Facing up to the fear of failure. Things I have learnt

Fear and authenticity

Identifying the cause of the fear of failure can be difficult to pinpoint. I know for many people, especially women, there is often no pivotal event that creates the feeling of being an imposter.

For some it might be that their career started at a time, or in an industry, where there was an expectation to be loud, boastful and sometimes even aggressive to get a point across and justify a leadership position. It leaves people confused about who they are and who they need to be to succeed.

Considering my own experiences, I have realised this conflict is a common scenario. Gender and race equality campaigns have also highlighted that there are many people – not just women – who can’t be, or struggle to be authentic at work.

In my case, I have come to accept that if you can’t take your whole self to work then you can’t achieve.

Read the signs

For many, the fear of failure or imposter symptom can manifest as a crushing sense of self-doubt, and lead to over analysing everything you do and say or decision you make. As a business owner making countless decisions every day that can have a real impact on your future, it’s not a state you want to dwell in.

But you can get a handle on it by recognising the signs. For instance, I know a feeling of self-doubt can appear when I have intensively delivered several pieces of client work or I’m awaiting agreement on a large number of proposals.

If I’m juggling too many things, it’s a warning sign to regain some perspective. Sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up.

Four tips for managing the fear of failure

  1. Self-awareness. It’s important to be aware of your strengths but also your areas of weakness, and then reframe it. A weakness is just a skill you don’t have, or a way of thinking that you find difficult. When you acknowledge that you won’t and can’t be an expert at everything fear diminishes. In practical terms, it means when you need help you should ask for it, either by working with an expert, or employing one.
  1. Feel the fear. The reality is not everything you do in work and life will go perfectly but 9 times out of 10 it will go well enough. So, it’s better to try than not to. The important thing is to keep learning and ask what needs to change next time?
  2. Eliminate doubt. Phases like ‘I think’ or ‘Perhaps’ can play to your fears and can be self-fulfilling in casting that doubt into the mind of your audience. Eliminate phrases like this and replace them with affirmative words that demonstrate your expertise. It’s easier to do in written communication, so take a few seconds to re-read your email or proposal before you hit that send button.
  3. Stay in control – Finding ways to adjust your response to stay in control and focussed is essential. In doing so, you can stay steadfast to working on the things that ensure you are making the best possible use of your time and delivering the absolute best for your clients day in day out. The best way to do this is to place a value on it – a kind of measure for worry over action – and in turn it will drive the business forward. Overall, I think it makes for more empathetic and honest leadership, but more than anything an authenticity you can’t deny.

Author: Orla Murphy, Director and Co-Founder Seeblue Marketing

A full length version of this article appeared in Minute Hack here.

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