Even if you are brimming with talent and possibility, your career can come to a grinding halt. The culprit in most cases? Good ole fear. In this case, workplace fears, including hidden ones.
So many times in my coaching experience, I find myself talking to someone and hear the fear. They might be asking me about the right way to interview, or the best approach to get ahead. But I clearly hear the fear. And it gets in their way. No matter what approach we might come up with for them, the fear has to be addressed first and foremost.
Workplace fears keep you from growing
Although the word fear can apply to a variety of situations, there is more than one “shade” of fear. And even if the end result might look the same (rejection in some form), it may help to realize where your particular fear is rooted.
NOTE: You may have more than one of these fears, even active at the same time.
1. Fear of failure
You are so afraid of failing that you choose not to take any risks — to the point of not taking on things you might enjoy and grow from. While I know it can be hard to remember when the pressure is on, many very successful people failed. The secret to success is trying anyway. And how you go on from that point.
2. Fear of being shamed
This is a very old fear being reactivated. As children, we are often shamed. By parents, schoolmates, teachers. So when faced with a chance to take on something new, we worry we won’t be good enough. And that people will laugh at us. They might. But again, it’s how you move forward. And how you carry yourself. Sometimes, it’s even laughing along — and then showing your strengths next time.
3. Fear of looking stupid
Similar to fear of being shamed, we worry we’ll be labeled in some way. But “stupid” is only a label that sticks if we give it too much power. And usually, it’s more about the person creating the label. It might help to think about what insecurities THEY are trying to divert attention from.
Even more important, what matters most is what you think of yourself. If you have any doubts and feel the stupid label might be close to the truth, take actions to learn things and become an expert in something you really enjoy. Something useful to those around you. The best way to fight a label is to step past it and strengthen yourself.
4. Fear of being seen as a lightweight
Once again, this is a label others might try to put on you. But the remedy is within yourself. The sooner we learn not to be held down by the opinions of those who may have their own selfish agendas, the sooner we can grow at work and beyond.
5. Fear of never being able to recover
This example of workplace fears is especially paralyzing. Not only are you worried about near-term repercussions, but there is a deep terror of having this stick forever.
So please remember — nothing sticks forever if we learn how to move forward with our own momentum. But as long as we let the opinions of others drive the car, we miss out on places we really want to get to.
Where workplace fears get power
As I mentioned earlier, many of our fears come from associations that were created years ago – often in childhood, a time when you felt especially powerless. Sadly, many parents do use shame and rejection to try to “teach.” And that emotional connection to the shamer makes you even more vulnerable to the way your actions would be received. (Also a connection that years later can be transferred to a boss.)
So what really gets taught all too often is that you are safer to step back and shut up. Why risk being shamed or minimized (rejected) in some way? And that message sticks deep inside. As we grow up and find our own power, these memories can still rise up to enhance any fear we feel when encountering a new or challenging situation.
The good news is that we are in charge. True, the fear is inside us. But we can learn not only to face it head on, but to move on despite it. Courageous people still have the fear, they just find their own way to dial down its voice and step beyond. But if we keep letting the fear stop us, it grows and grows until we actually forget we do have the power to face our fears. And the power to give ourselves new experiences that can help tame them.
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