Telling Fear It’s “Game-On”

Guest blogger, Sharon Higgins, shares her story of overcoming fear of failure.

“I just don’t know if I want to do it again, Mom. I don’t know if I still have it.”

I glanced over at my 11 year old daughter in her new cheerleading uniform which she was wearing to school to promote the first big game of the season.   ”What? Why? You love tumbling,” I said.

We were in the carpool line and I had casually mentioned that I would re-enroll her in tumbling classes after football season. Isabella had taken gymnastics and tumbling lessons since she was in 3rd grade which led her to this grand moment in her life – middle school cheerleader.   When she first began her lessons, the only thing she brought to the gym floor was a wobbly cartwheel which she displayed with the pride of an Olympic athlete.  She was discouraged that her junior varsity status as a cheerleader didn’t require the gymnastic skills she had perfected over the years…so, why had she even bothered with it?

I said, “This is just the first step, when you are on Varsity there will be more opportunities for using your gymnastics skills.  Don’t worry.”  She shrugged and looked out the window.

I was puzzled.  During countless drives to and from the gym over the years, I had been a spectator to the nonstop chatter of Isabella and her friends exclaiming “I got my back handspring today!” or “I thought I lost my forward tuck, but I found it again!”   I asked my daughter why she wouldn’t want to continue, what changed?

“I’m afraid I’ve been away from it too long. I’m afraid of learning a new skill when I haven’t been using the ones I already know. I’m afraid if I try then I will get hurt – you know, like break something,” she said.

Oh.  I quickly pushed aside images of being in an emergency room with a full body cast being set on my child.  I acknowledged, that yes, there was a risk of injury in any sport but then said, “Isabella, there is always fear of failure in life. Even when you are a grown-up. The problem with fear is that it holds you back from the possibility of doing something really fabulous.”

When she hopped out of the car, I had to ask myself – should I be taking my own advice? What should I be doing right now that I’m sidestepping for fear of failure? Zing. Yup, I knew exactly where Fear was hanging around in my life.

My conversation with my daughter reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago.  She was going back to the mainstream workforce after taking five years off to be at home with her young children.  She is a smart, accomplished woman with an amazing 20 year career as a director in school administration.  She said, “You doubt yourself and wonder, do I still have it? Can I still speak the same language?”  I am certain her fear has been echoed by many women in her same position.

So, how do you admonish the fears that prohibit you from jumping back into your career, taking the next step beyond your comfort zone or the big one – launching a whole new venture?  How do you gain the confidence to give Fear a strong game-time handshake and say, “Ok, you’re on! Bring it!”

1. Remember Where You Started – Like that wobbly cartwheel that was full of enthusiasm, often remembering where you started and why you wanted to do it in the first place can spark an urge to keep plugging ahead. It may sound silly, but read your resume and remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved.  (Yes, that was you who did all that.) Talk with a former colleague or old friend who remembers your instinctual drive and ambition when you first began.

Recapturing that old enthusiasm can be hard if you are bogged down with too many commitments. Is there something you are spending time doing that isn’t necessary at this point in your life?  Something that isn’t as valuable as what you need to do to achieve your goal? There are plenty of things that we CAN be doing…but that doesn’t mean that we SHOULD be doing them all right now.

2. Write it down –  Get out a piece of paper and make two columns,  “Rewards” and “Challenges.”  The Rewards are what you want to achieve.  Picture yourself in that space; I mean really imagine that. How does it feel?

Sometimes fears seem scarier in the scope of your imagination – especially when you are thinking about them at 3:00 a.m.  When you put it on paper, it becomes a task to overcome and often is a hill rather than a mountain. Analyze the real risk involved; not the roadblocks you have put up to avoid dealing with it. What are practical steps that you can immediately take to overcome the challenge? Is there a viable solution to this problem?  Make a plan and be disciplined in putting it into action for as long as it takes to accomplish the goal.

3. Network and connect– Use local networking groups and social media sites to get your feet wet again before taking the big plunge. When I decided to work 100% freelance, I made my business plan, set my daily schedule, ordered my business cards, arranged my desk the way I always wanted it to be and then I froze.  My only co-worker was a fat cat who slept all day.  I needed conversation to get my mind into the creative and beyond the task of just getting set up.  I logged onto Twitter and LinkedIn and immediately began searching for other freelance copywriters.  I wanted to know what they were saying and what they were working on. Plugging into those conversations can lead you to industry trends and new information that you don’t have time to unearth yourself.  Discussions on social media sites can get your mind back into the game.

I also joined networking groups in my local community such as Center for Women and East Cooper Entrepreneurial Women. Not only did I find others in my field as well as complimentary industries to my own, but I was easily able to showcase my business to others.  Discussing your business or new venture in a casual conversation is far less intimidating than speaking in front of room filled with people.    Never underestimate the power of conversation. You never know where it might lead or what doors it may open for you.

4. Read & Research– Just like my daughter returning to the gym to brush up on her acquired skills and giving her the opportunity to learn new ones, there is a universe of books, articles, magazines and blogs  to be read as well as workshops, webinars and classes that can be taken online or in a physical classroom.  Find a mentor who has already walked the path you are about to take.

5. There is nothing really to lose by taking a chance – When you get to this point then you can truly lead Fear out the door. Our hope when we embark on something new is that it will work out and we will live happily ever after with it.  Sometimes exploring an opportunity that we think we want shows us that it wasn’t indeed what we truly wanted after all.  But, we never would have known if we didn’t give it a try. (I know, that sounds like something a mom would say.)  Isabella thought cheerleading was the pay-off for all the years of gymnastics lessons.  As she explores cheerleading some more, her path might lead her to Varsity Captain or it might reveal to her that gymnastics was her real heart’s desire/true achievement all along.

The thing is while you were taking time off to do something different, you weren’t wasting time.  Chances are, you have been experiencing accomplishments…just in a different arena than you were used to seeing success.  I plan on telling my daughter that cheerleading hasn’t been all for not; she is learning team-building skills that she wasn’t getting from her tumbling classes.  When I look back to my resume from the first few years out of college, I have to laugh that I put “multi-tasker” down as one of strong attributes. I had no idea what it meant to be a true multi-tasker until I had three children, a husband, a house, volunteer commitments and a full-time job.  My friend who is going back to her career is probably a more understanding educator now that she has children of her own.

The means and methods to growing in our skills aren’t always cookie-cutter which fit neatly into a job description.  If we’ve been alert then we’ve been engaged and still “in-the-know” all along. Take confidence in that and push yourself to the next step. You’ve still got it!

Oh, and my own fear?  Actually writing an article on my blog.  I know, a writer who has a fear of blogging, huh?! I’ve been writing plenty of business material for clients and putting voice to other people’s messages, but putting my own thoughts out there?  Err, well, I’ve had plenty of  ‘reasons’  not to do that.  My sincere hope is that you’ve found this article helpful or, at the very least, mildly amusing.  I’ll take it! Either way, I thank you for lending eyes to it because you’ve helped me cross one of my fears off my list. Whew!!!

What’s next?  Bring it on!

Sharon Higgins is a freelance copywriter living in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes social media & website content, advertising, promotional, sales & newsletters for an array of clients. Sharon is a member of Center for Women, ECEW, The Lowcountry Business Network, Virtual Business Solutions and an active volunteer for Lowcountry Orphan Relief. You can contact Sharon at http://www.sharonkhiggins.com

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2 Responses to “Telling Fear It’s “Game-On””

  1. jeni Says:

    absolutely the best post I’ve ever read… thank you!

  2. Ann Says:

    Your “blog” came at the right time. I am dealing with these same issues. In particular, with becoming a successful woman. Laying low last week feeling like I wasn’t contributing to my business, I looked over my to do list and my appt book and found I did DO. And all of it contributed to my progress of getting here today. Thank you for your kind and paradigm shifting words…..Get the word out there- to speak to all who need help. To them I say” Get out of your head and ask for help!”

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