Sunday 18 February 2018

Abandon your fears and be a success

Is fear of failure holding you back - or is it fear of success?

scared woman
scared woman

Veronica Canning

In this economic climate there are a number of fears out there ready to get you. Most of them are in your own head, believe me I know. I put a whole bunch of them into two boxes in my head labelled 'fear of failure' and 'fear of success'.

Both types are lethal but the latter is more insidious. Every woman’s group I have ever worked with points to these two as the biggest obstacles towards success. See if my favourites resonate with you and if my answers help.


The fear: I am not good enough

Is it possible this is a problem of our conditioning as young girls?

Is it possible that in constantly telling us to behave appropriately our parents may have set us up for an overdose of self-doubt? I constantly come across women who are outwardly very confident but who carry around the inner burden of thinking that they are not good enough. They worry that they will be found out as frauds!

The answer: You are good enough and better than most. Self-doubt is one of the most corrosive threats to your wellbeing. Many women have said to me that they found the answer in banning negative thoughts and in actively seeking out things they could be proud of. They had a positive plan to be self-nourishing, constantly addressing each fear with self-affirmations.

The fear: What will others think of me?

I find people are either “self-referencing” or “other-referencing”.

“Self-referencing” people look inside themselves for guidance and approval; “other-referencing people” look outside themselves to others and take their guidance and approval from them. This fear can be very real for other referencing people as when asked to do something challenging they immediately worry about what others will think.

The answer: Put the opinion of others in perspective. Women have told me that they escaped from this fear by dividing people into two groups. The first group comprised people whose opinion they rated and they listened to constructive comments from them. The other was people whose opinion they did not rate, either because they were not sufficiently qualified to comment or they suspected the motives of the person. They decided to ignore their comments and found this a liberating device.

The fear: There are too many challenges

I have seen women becoming paralysed by fear because they cannot see through to the final task but can only see the problems and obstacles along the way. They are playing safe by pointing out all that can go wrong, in the belief that if it does they are safe as they can say, “I told you it wouldn’t work.”

The answer: Let’s face it, there are always challenges. Anything worth doing is not going to be easy, if it was, it would already be done. I have found a really good way to sort out the real obstacles from the imaginary ones by using the three-part flipchart method. Divide a flipchart into three columns as follows:

- Easily do-able points

- Difficult points

- Interesting points

This allows you to develop perspective by making the challenges only one third of the discussion. Putting a potential challenge into the interesting column allows for open discussion.

The fear: I won’t do it right

Inside all of us is a little perfectionist trying to get out. Believe me it’s in everyone.

In some people it is their driving force; the fear that you won’t be able to do it just right. It arises when you are asked to do something larger or more daring than usual, something like making a presentation to your bosses, addressing a school board, or writing an annual report.

You have done something similar before, probably successfully, but the initial reaction can still be raw fear. I won’t do it right! No way, I can’t!

The answer: Do it anyway. Usually, your good is equivalent to other’s excellent. So believe in yourself and your ability. Most women who overcame this fear said that they found when they did things in their own unique way it always worked for them. Problems arose when they tried to imitate someone else’s style or content.


The fear: I will shine too brightly

Some women know they are capable of great things. They have innate gifts, which make them potentially the leaders in our society. Yet somewhere in their conditioning as they grew up they absorbed the idea that you must not put yourself forward or draw attention to yourself.

The phrases “who do you think you are?” or “what makes you think you can do that?” echo in their heads.

The answer: To escape this kind of conditioning you first have to realise that you are conditioned. Some women fail to realise that they have completely swallowed the values and norms of a different age, their parents or even their grandparents. They are not questioning their automatic thoughts or fears. I have seen women transformed when they realise that they are being controlled by invisible puppet strings operated by words spoken 20 or 30 years previously.

The fear: I won’t be able to sustain the performance

They think ‘I am good enough to win that election but once I have the position I will be found out. I am good enough to get it but then what?” You can witness amazing acts of self-sabotage by women who think like this. They scupper their own winning strategies because of their own fear. Sadly, they often do it subconsciously, making it harder to address and put an end to such thoughts.

The answer: The answer lies in taking each fear as it comes. No one can control the outcomes of the future. You don’t know the inner resources you have or what you can do if you are under pressure. Again the problem lies in self-belief. Realistically and impersonally evaluate your opposition, you could be better. You need to see that you are as good as anyone so why not take a chance on yourself? You could stun yourself!

The fear: I will reveal too much of myself if I get all that attention

I have seen women actually quail at the thought of bringing attention to themselves. They have a realistic self view and know if they go for promotion they will get it, but their fear of being noticed is so much that they will not put themselves forward. They prefer the safety of anonymity.

The answer: This is a tricky one. Women tell me it is often a problem of self worth that inhibits their progress. They feel unworthy of any ‘higher’ position and so hold back. The solution is not to concentrate solely on pushing yourself to succeed but to slowly build your confidence until you feel comfortable with any attention.

Veronica Canning is an international speaker and the author of Shoeisms: The working woman’s guide to being the sassy successful woman you know you can be

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