By Ashley Neal • December 11, 2018
Fear can be a very complicated emotion, on one hand, it can completely immobilize or paralyze us. On the other hand, fear can motivate us to push past it and move forward.
Earlier in my career journey, I was a legal assistant to a social security disability lawyer. She would often make demands for medical records at the very last minute (sometimes less than 24 hours before going in front of an ODAR judge). Each time that she did this I could feel my throat tightened and palms sweating as fear consumed my body at the thought of my job dangling by a mere thread over my head. Then she would always say, "You're the best legal assistant I've got, I know you can deliver just avoid being paralyzed by fear."
After she said this I always felt even more confused (I was in my early twenties), but the fear of not having my job motivated me to do whatever was needed to get the medical records by her requested deadline.
After this job, I worked in sales. I was great at closing warm leads but I would often clam-up when it came to cold-calling. My body would go through the same trauma that I experienced previously working for the lawyer. My throat would tighten, my heartbeat raced and palms sweated profusely as fear took over my body.
As I tried my best to get my fear of cold-calling under control, I could hear the lawyer's voice echoing in my head, "Avoid being paralyzed by fear."
Suddenly I had an 'aha' moment.
Fear is inevitable particularly when there is a level of uncertainty involved. In my job at the law firm, I was fearful whether or not I could obtain the medical records in time. At the debt settlement firm, I was fearful of getting on the phone with people I didn't know. However, I had to learn to get over those feelings of uncertainty very quickly because if I didn't I would be stuck or paralyzed by fear everytime it crept up on me.
After my 'aha' moment I created a simple strategy for dealing with that uncomfortable thing called fear:
Acknowledge your fear
The moment fear begins consuming my body I immediately stop what I am doing admit that I am fearful. Fear is similar to a toddler, the more that you ignore him the louder he gets. Acknowledging that fear is present takes some of the feelings of uncertainty away.
Approach fear 'head-on'
Fear can not linger if you approach it head-on. After I acknowledge that there is fear involved, I take the required steps to meet fear exactly where it is at. At first, these steps may be baby steps, but they get me one step closer to my goal and one step further away from my the fear itself.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Your colleagues may be able to help you work through your fears. Perhaps they have been in the same or a similar situation and can help guide you through your fear. Also, keep in mind that they may not be able to assist you directly but they may be able to introduce you to someone that can help.
The thought of failure can immediately invoke fear. The truth is no one loves to fail but everyone has failed at something. When failure does occur embrace it as a lesson. Learn from it and move on.
Never give up
It may take days, weeks or even months to overcome certain fears but stay persistent and chip away at your fears the best you can.
Pat yourself on the back
Every time that I overcome a fear I reward myself. Sometimes this reward is a literal pat-on-the-back as I chant "Awesome job Ashley, you overcame that fear!". Other times I may celebrate with a delicious acai bowl. Reward yourself every time you conquer a fear.
Fear can be extremely crippling if we allow it. I am grateful that I learned early on in my career to avoid being paralyzed by fear. This advice has helped me to excel in several positions, and it was also the trigger for starting my own business.
I strongly value this advice because the presence of fear can make anyone instantly feel numb. That numbness can lead to missed career opportunities (i.e. promotions and raises) or even termination. To effectively conquer fear, you must be willing to go beyond your comfort zone and deal with it head-on. The results can be extremely rewarding.
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