I was reading an article yesterday about Susan Jeffers, author of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” perhaps the most famous and certainly one of the original ‘self help’ books. I started thinking about the times I have managed to overcome my fear of something and how that feels. They have become memorable and proud moments of my life, but I am also aware that fear can be helpful, in that sometimes it can save us from making mistakes.
I was working at a particular job for nearly seven years and had come to realise that I was not really working to my full potential, but it was safe, reasonably good money and fitted in with my children and family life. But I wanted more.
For about a year I procrastinated about getting a more fulfilling job, but literally made myself sick thinking about it. I felt I had lost the knack of doing interviews and the prospect alone was enough to set off my IBS! The thought of an interview conjured abject terror, a tortuous process where the interviewer was bound to trip me up and catch me out and generally humiliate me at every turn… instead of a golden opportunity to show off my skills and vast experience.
I was also applying for jobs that fitted my experience and were well paid, but were what I thought I should apply for, instead of what I wanted to apply for. In the ‘should’ category, I had an interview experience that will stay with me forever.
I arrived, introduced myself to the receptionist and was shown to the seating area, the receptionist having informed me that the interviews were running late. I sat there for ten minutes getting more and more anxious, until finally, I went back to the receptionist and asked her if I could visit the bathroom. She helpfully directed me back up the stairs and I set off, saying I would be gone only a few minutes. I had no intention of going to the bathroom! I literally ran out of the building, looking behind every few steps, half expecting the distraught receptionist to be chasing me, and got into my car. I drove all the way home, hysterically laughing and crying at the same time.
When I got in, Andy was waiting for me and laughed like a drain when I told him what I had done. This was made all the more funny by the host of texts and voicemails on my phone from the bewildered receptionist, asking if I was stuck in the bathroom, or had somehow got lost in the building and couldn’t find my way back to the interview suite! Poor woman! I often wonder how she explained my disappearance to the panel.
What I realised later that evening was that I did not want to be there, because this wasn’t a job I wanted or was remotely suited to! After that experience I determined to only apply for roles that I really wanted. And yes, it would have been a lot more courageous to tell the panel that I didn’t want their dull and uninspiring role, but in this case my feet, rather than my head did the talking (or walking). And I have never regretted that for one moment.
A few months later an altogether more exciting opportunity came along and although the days preceding the interview were hard, dealing with my anxiety, I wanted the role and was determined this time, nothing was going to stop me. I kept telling myself over and over that this was THEIR chance to appeal to me, and if they didn’t, I would be off! The thought of another dash across the car park made me smile and alleviated some of the tension. When I arrived and was shown in, the panel were waiting, but their welcoming smiles did a lot to alleviate my fear. I took a couple of big deep breaths and once I started speaking I felt confident and knowledable.
I got the job and it started me on the pathway to my dream role which is where I am now. I have a great job, with good money and I work from home. Yes, it’s stressful at times managing over 150 staff, but I love it!
So, don’t be held back just because you are scared, but also don’t be afraid of changing your mind if you find yourself in the wrong situation. Trusting your gut feelings is such a powerful tool!
A couple of shorter examples: Although a relatively good swimmer, I am a bit nervous of being in the sea, particularly deep water. We were on holiday a few years ago, adjacent to a beach with a steep drop and huge waves. Andy spent a long time giving me a pep talk about how much I would enjoy it if I got in, and eventually I did. I had the time of my life! … and now you can’t keep me out of the sea.
”Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair
My last example is a little more lasting ( I hope) Having got divorced at the age of 40, I wanted to find a partner but the thought of a dating site was abhorrent. The horror stories! However, as I no longer felt comfortable frequenting bars and clubs, and I was unlikely to meet someone doing my weekly shop, I took the plunge, registered and the rest is history. Andy and I have now been married 7 years.
Among the best experiences you will have are the ones that you were frightened of, but overcame. It doesn’t have to be sky diving or learning to swim, it could be attending a toddler group if you are shy (been there, done that), or making friend’s with other mums in the playground.
The feeling of satisfaction is so special when you make one of these breakthroughs and, more importantly, it’s giving you those solid building blocks to conquer the next challenge.
Susan Jeffers certainly practised what she preached: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” was rejected many times before it was finally published in 1987. The book went on to sell in its millions and was translated into 36 languages.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney