Fear. Who hasn’t felt its ability to take hold and stop us in our tracks?
Fear of failure. Which forces us to stick to the safe and easy path. Stops us from taking the leaps we passionately want to, but haven’t before.
Fear of being an impostor, of being found out as a fraud. Which prevents us from owning our success. And locks us in a cycle of perfectionism and self-doubt.
Fear of rejection. Which holds us back from putting our ideas out there. Makes us stay in the shadows, waiting to ‘be discovered’. Stops us from reaching higher and bigger.
And perhaps the one that’s hardest to spot.
Fear of greatness. As this beautiful poem says ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’
Each of these has shown up in my coaching work. When you dig deep about what’s holding you back – from taking big leaps and sometimes even small steps, it is often one of these.
Yet, if we have to live our full brilliance as leaders, we have to learn to fight these fears. To know them, to see them, and then to cast them aside and forge on.
How can we do this in practice?
These are some ways that have worked powerfully for my clients.
1. Reframe: A non-profit leader was hesitating to write to her network about a new idea. Reframing it as a request for mentorship rather than a yes/no approval of her as a leader helped overcome the fear of rejection.
2. Focus on your strengths: A mid-career professional studying for the GRE was intimidated by the writing section, till she realised her life experience and the joy she finds in creation could work powerfully in her favour.
3. Take a small step: A corporate leader wanted to start something of her own but was scared of failure. Realising she could first structure small projects, rather than take a one-time all-out decision, created the energy to proceed.
4. Look back from your future: This is my favourite. A friend was choosing between an on-campus PhD experience, and an off-campus one combined with the safety of a consulting job. The question – 20 years from now, which path would you regret not taking? – helped her find her answer.
Do you know what may be holding you back from being your full, magnificent self? What are your strategies to move forward when fear gets your stuck?