Last week I spoke about how there are no bad emotions.
This week, I wish to place a lens on the emotion of Fear.
The purpose of fear is to protect us. Primally, it is there to protect us from threat; either real or perceived. Issues can however arise, when we constantly see perceived threats as reality. This causes anxiety, second-guessing, avoidance, procrastination, and unhelpful reactions.
Fear can protect us from harm or dangers; but it can also hinder us from growing and learning.
As a young child, I would fill pages and pages of old exercise books I had scrounged off family and friends with the wildest of adventures. I would read these aloud to anyone who would listen; often narrating them with a mix of drama and voice characterisations.
As I grew older, I had a deep yearning to write a book. Many times I started, but would find reasons to stop. These excuses would range from; I’m too busy, no-one would want to listen to me, it’s too hard, I’m not bright enough, and the list goes on.
I reached a point where I was sick of expending energy thinking about whether or not I would do it. I asked myself five questions; the same question after each response, until I reached the core of why I was avoiding writing my book.
The core at the bottom of my “Why’s?” was Fear.
Fear was stopping me from realising my goal of being a writer. Either I had to let go of the goal, or let go of fear. I chose the latter, and now two books later, I am planning my third.
At the core of many of our fears, lie three deep universal fears. These are fears that no matter what origin, we can all experience them. Sometimes more than one universal fear can be at play in our decision-making and behaviour. They are:
- Fear of Separation and Abandonment
- Fear that we are “Not good enough”.
- Fear of Surrender and Trust.
Let me explain how each of these can play-out in our work and lives.
Fear of Separation and Abandonment
When we have a fear in our lives, even if we are not consciously aware precisely what it is, it creates an emotional bias in our bodies and behaviour. Fear can shape the way we feel and behave. It can cause us to repeat patterns that may be hindering our growth and connections. We can ‘run’ when things get hard, go silent or push people away when we don’t want to get too close or become vulnerable, or avoid connection because we don’t want to change our status quo.
Leading can also be a lonely space. We are connected with our colleagues, but also need to maintain a level of professional distance. We hold information that can only be shared with certain people. We collaborate with others outside of our organisations, but only to a point, for fear of losing our organisational identity. As leaders, sometimes our sense of alone-ness can stop us from power-sharing, distributive leadership or having certain conversations, when we actually could. With the best intent, we can become an island.
It’s interesting that as humans, one of our deep needs is connection and a sense of belonging, and yet we will sometimes operate in ways that are the antithesis of this.
Fear that we are “Not good enough”.
Just as I shared in my story, the script of “I’m not good enough” was running through my head, stopping me from realising a goal. When I realised what was driving my behaviour, and that there was no actual nirvana of “Good enough”, because we were always evolving, I was able to show a little self-compassoin, lighten it up a little, and give-it-a-go!
Once again, our lives can be run by these minimizing thought patterns that cause us to avoid, self-sabotage, hold onto perfectionist views, sit in confusion, avoid, procrastinate, say “no” and play small. We can avoid going for that promotion, joining that team, putting forward our ideas, or even walking into that room, all because of our fear of not being good enough.
It’s time to put that script to rest and rewrite another… don’t you think?
Fear of surrender and trust.
Have you ever experienced a relationship of any kind where your level of trust was so complete that you were able to surrender your individual self in exchange for knowing a greater one? To be clear, this is not about giving yourself or all or your personal power away in any situation. On the contrary, the experience that I’m asking about is where you have such a strong sense of self, that you allow yourself to let go of your beliefs about what or who you should be in exchange for a greater possibility of what you may become.
I had the utter privilege recently of experiencing a leader who was willing to do just that; to surrender and trust in the possibility of new opportunities. Obviously relational trust had to be there for us to do this mahi together; that is a critical element, and not one to take lightly. But, when in that space, this leader was open to recognising patterns of behaviour that weren’t serving their vision, challenging their thinking, reframing their views of others and planning forward with a new knowing.
When we embrace vulnerability and courage wisely, we open the door to possibility, and when we walk through that door, we begin to play Big.
Finally, as you go into this coming week, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on where any of these universal fears might be at play in your work and life. Consider one small area you wish to focus on, and set yourself an intention or goal and take a step towards it.
To close, I wish to loop back to my story about my fear of writing, and the script that I wasn’t good enough.
Funnily enough, I discovered a family name of mine is “Goodenough”.
You see, I was born Good Enough! 🙂
The Divine Matrix. Greg Braden
The Anatomy of Trust. Brene’ brown
Lost Connections. Johann Hari.