Fear was designed as a protective mechanism for survival.  When we stand on the edge of the roof and look down in fright or freeze when we see a snake, these feelings exist to safeguard us against danger.  But, so many of the fears we feel within our careers hinder us more than they help us.  

Often the things we think we fear are not necessarily what we actually fear.  

We don’t fear public speaking, we fear failing while public speaking.  We don’t fear opening our own practice, we fear failing when opening the practice.  We don’t fear making a career move, we fear failing when we do so.  


What we fear is failure and not being good enough.  So, let me ask the same thing as last week, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Now that you’ve got your answer, let’s talk about how to overcome that fear of failure that holds us all back…


  1.       IDENTIFY

Sometimes fear can elude us. Fears in our everyday lives and our careers often disguise themselves in some other form.  When we don’t recognize our fears, we are unable to face them.  Last week, I referred to how I felt before presenting.  I had so many thoughts in the week and moments leading up to the presentation.  I’m not ready. I need more time.  I don’t want to do this.  I don’t like this.  While I was telling myself these things, what I meant was I’m afraid to fail.

We often tell ourselves that we aren’t ready or that at some point in the future there will be better timing.  In some cases, this may be true.  But, you will reach a point where more preparation will not make you any better and the only next step is to jump in.

Our passions aren’t necessarily innate.  We believe that we are born with particular interests and we develop them as we grow.  But, many times we chose to follow and love the things that we are good at.  The better we get at something, the more likely we are to claim it as a passion.  This is not a negative thing. However, when we tell ourselves that we don’t like something, sometimes we are describing what we are afraid to do. We need to separate what we don’t like and what we aren’t good at (yet) because if we allow ourselves, we will assume they are one in the same.  Passion and future success may be disguised in fear.



Once we determine that fear is what holds us back, we’ve accepted that we need to act.  Acting despite fear is uncomfortable and terrifying.  But, think about the worst-case scenario.  It may seem counter-intuitive.  You’re already afraid, so why would you want to think about the worst thing that could happen?  Two reasons, you realize the visual is not as terrible as the ambiguous feeling and you begin to plan your next move if the worst-case scenario ends up being a reality.

In the case of presenting, at worst, I would stand up in front of the course and freeze, stutter, and look incompetent. If that happened it would hurt my ego, my confidence, and image, but it would be temporary.  I would learn from the experience and I would improve.  If you equate failure with your ability, then failing reflects who you are rather than where you are.  A worst-case scenario is a lot less intimidating when you assume a growth mindset.  The worst-case is a position to build and improve, not a reflection of self.


  1.       LEAN IN

You know your fear and you’ve accepted the worst-case scenario.  There is nothing left to do except lean into the fear and do the one thing you’re afraid of.  I wish there were steps to follow once you get to leaning in, but the truth is that you cannot face your fears unless you act in spite of them.  While there are no steps, no formula to follow that can make the transition easier, having someone to push us can help.

I was fortunate to travel with one of my mentors for the presentation I discussed in last week’s post.  He asked me if I wanted to present a certain section.  The word want did not describe what I was feeling.  I did not want to, I did not feel ready.  But, he told me I would do the section and so I did. I’d like to think I would have presented if the decision was left completely within my control, but I don’t know.  

Having people in your life that you trust, can assist with leaning in.  They can help support you when you’re uncomfortable and hesitant. Whether you do it alone or with the help of someone else, ultimately you have to dive in to your fear.

Sink or swim, dive in.


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