Fear is a fundamental survival mechanism designed to keep us safe, but what does it look like when it shows up as a villain in your career story?
You might not go for a big promotion or switch careers to fulfill your true passion. You might stay in a job you’ve outgrown or hesitate to start the business you’ve dreamed of. You may end up believing your success is attributed to luck.
We’ve evolved from our caveman days, but some chemical reactions in the brain can still cause us to panic when we want to pivot, take risks in our careers or make changes. Your brain may scream: Go back into the cave. Don’t leave your stable job. Don’t take on more responsibility because you might fail! What can you do when you want to make changes in your career and your fear response is triggered like you’re being chased by a saber-toothed tiger?
Luckily, when you learn more about the thoughts that are fueling your biggest fears, those same concerns can become strengths.
Here are five of the most common types of fear and how to turn each one into a superpower:
1. Fear of uncertainty
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner. We are more comfortable with certainty, so it’s natural to want to know the outcome if you take a new job or switch careers. Reassure yourself that uncertainty is worth the risk by focusing on goals, not feelings. Acknowledge that your future was uncertain when you started your current job and it all worked out. Uncertainty can be a bridge to new possibilities.
2. Fear of failure
If you redefine what failure is, you’ll start to look at it differently and crush the power it has over you. Failure means you’re trying. It allows you to learn and pivot. And despite its bad rap, it actually helps build confidence. Start turning fear of failure into a superpower by answering the question, “What would happen if I fail?” By thinking about — and even writing out — what could go wrong and walking yourself through various scenarios, you’ll limit its power. Also, make sure you’re spending time answering the question, “What could go right?” Fear turns into excitement when you allow yourself to envision positive outcomes.
3. Fear of what others think
Your dreams are yours. To paraphrase a famous Steve Jobs quote, if you worry about being judged every time you make a move, you will have successfully lived a life for other people. I don’t know about you, but living a life for yourself sounds a lot more fun. When people offer opinions, they are often projecting their own fears, insecurities or experiences. Practice having confidence in your own dreams by not soliciting others’ opinions. Most of the time you won’t hear what they say behind your back; and if you do, they aren’t your people anyway! There will be plenty of Robins to your Batman.
4. Imposter syndrome
This nasty phenomenon shows up in a lot of ways, especially in the careers of high-achieving men and women. It’s loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It can manifest as self-doubt, overachieving, sabotaging your own success, being hard on yourself or attributing your success to luck. If you feel like an imposter, you’ve probably reached a certain level of success and have an opportunity to do something really cool and beyond your usual scope! Take the time to realistically assess your abilities and accomplishments. Chances are you’re not giving yourself enough credit for your efforts and achievements.
5. Fear of not being perfect
Failure is like kryptonite to perfectionists. Start by practicing realistic goal setting and breaking goals into manageable steps. Once you start executing, work on being comfortable with small failures you may experience. Give yourself compassion and reassurance that you’re doing your best, as well as time limits so you don’t get stuck in the perfectionist loop of your efforts and output never being good enough. Moving past perfectionism is a constant practice.
If you do the inner work above and strengthen your ability to see fear for what it really is — a mechanism to warn you of immediate physical danger — you’ll be on the path of being the superhero of your own career story.
Allison Moore is a career and life coach helping women pursue their biggest goals and dreams. She offers one-on-one coaching and her signature group program Clear & Confident. Read more at allisonmoore.com. On Instagram @allimmoore.
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