From spiders and heights to failure and rejection, fear can come in many forms and is one of the many factors of life that drive us. But what if you want to conquer your fear and achieve the goals you have set for yourself?
Sounds easy enough, right? But in reality, it can be very difficult. It’s all very well for people to tell you to ‘get over it’, but fear is a very personal thing. Everyone experiences fear in different ways, and nobody else can feel exactly what you are experiencing.
Insights to help conquer your fear
A good insight into fear is given by Nina Bahadur, who candidly discusses the struggles she went through dealing with fear and anxiety, writing: “I think that I lost a lot of things, not just by being anxious, but by being afraid to talk about my anxiety. Instead of being gentle with myself and asking others to understand, I was furious with myself for letting anxiety limit me”.
Fear is often also about what the future holds for you and what your currency is in the workplace. And it’s most often in the workplace that you want to conquer your fear.
For women, our workplace fears seem to cross over with our personal lives with a study finding that “More than two thirds of pregnant women believe they risk their jobs by taking maternity leave and fear competition from ambitious colleagues…”
Additionally, when it comes to maternity leave, the study also showed that “Half of the 1,300 women asked said they would consider hiding their pregnancy from their boss if they were offered a new job or a promotion”.
From success and failure to relevance in the workplace, fear comes in many forms and women seem to experience it a lot with a long-respected survey revealing that four out of five women fear that their careers were being held back and that they feel discriminated against in the workplace.
Additionally, the four out of five women also said they were afraid of the possible consequences of complaining about harassment, saying they wouldn’t ‘…complain about being harassed “because they didn’t believe they would be taken seriously”’.
Daylle Deanna Schwartz also elaborates on fear and anxiety in the workplace, writing: “Fear of the unknown can sabotage your efforts to be successful. Fear of success creates blocks that prevent you from achieving it. In my people-pleasing days, fear ruled me on many levels”.
Fear can control you for a long time and it can be about anything, impacting your personal and professional lives in many different ways.
Fear can also cross over when it comes to feminine and masculine ideas about ambition, with either sex facing the possibility of threatening, or feeling threatened by, the opposite gender, and this is one of the areas where some insights can help conquer your fear.
Caroline Turner discussed some possible reasons behind the fear women experience when it comes to their professional future, writing: “The feminine version of ambition has more to do with purpose than status. A person with this version of ambition is more interested in collaboration than competition, in results than titles, in success than getting credit”.
Whereas “Ambition from a masculine perspective is about competition and winning. It is about getting to the top of the heap, to the “alpha” position in a hierarchy”.
From discrimination in the workplace and not having a job after returning from maternity leave to fear of the unknown, there are many forms of fear that women face when in the workforce. But once we understand all the points outlined above, there are some strategies we can use to help ease fear and anxiety.
In order to address fear, you need to recognize that a key driver for this fear is derived from your own perceptions. Although it might be easier said than done, our perceptions about the things that scare us could definitely be changed.
Examine what your internal voice is saying about a situation that you find fearful, and identify the negative perceptions that voice is applying.
Reframe the situation
After you’ve identified your negative thoughts, you can take steps towards changing your perception of the situation.
Look at it from other points of view. Ask a trusted confidante to help you re-examine and reframe the situation. Write down the alternative viewpoints and start to look at the situation from that frame of reference.
For the situations we don’t seem to have any control over, it’s important to learn to let go. If your company has announced they are going to downsize, it’s natural to fear for your job.
But don’t let the fear paralyze you and undermine your performance. Instead, let it be an action point. Brush up your CV, start looking at other interesting jobs out there, and in the meantime, do anything you can to perform even better at your current job, helping ensure that you either have a better chance of being kept on; or will be given a stellar reference when new potential employers inquire about you. If you are told you’re going to be one of the ones being let go, keep up the strong performance right to the end. It’s this kind of standout effort that bosses remember when they’re asked to referee you.
See more workplace tips in our Career section.