Embrace Your Career Fear: If You're Not Afraid, You're Not Doing It Right
Everyone experiences fear and anxiety. We need it.
Anxiety and fear are your body’s natural response to danger, it’s an alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a stressful situation.
Anxiety in moderation is a good thing. It’s what motivates us to wake up in the morning and go to work for fear of losing our job and not being able to pay our bills. Fear of getting hit by a car prompts us to run across the street to avoid traffic.
The problem is that when we are faced with a scary choice or decision, such as quitting our job and pursuing our dream of being a stand-up comedian, we also feel fear. We mistake that fear with “danger – get out of here- don’t do this.”
Fear is a tricky one. Sometimes it works with you and keeps you safe and other times it tricks you into thinking that you shouldn’t ask your boss for a raise or maybe start that Etsy shop.
Now we all know that you are not putting your life in danger by starting an Etsy shop so obviously it’s safe to try this. So why do you feel so afraid to try? What is this fear trying to tell you? It’s trying to stop you because you may fail, fall flat on your face and you might be laughed at.
We think that because we are having this fear that means we shouldn’t pursue a particular career. If we weren’t so afraid, then that would mean we should go for it, right? Wrong, that is your fear speaking to you. Your fear is telling you to stay safe and not try. That’s our DNA. Our biology is built to identify and run away from danger.
In today’s world, we’re not running from tigers anymore. Being brave and taking chances means something different now.
OK now that you have a better understanding of where your fear comes from, the next step is learning to be brave so you can take risks and “face your fears.”
One of my favorite quotes is “bravery is a choice not a feeling” by Jon Acuff. It means we have to remember that bravery is a mindset. You choose to be brave. We tend to think that we are born to either be brave or not.
We are all faced with times when we want to do something that will take us out of our comfort zone; that will require us to be brave. It would be easy to say to yourself, “I can’t do this because I’m just don’t feel brave enough.”
Yet, no one wakes up in the morning thinking, I want to do something that is going to possibly make me look like a fool. You can’t wait until you “feel brave,” you just have to make the choice to do it. If you wait around to feel brave…well you are going to be waiting forever.
Why am I talking to you about being brave? Well, the 20s are the ideal time to start working on your bravery skills, especially when it comes to your career. You need to defy, challenge and dare.
So how do you hone your bravery skills?
Change your mindset about who you are and what’s possible.
This is where Jon Acuff’s quote comes in. People tend to think that bravery is something you are born with. We are faced with a number of situations as children that test our bravery and our ability or willingness to take risks.
How we handled those particular situations as kids can have a big (incorrect and untrue) influence on how we see ourselves today. We assume that we are cowards and not risk takers. Without even knowing it we make assumptions about ourselves that we never bother to challenge.
Let’s say you were the reserved kid in school but now you want to pursue stand-up comedy. You are probably saying to yourself, “I can’t do that because I’m shy.” Says who? The kids at your high school? The people at work? Are you going to let them determine your entire life? I hope not.
If you want to be a comedian then you need to start saying to yourself, “I’m a comedian.” Not, well...hum…uh, I work as an assistant but…uh…maybe sometimes I like to write jokes and well…hum I think I might go to this open mike night.”
You need to shift your mindset and start envisioning yourself as a comedian. You need to be the first one to believe you can do something. Again bravery is a choice.
The biggest reason we don’t take risks and let go of our fears is that we fear what others will say more than we fear remaining stuck in a job or life we are very unhappy in.
There are a lot of people who are so afraid to take a risk that your bravery triggered them in some way. Instead of looking inward of why they are criticizing your brave act, they project it outward to make you second-guess your choice to be brave. Bravery requires tunnel vision. Do not let someone else’s fears become your fears.
Here’s a quick exercise you can do to challenge your fear:
Any step – big or small – is brave. So ask yourself what is the next thing I can do that is scary but doable? That should be your go to phrase: “scary but doable.” If it’s too scary you won’t do it. If it doesn’t scare you, then it’s not a big enough step.
Remember there is no one in this world that is “fear free.” We all have that little voice in our head telling us to, “go home, don’t do this, sit down, shut your mouth,” and on and on. You can choose not to listen to that voice because that is your fear talking. You may feel afraid and that’s OK, but then need to choose to be brave.