There are many kinds of fear and not all fear is bad. Some fear keeps us alive. But most of the time the fears we experience hold us back from really sharing our gifts with the world or creating the life of our dreams. I have found that nine times out of ten there are three things that hold us back from grabbing the opportunity when it comes our way. The first is our own self-worth. The second is our fear of not being prepared enough. And lastly, our fear of what others might think. Yes, that always seems to rear its ugly head. So let’s take a look at each of these areas one at a time.
First let’s take a look at self-worth. People with high self-worth are more willing to take risks and step outside of their comfort zones. When one feels poorly about themselves their negative self-talk is usually responsible for holding them back. They say things like: “Who would be interested in me? I’m not smart enough, knowledgeable enough, good looking enough or…” The truth is people with high self-worth may not be any more knowledgeable or good looking but they are saying entirely different things to themselves. They are saying: “I’m smart, knowledgeable, personable, good looking, captivating, have a great personality, the job is mine; I deserve the perfect partner…”
So how do you build high self-esteem? First develop trust in yourself and your abilities. If you don’t have enough knowledge go out and get some more. If you need to lose a few pounds or need a makeover, start a fitness program or go to the salon. Start to speak to yourself positively instead of negatively. I suggest people do mirror work so they really take the messages in. A great exercise to help with your self-esteem is to look in the mirror just before bedtime. Set an alarm for 5 minutes. For the full five minutes look into your eyes in the mirror and say nice things to yourself about yourself. This will be hard initially because you are so used to saying nasty things to yourself. Stop saying the kinds of things to yourself that if you said to another person they would never speak to you again. Hold yourself accountable for doing this for the next thirty days and you will see a profound shift. One word of caution however, at first you may only be able to think of one or two things that you like about yourself. If that is the case repeat them over and over for the full five minutes. By the end of the thirty days you will be able to come up with a lot of things and 5 minutes will not be nearly enough time. This may also be a very emotional exercise because you are not used to hearing yourself be kind to yourself. Another wonderful thing to do in conjunction with the mirror work is to create a success journal. Start by writing down a list of 100 successes you have had so far in your life, like finishing school, learning to drive etc. Once you have your initial list begin to add to it at the end of each day. Add something that you did well or succeeded at every day.
Next we have the fear of not being prepared or ready. The Roman philosopher Seneca said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s not enough to be knowledgeable. You’re absolutely correct that you have to be prepared for the opportunity when it shows itself. If the opportunity you are looking for is career related, you need to stay abreast of everything that is happening in your industry. You need to do whatever you can to present yourself in the best light. Take courses in Presentation Skills, Business Etiquette, Sales, Improv… Make sure that when the call comes in you are more than prepared to make an excellent impression and get the job. If you are going after the perfect relationship, make sure you look your best, get a makeover, go out and put yourself in places where you are likely to meet Mr. or Ms. Right. He or she is most probably not going to ring your doorbell while you’re watching TV at night in your pajamas. You get the idea. Do all that you can to be in a position to strike when the opportunity presents itself.
Lastly, our fear of what others might think. Why are we all so concerned about how we come across to others? Many people have created entire personas that are not even who they really are, so that they come across the way they want to appear to others. I call this being in “Presentation Mode”. But it is very common because our need to be seen in a certain light is so crucial to who we think we are as individuals. But when we take the masks off and allow ourselves to be authentic then this fear takes on a whole new dimension. Perhaps it is the fear of wanting to move to a new city but you know your spouse does not want to go. Or wanting to leave an unhappy relationship but staying because of how your friends and family may look at you for leaving. Or having the opportunity of going into business for yourself but being afraid of how you might appear to others by putting your family in financial jeopardy while you go out and start that new business. This fear is one of the most insidious because if you allow the feelings of others to dictate whether or not you follow your dreams, you will not only grow to hate them (even though it is really your choice not theirs) for holding you back but you will also create an even stronger state of regret. Research has found that over 90% of the things people worry about never happen at all. In fact fear only has the power that you give it. Most fears only reside in your imagination.
I remember years ago when I was working with self-esteem for women I was sitting at my desk and got a call from a gal who introduced herself as being a producer from The Oprah Winfrey Show. I really thought it was a scam so I played along with her but in a flippant kind of way. She asked me if I would please send her a media kit and she then proceeded to give me the address of Harpo Studios in Chicago. Well I immediately changed my tune and apologized for my flippant behavior. The show was on makeovers for women. I knew how to dress women but I was not sure of how to transform someone on the spot so I suggested to her that she call Emme and Christine Alt (two top fashion models) and that if they should ever do a show on self-esteem for women to please give me a call. When I watched the show the following week, I realized I could have done it. But I was only just getting started in fashion as the spokesperson for Catherine’s Plus Sizes and didn’t feel as though I had enough knowledge. I was worried that I was not prepared, was saying negative things to myself about that lack of knowledge and was worried that people would see me in a less than perfect light. Thus my second opportunity to appear on Oprah passed me by. Thank goodness I was not that way on my first opportunity. Wayne Gretzky said it best when he said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Don’t allow your fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) to stand in the way of your next opportunity.