The fear of not being good enough, smart enough or successful enough can be debilitating. In my last blog, I talked about why it’s so helpful to know your “go-to” fears so you can learn to anticipate and manage them.
In certain situations, fear can also be expected. It is, for example, a normal part of starting any change. In fact, I have been studying people who made the decision to start a change. Many of them had some fears, but those fears didn’t stop them from acting. One new business owner told me that she was afraid at times, but she wanted to reach her goal so badly that she just accepted the fear and kept going. We often think of fear in a negative way, but fear can be a very positive force, one to signal that you are changing and growing. It can:
- Be a sign that you are doing something that’s important to you
- Indicate that you are learning something very new
- Confirm that you are outside of your comfort zone
- Give you creative energy and ideas
- Cause you to act on something that you know is important
Ask anyone who has begun major changes in their work or life, and there is always some fear and discomfort. That is part of it. When I started my business, my fear of failure was absolutely a motivator and I did my best to use it to my benefit—at least most days. The reality is that if it were easy, you would have already done it. Progress is more likely to happen once you begin managing and using your fear to your advantage.
There is also a different kind of fear—the fear of being successful. Recently, a friend said to me, “I’ve realized that I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of success.” We begin to wonder, what if the new business takes off? What if I get the new job? What if I get the book contract? Can I do it? Our own self-doubt can trip us up not only in our ability to get there, but in wondering what happens if we do.
I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of all time from Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Even fear of success can get in our way.
Accept that the fear factor is a natural part of starting down a new path. Know and accept your “go-to” fears so you are ready for them when they appear. Find the positives of fear and don’t aim to go around or avoid it. If you accept and embrace some of your fear, it can work for you—and it just might be a sign that you are ready to start a change that has been waiting for you.
This article was published in August 2013 and has been updated. Photo by Dragon Images/Shutterstock
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.