How much do you realise fear is ruling your choices? Maybe you don’t put yourself out there because you think people on social media are loud and annoying. Maybe you don’t make that call about a job opportunity because you’re really busy right at the moment. Sometimes this is true, but how often is fear the underlying excuse?
Fear arises when there is a the threat of harm – physical, emotional, or psychological. This can happen whether the threat is real, or imagined/artificially created (eg. through watching the news). In these situations our brains make quick decisions to stay safe, and typically takes one of four themes – fight, flight, freeze or fawn. When this translates to behaviour it can look like anger, avoidance, silence or placating.
Personally, I don’t turn to anger unless I’m really pushed. But I definitely enlist avoidance, silence or placating when I’m feeling uncomfortable.
Apart from life threatening situations, fear of failure, rejection or judgement can often be the underlying themes of our career story. Fear can keep us stuck in a comfortable job, second guess sharing an opinion in fear of being wrong or upsetting someone, or not express a public position to avoid judgement.
The interesting thing about failure, rejection or judgement, is our fear is often rooted in an experience or role model that came from a different time in life, which we then unconsciously perpetuate. If that experience created trauma for you, I strongly encourage you to seek professional support. But if the experience is rooted in outdated advice, embedded bias or a humiliating memory that has stuck with you, then next time you want to take action, but find yourself avoiding, staying silent or placating, ask yourself:
- Is my fear real or imagined?
- What’s the worst that could happen? and is it that bad?
- Who’s judgement am I fearful of?
- What’s the best that could happen?
- Who’s support could help me change my story?
Fear is a negative emotion, and with it comes the assumption that other’s opinions of us will be negative. In reality, maybe you inspired them or, more often than not, they don’t have an opinion at all.