Fear Is Not Your Friend; It's Your Life Coach
Ditch your doubt and move into your discomfort zone.
Do you know the saying "do one thing a day that scares you"? Well, I found my nerves accounting for at least a week's worth in a single afternoon as of recent.
For an introvert who struggles with body confidence issues, I saw the opportunity of hosting a video podcast for a local nonprofit as a huge personal risk. Not only to the people I would be working with but to all those who would watch the immortalized footage of me coming across like a damn fool.
Over the years, I have developed this fear of looking foolish to the minds of those who have influence over my career success. This fear only swelled as did the need to get "out there", following a severe lull in client work I had been experiencing as of late.
I've taken some valuable lessons from that day, which I could have easily denied by staying indoors and telling myself I'm better off not even bothering.
You're Struggling Right Now for a Reason
For the majority of 2020, I was living with family in their country cottage. They are an immunocompromised couple who don't mess around when it comes to putting their health and safety at risk. So that year, the outside world might as well not have even existed.
The lack of outside contact was made up for by the bucketload with a large garden to exercise in, a roof over my head, a belly full of food each day, and my loving family's embrace. The goofball dog too.
I am - and will continue to be - eternally grateful for having lived this way.
It allowed me to have moments of security when the world beyond my bubble continued to burst open. I was also able to experience the intense difficulty of finding - and keeping - freelance contracts during a global pandemic from a financially comfortable distance.
I could have been in a very desperate position had it not been for my family. I didn't need to worry about the weighty lull in client work for the majority of the year, and I had time to (try and) focus on my mental and physical health to the best of my power.
This was until I signed up to receive benefits (for the first time in my life) and lept into my own significantly smaller bubble in a separate town.
And, yes, this did feel like a personal defeat.
Someone who once comfortably earned an excess of £2.3K per month on average was now having to rely on handouts just to afford any sort of independent living while the world spun in perpetual turbulence.
Despite being signed off of work due to my mental health problems, I wanted out of this situation. I was determined to rebuild and claw myself out of this financial drain I had abruptly slid into.
Fear Is Not Your Friend; It's Your Life Coach
When we are forced into a stripped-back life full of mandatory restrictions, competing for the attention - and seeking the approval - of clients can easily become our entire world.
We can believe that our self-worth is dictated by the number of regular clients we have. The amount of money we are earning. The kudos we have from our latest LinkedIn post. And when that expectation doesn't measure up with our current reality, we often tend to believe it's because we are failing in some way.
Sometimes in life, we don't have that personal life coach there egging us on when we seriously need them to tell us we're worthy enough to start again. Sometimes we are forced to be that presence for ourselves.
Our fear steps in to fill these shoes.
Fear isn't a coach that we'd invite for a coffee and gossip with. I'm talking about an "I've been sent from the future to fix your broken head, and I'm not leaving until I've fulfilled that mission" kind of coach.
Facing Your Foolishness
So what does this life coach do for you?
They take that fear that would have once had you building a blanket fort, ordering a McDonald's, and letting your ideas fade away, and channel it into reasons for acting on them.
They fill your head with greater regret for not having tried something than if you did and looked like a damn fool doing it.
They remind you that you took a chance on self-employment to do just that; risk looking like a fool to your superiors, and be courageous enough to put yourself out there anyway.
They showcase just how much you have to offer - even when you don't believe it - and puppet you step by step as you seize new opportunities.
Back in April, I turned up to my client's workplace thinking that I knew everything I needed to know about making a video podcast and being an entertaining host for one, despite never having attempted it before.
I was swiftly challenged to write my own script, set up camera equipment, be able to carry on long conversations that flowed organically and strike a balance between coming across as casual and professional.
And all the while knowing that this footage will soon be seen by the public!
I verbally stumbled at times. I had problems with my body language. I thought I stood like some hefty, clumsy oaf. I over projected. I under projected. I sounded scared. I couldn't help but read from a notebook rather than keep eye contact with the guests…
I masked my nervousness with self-deprecating humour and I could sense myself coming across like a nervous wreck in real-time… and couldn't stop it.
Worrisome questions played back on loop the entire time.
What will this mean for my professional career? Would they still want me to carry on working with them? Representing them professionally? What if I will always be seen like this by everyone I ever work with?
I was hesitant about how the footage would turn out. But before I returned home to edit it that day, I had already decided that the experience of having done this was the main takeaway.
It taught me that the "learning curve" of working for yourself certainly has bumps.
Not every moment of my professional life can be planned. Sometimes we face moments where fear hits and forces us to act spontaneously. And, yes, look (and feel) like a fool doing so. Once you can accept this, feeling foolish becomes your best friend.
By festering in our comfort zones, we are only robbing ourselves of time spent making the mistakes that will build us up in the long run.
Some come in the form of small shocks that usher you into new directions. Others are fractures that eventually heal to become the strongest part of the bone.
What is "the process" if not a series of little personal tests that show you what you're made of as you go it alone?
For sake of the fun in your life and having your own foolishly beautiful adventures, you need to try anyway.
Even the most successful of us can reach a point where they feel like they aren't worthy. Not perfect enough to finish - or even start - running their own races.
I regret the many months of blanket forts built trying to escape my own life.
None of us should miss out on the few quality life experiences that present themselves during these unprecedented times. Feeling uncomfortable just means your life coach is doing their job properly. So, try and stick with them.
Fear can work both ways.
Thanks for reading. Connect for creative writing and to join me on my mental health and self-improvement journey. We’re not always Okay… and that’s Okay.
Originally adapted from my Medium article.