“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” -Yoda-

I have been thinking about fear.

It all started a few weeks ago when I went to watch Trinny Woodall – whose business, Trinny London, has been valued at £200 million – talk about her new book, Fear Less. Then a new client admitted she was frightened of “being irrelevant,” and another that he had a debilitating and petrifying fear of failure.

And then I thought about myself. I have been wanting to take part in social media for at least two years to build my business. I am confident – about myself and my professional ability – and I have lots to say, but I have real anxiety about talking publicly and promoting myself.

I have been literally paralysed by fear. And in the process, I have felt stuck, frustrated, shut down, despondent, a failure, an inability to grow and develop. And I have watched others on LinkedIn and Instagram, build huge followings, make interesting – and not-so-interesting – points, and build their businesses.

I have compared myself unfavourably to them and made endless excuses – I’m shy; I’m an introvert; I don’t need to speak up; LinkedIn is everyone shouting and no one listening; Instagram doesn’t work for coaching; I don’t have anything valuable to say; I will put clients off; what if I annoy people?

I was apologising for myself so much in my own head, it was boring me. But I couldn’t get away from it; it was a constant nagging failure. I knew I needed to do it, but I couldn’t.

And then I met someone professionally who offered to help. He’s not officially a coach but he has coached and encouraged me through the process, and it has been transformative. Not so much to my business – yet – but to me and my peace of mind and my sense that I am growing and developing.

And this is what has made me stop and think. I knew I had this fear – but for whatever reason I couldn’t push through it on my own. I have always found speaking publicly and about myself hard. I know that my favourite way of communicating is written; I hate telling a story to a table of people, I will always avoid a presentation if I can and I don’t like public speaking. I don’t trust myself to do it well and so I don’t do it at all.

I think in the end, in my case, this comes down to self-esteem and my sense of worth. It has been liberating and empowering to find my voice in this very small way – I love listening to other people, but I have a lot to say too.

But I’m 50. Even though I’ve known all my life that this is what I’m like, it’s taken me a long time to unpick and really start to challenge myself. This is one facet of my story – the fear of speaking has affected many different sides of my life, and I could illustrate it in lots of different ways.

Some fears are obvious. Others are far more deep-routed and complicated, take much longer to understand, can be excruciatingly uncomfortable and ultimately are far more harmful. Yet it is true, that we can only grow – and get rid of our fear – by facing and pushing through them.

If something’s holding you back, here are some things you can think about:

  1. Try to identify your fear. Look at your behaviour. What are you putting off or avoiding? What’s making you feel uncomfortable, perhaps making you feel jealous, angry or giving you the ick? What’s behind those feelings?
  2. How is this fear holding you back? What’s the impact on you and your life? What difference would it make to you if you could push through and release the fear?
  3. Outline small actionable and achievable steps.
  4. Assess yourself fairly – what makes a step successful, what could you do better, what have you learnt about yourself or the situation? Sometimes just doing the step – even if you mess it up – is a success in itself.
  5. Recognise that change is hard and can be uncomfortable and be prepared to push yourself through that discomfort. So be kind to yourself – imagine this was a friend. How would you support them?

Facing a fear can be hard by yourself, so it can be helpful to get support from a coach, mentor, understanding manager or colleague or a friend.

Further reading

Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway

By Susan Jeffers

Fear Less: How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself

By Dr Pippa Grange