Are you holding yourself back because you are afraid of failure?
Do you lack confidence so much that you avoid opportunities to pursue your most heartfelt ambitions?
If you are then you are just like thousands of other women up and down the country.
Whether it be smashing through the glass ceiling in corporate environments or leaving employment to start our own businesses, so many of us are fearful of going for what it is we really want. But by failing to pursue the life or the career path that we deserve, we leave ourselves instead feeling very unfulfilled, demotivated and insecure.
Research looking into the business case for gender diversity in senior and executive positions found that women often lack self-confidence and self-belief, which leads to less risk taking and more cautious career choices.
In my own research, I have also found fear to be a significant factor holding women back from achieving their ambitions and their full potential. In fact, as many as 78% of women surveyed said that fear prevented them from pursuing the career that they really wanted.
There is nothing wrong with feeling fearful of certain situations. Fear is a natural survival instinct. However, we are no longer hunters and we are no longer being hunted, so when fear prevents you from pursuing the things that you really want above all else, then it is a problem to be overcome.
When we are fearful of a situation it is often because we are focused on and worrying about the worst possible outcomes. As a result, we feel anxious or stressed about what we intend to do and it makes us afraid of doing it.
By changing the way we think about the choices we face, we can go a long way towards alleviating the worries we might have about pushing ourselves and pursuing daunting opportunities.
This is where my ‘5 Stop Road Map’ comes in. Follow the 5 stops below and you will soon be able to overcome the fears that are preventing your success.
1 - Capture your unhelpful thoughts
Janet was fed up at work but was not pursuing her career aspirations because the role that she was really interested in involved public speaking. She thought that if she was to deliver a presentation then she would either give out the wrong information or she may be asked something that she could not answer, which she worried would make her look stupid.
By replacing her unhelpful thoughts with more positive ideas, she was able to see that if she prepared well for presentations she could be confident of giving fully up-to-date and accurate information. She also recognised that if someone did ask her a question that she could not answer, she would simply let them know and get back to them on the issue. She also realised that the chances of this happening were very slim indeed as she was very knowledgeable on all the relevant subject matter.
This kind of helpful thinking helped reassure Janet that she could pursue the career path she wanted, without succumbing to her fear of failure. This took away her anxieties and made the situation much less fearful and gave her a lot more confidence.
What are your unhelpful thoughts? When you are feeling fearful or lacking confidence about a situation, stop and reflect on the way you think about potential outcomes. Write down these unhelpful thoughts and then write down corresponding ideas that might be more useful and helpful.
2 - Play detective
We often make assumptions about situations without having the evidence to support our views. Angela came to me for coaching after being unsuccessful at three job interviews and she was struggling to retain her self-confidence. She told me that she was not getting the jobs because she looked foolish. I could not understand why she thought this as she was very articulate and well presented. She had not asked for feedback from any of the interviews and was making an assumption without having the evidence to support it.
Getting feedback would enable her to identify specific areas that she could improve on, which is much more useful than just making the general assumption that she came across as foolish. Recognising this, Angela realised that her fears were unfounded and that she was worrying about nothing.
So don’t make assumptions without the evidence to support it.
3 - Phone a friend
If a friend came to you with the very same issue that you are facing, what would you advise them?
We are often a lot harsher on ourselves than we are on others but if a friend came to you with a problem, you would give them advice that might well be beneficial. You would tell them something that would help them move forward and make progress.
Imagine that you are going to phone a friend and give them advice on a situation that they are fearful of or lacking confidence about…now, apply that advice to yourself.
4 - Is it really that bad?!
When we are fearful or lacking confidence about a situation, as mentioned, it is often because we are worried about the worst possible outcome. In reality, the worst possible outcome that we’re so afraid of may have no chance of happening. Can you think of a time when you had been lacking the confidence to do something but you went ahead and did it? Although you may have been anxious or scared at the time, you did it and you got through it and are here to tell the tale today.
What can you learn from that scenario to help you with your current situation? What support did you get? What skills did you apply to get through it? Look at how you can apply what you learnt to get through your present situation and ask yourself, can it really be that bad?
5 - Stop being a perfectionist
Do you put things off because you are waiting for the situation to be perfect? Do you get anxious when things are not perfect? It can be very stressful being a perfectionist so we procrastinate or delay what we need to do because we are worrying that we won’t get it right or we won’t be good enough.
Increasing your tolerance levels and accepting that it does not have to be perfect and that very good is good enough, will remove your anxiety, making the situation much less scary.
If you practice this ‘5 Stop Road Map’ on a regular basis, you will begin to recognise when your thoughts are holding you back and be able to reframe your thoughts about your situation so that you overcome the fears that prevent your success.
Go on, try it and let me know how you get on, either by contacting Carol here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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