a while. I was dreaming of success, but I was paralysed by the thought of taking consistent action due to fear.
Success is a topic that triggers many of us, meaning we experience an uncomfortable emotional reaction when success is mentioned. To ease the sudden discomfort, we might distract ourselves, deflect or resort to something that sooths us. These patterns allow us to cope with the momentary situation, but they don’t solve anything, nor do they take us closer to the satisfaction of self-actualisation that Maslow was referring to.
When stepping into a challenging new role, such as a leadership position or starting our own business we find ourselves challenged in many unexpected ways.
Although we cannot eliminate fear entirely from our lives – after all it has an essential function: it helps us stay alive and safe – we can dramatically reduce its effects on how we perform in our business, ultimately achieving the success we seek.
Fear of visibility
Visibility is a big issue for many entrepreneurs, especially those who might be considered accidental entrepreneurs – people who suddenly find themselves in a position where they need to be visibly responsible for client contacts, marketing, accounting, sales, proofreading, design, etc. just to be able to do what they love; people like coaches, therapists, healers, visual artist, but anyone who has a passion, a calling, and wants to make it into a business.
While you can do some things behind the scenes, when it comes to marketing and sales you need to be out front – you are visible, not just your work.
“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.”
Marketing your services requires your presence whether that be on social media or at networking events. Your personal values and vision are a major distinguishing feature of what you offer. People don’t invest in your service; they invest in its story. They invest in you.
Once out there, we need to face the hard truth: not everybody wants our services. Not everybody agrees with our opinions or the way we solve issues; and if they voice it – which they often do! – we may not like what is said. It may hurt. And if we are too vulnerable, the hurt can motivate us to give up on what we believe in.
Business confrontations can feel very personal because we infuse our business with our personality. Criticism can feel like a personal attack, and a no can feel like a rejection of who we are. What makes us too vulnerable is the underlying childhood traumas and rejections which are suddenly reactivated in the present.
Those who haven’t found the right healing opportunities might have to stay small and shy away from challenging themselves. There’s nothing wrong with staying small and living in one’s comfort zone, when it is done intentionally and out of choice rather than necessity.
Healing and solving the underlying issues allow us to be visible and enjoy it. I have experienced it personally and have had the privilege of seeing others take the journey from invisibility to visibility successfully. It took acceptance, honesty, and quite a bit of courage.
Acceptance replaces a repertoire of strategies that cause more harm than good: self-shaming, self-blame, avoidance, procrastination. When we accept ourselves and embrace our foibles and follies as well as our strengths, change becomes a natural option because the preoccupation with hiding something is replaced with openness and curiosity.
Fear of embarrassment
We all recall times from our childhood when we were incredibly embarrassed, some of those situations might make us smile now, but others can still make us wince. I have an arsenal of both.
As children we’re dependent on our primary caregivers for our survival and emotional wellbeing. Embarrassment is painful because we fear that we might lose the love of our family – and their love and attention is what we live for.
Although as adults, we’re no longer dependant on others for protection, when embarrassed we can feel just as hopeless as we did when young because we relive and often reinforce the emotional patterns forged in our childhood.
When we start our business, mistakes are inevitable, and they are often silly and avoidable. It’s just part of the game – that’s how we learn. To live a creative and full life, we need to take risks, makes mistakes, and let go of the embarrassment.
“The secret of creative life is to feel at ease with your own embarrassment.”
If we identify too much with how we’re perceived by others, we’ll have less energy to engage with the activities wholeheartedly or without a tremendous amount of stress.
It feels counterintuitive at first – at least that’s how it felt to me – but accepting, loving, and talking openly about our weaknesses can help us heal and put things into perspective. The psychologist Dr Jonice Webb calls the greatest weakness, which we try to hide, our fatal flaw.
Dyslexia and dyscalculia were my fatal flaws. Even a decade ago, I would have fainted if I had had to reveal them. Every time I needed to read aloud, or numbers were mentioned, I dissociated – I felt detached from my own body. Now, they are merely topics that happen to be related to me. They are not who I am because I don’t let them define me.
We have more choices over things than we imagine. When we stop identifying with one single feature of event in our life and look at the bigger picture, we can see embarrassment for what it really is: a recognition that we don’t know everything and an enormous possibility to learn.
The world-renowned conductor, author and motivational speaker Benjamin Zander instructs his students to throw their hands in the air and say, “How fascinating!” whenever they make a mistake. By doing so, they find it impossible to feel embarrassed. This simple gesture encourages positivity and a light-hearted attitude to mistakes.
Why shouldn’t we do that in business? Our launch failed, “How fascinating!”. Thus, we are immediately able to analyse the mistakes and produce better strategies for our next attempt. It puts us into a creative and solution-oriented headspace.
Fear of failure
Failure is inevitable, but we don’t need to be defeated by it.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Failure is far too often interpreted as meaning we’re not good enough as a person, but failure isn’t proof of anything other than something didn’t work and if we adjusted things, it might.
Failure and mistakes or simply not knowing everything used to paralyze me. I blamed myself. But self-pity and self-scolding didn’t make me feel better and they didn’t resolve the problem either. Worse these automatic reactions can discourage us from pursuing wonderful opportunities to hone our skills and use our creativity.
A simple shift in perception regarding failure can help us reduce stress and avoidance. Once I started looking at failure as an opportunity to approach a subject differently, I was able to see failure as a teacher and a friend. It no longer causes insurmountable stress, and I don’t want to avoid it. It has a well-defined place in my development.
To knowing that we are enough as a person, separating our self-worth from external validation is essential. In both education and work, society praises good performance evaluation, which is why it is easy to confuse the evaluation of our output with the evaluation of ourselves as people.
However, we have a choice: by working on our emotional life and mindset we can change our patterns and our beliefs. Loving and accepting myself regardless of my failures or how I am evaluated by the external world has been fundamental to seeing failure as a challenge I can rise above with renewed passion. Which I have done.
How Acceptance Defeats These Fears
Fire burns but it can also clear the ground for new growth.
“The phoenix must burn to emerge.”
Working through our traumas and mindset blocks can feel uncomfortable, even painful, but the freedom and range of choice we have once we’ve done the work is incredible. We can burn off past beliefs and pains and emerge stronger than ever before.
By facing our fears and passing through them with an acceptance of who we are, we construct a new image of ourselves. We discover and can cultivate a more powerful and capable version of ourselves.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that we must stay the same for the rest of our life. Quite the opposite! Acceptance allows for a solid foundation and choices about who we want to be and where we want to go. By accepting and loving ourselves, we tap into the innate creative power within us.
With this power in our heart and mind we can take the risks of being visible, of embarrassment, and of failures in our professional life, because we know we can rise again.
And rise we do.
What do you think? How do you deal with such fears in business or in your personal life? How did you learn to accept yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you’re interested in working with me, just send me a message. I would love to hear from you.