About a month ago I put out a question on IG stories asking people what they felt were the main things holding them back from doing the things that they really wanted to do in life.
The response I got was pretty astounding.
Not surprisingly most of the responders were women (I recognise that most of the people I connect with on IG are women), and not surprisingly the answers they gave about what they felt was holding them back were repeated over and over.
I wanted to give some air to some of the main culprits of what’s holding us back and see if we can try to slay some of the myths surrounding them so I’m going to unpack them over a few blog posts.
This is incredibly important stuff for us women to get our minds around because the world needs our brilliance. It needs our ideas and our input and our creativity and our innovation.
Here we go:
1) FEAR OF FAILURE.
The top response that came back by a country mile was an acute fear of failure.
So many of us are holding back and hiding our brilliance from the world because of fear. We see every way that we could be more qualified, every part of our ideas that aren’t perfect, every way it could go wrong and so we freeze, we fly or we try to forget about those ideas and dreams. We stuff our brilliance down.
Not only that, but often we surmise that we are not up to the task without really having any evidence if that’s true or not. We listen to our inner critic relentlessly nagging us and trying to keep us safe instead of getting curious about the fear.
I have found curiosity to be such a game changer when it comes to fear because it is a playful state for our minds to occupy. Deciding to be curious drowns out the seriousness of fear and knocks it off it’s pedestal in our brains. When we can respond to our fears with curiosity we start to see possibility.
FEAR SAYS: “I could never do that. I don’t have what it takes; it’s too hard. No one will buy it and people will think that I’m selling out or desperate. What if it sucks and I look like an idiot?"
CURIOSITY SAYS: “I wonder if I could do that? I wonder what it would take to make that happen, what I might need to learn? I wonder if I could make space for this in my life? I wonder who my audience or target market would be and how I could find out more about them? I wonder how I can connect with people and get them on board in a way that feels true to who I am?”
Do you see the difference? Fear shuts the conversation down. It makes things binary; black and white. Curiosity picks the conversation back up and opens the door to possibility. It paints colour all over our ideas. It is a small but significant mindset shift that we need to get familiar with in order to come out of hiding with our brilliant ideas.
The thing about fear that we need to come to terms with is that it is going to always be around. There is no space you will occupy when you are doing something important to you that will be devoid of fear. That’s just not how it works. Fear will always show up when we are doing work most close to our hearts. In fact, I love the idea that when fear shows up - we are likely onto something that is really important to us. We should be paying attention. Fear can become a signal that we are moving in the right direction with our desires and moving towards becoming our truest selves.
I love what Elizabeth Gilbert says about fear in her book Big Magic:
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
So fear will always be around, but having fear in the car doesn’t mean it gets to drive. You can have questions about how you might do something, how it will look, how it will come to life, how you might sell it or share it, without that turning into doubt about yourself. You can maintain a belief that you are called or made to bring something significant into the world and also doubt or question or be curious about how to do it, what the best methods are and how it might play out. Doubting the path doesn’t have to equal doubt about yourself. Most great leaders, thinkers, makers and doers are full of curiosity about how to get to where they want to be - putting imperfect important things into the world with fear in the back seat of the car.
Another great question to ask if you are feeling like you are not sure you are up to the task is “What evidence is there to suggest that I’m not up to it?”
I know that may sound simple but it’s something we tend to not give a lot of time to.
When you begin to have fears about your capabilities ask yourself: “Is there real concrete evidence that would prove that to be true? Or are these old stories or opinions creeping in?”
Here’s an example from my own life: I’ve never believed that I’m the type of person that could be self-employed or run my own business. I always thought that was for people who were more self-disciplined, educated to a higher level than me or more clued into business.
You see, back in my late teens, early twenties I did a lot of moving around; a lot of chopping and changing: university courses, countries, gap years, interests etc. It created a story within me that I didn’t have the discipline to ever develop a business; that I couldn’t trust myself to innovate without wanting to change my mind a lot. Those have been long held beliefs, often reinforced by others along the way.
But when I recognised that I was limiting myself based on those stories, I challenged myself to actually find evidence to suggest those stories were valid and here’s what I realised:
I founded a charity project and have managed it’s development for over 6 years.
I started Assembly, collaborated with dozens of brands and businesses and have overseen the growth of this community over the last two years.
I have learned how to build a website myself and maintain it.
I have read up on business development.
I have created online courses and launched and sold them successfully.
I have invested time and money in my own personal development and skills.
There was absolutely no truth to the story that I’d be bad at business because the evidence showed otherwise. I had just held onto these old stories for too long. So long in fact that I couldn’t see the cold hard facts laid out before me.
Most people think that the opposite of fear is being fear-less or having confidence but I continue to believe that we need to dispel the myth of confidence as the holy grail and replace it with courage in the midst of doubt. I truly think the most courageous thing we can do to change our relationship with fear is to courageously show up in the world in spite of our fears.
It’s time we put more attention on courage, not in the traditional, sensationalised heroic sense that modern culture has skewed it to be. But the courage of flawed, insecure people doing the things that bring them to life in the absence of certainty about the outcome. There is much freedom to be found in this space.
And so I put it to you:
How is fear limiting you at the minute? What brilliance are you hiding because fear is nagging at you?
How can you be curious about the things that you’d love to do instead of letting fear shut them down?
What are the old stories that are blocking your self-belief? What evidence is there to suggest those stories are true?
How are you going to cultivate courage in your life? How can you show up and take part or begin to explore the things you love in spite of your fears?
I’ve just developed a coaching course for a small group of women who are ready to slay some of those myths with me and make movements towards their brilliant ideas and dreams. It’s currently open to sign ups from Assembly Members but I’ll be sharing more about it here towards the end of the week. If you’re interested, shoot me a message and I’ll make sure you hear about it first!