Editor’s Note: Fear has many voices, and over the coming weeks we’ll be outing all of them, examining them for what they are so you can make the decision whether to listen or ignore, learn or reject, act or retreat. We’re on a mission in 2012 to help you understand how fear works so you can use its power for good. In fact, we’re writing the book on it.
Let’s be honest here: you’re gonna have to get over yourself.
And by “yourself” I mean that bitchy little voice in your head that tells you you’re not smart, thin, attractive, witty, fit, likable, determined, lucky, rich, happy, talented, wise, young, old, or street-smart enough to do whatever it is you really want to do with your life.
Guess what? You probably aren’t. (And neither is anyone else.)
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just here to give you a dose of reality so you can shut that bitchy little voice up for a just a minute. (My god, how can you get anything done with the constant nagging and fear-mongering?)
Your fear is real, even if the reasons for it are not, and you are hard-wired to behave this way from your caveman days. You don’t have to worry about violent death from saber-toothed tigers anymore, but you do have to worry about your livelihood from a nitpicking boss or the sharp tongue of the office gossip. As they say here in Thailand, “same same, but different.”
Disqualifying yourself before you even start
Let me ask you a question. When you are looking for a job, do you only apply when you fit all the stated requirements, the degree in monkey wrangling, experience using all 12 modules of the Banana 7.0 software, or 5 years of direct experience managing poo-flinging? Or do you apply for what piques your interest, the jobs you know you could do and want to do, even if you don’t meet all the criteria on the surface?
(“Hey you, the one with the insanely high self-confidence and desire to prove it. The job is yours. Here’s your broom.”)
As someone who has hired many people in the past, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Hardly anyone meets the exact criteria for a job posting. The job description is just a “dream” list of qualifications the hiring manager thinks is useful – or worse, it is just a rehash of the ad the last time the job was open and the hiring manager just plans to cull through resumes to find the right person. She doesn’t expect to find a candidate that crosses every T and dots every I of a job description.
This example is going long so I’ll let you know right now that this post isn’t about how to find a great job (though you can take my advice and send me a finder’s fee when you land that awesome new gig if you like.)
This post is about treating your big goals and fears around them like that dream job you aren’t qualified for on paper. Realize right now that you won’t be “enough” to do the thing you want to do until you are actually doing it. So stop wasting time right now thinking about all the ways you fall short at the start and just say, “eh, I don’t fit the job description but I’m going to apply anyway.”
- “I’m not as good-looking as Justin Timberlake, but I am funny as hell and can dance, so I’m going to ask her out.”
- “I don’t have a book deal – yet – so I’m going to self-publish my book on Kindle because I have something to say.”
- “I’m not thin enough to fit in a little black dress, so I’m going to buy a large one and go out to the party anyway.”
Fear has many voices
That bitchy little voice is part of gang of thugs called Fear. They hang around in dark alleys, calling out all the insecurities of people passing by like creepy construction workers on a lunch break.
- “You aren’t good enough!”
- “He doesn’t really love you, you know.”
- “Everyone thinks you’re going to fail.”
They are brutal, and just like stereotypes, we believe there is enough of a grain of truth in them to give them legs. We listen to these voices like they are beacons of knowledge when they are really just shots of self-doubt fired in the dark. All the voice has to do is keeping lobbing insults at you until one sticks, so the job is not difficult.
I could tell you to just stop listening to the voice, but that would be like telling a smoker to just throw away the pack or a junkie to just skip her next fix. We are hooked on the bad shit, and it is hard to walk away from the insults we tell ourselves.
Why is that?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because allowing ourselves to be insulted to the point of inaction serves our evolutionary need to be safe. Fear is making sure you don’t get hurt by venturing outside your comfort zone. It has adjusted to life without saber-toothed tigers, but it is still on high alert for anything that can harm you, including the modern-day monsters: rejection, failure, and embarrassment. If it can keep you in your cave, it has done its job.
Your fear is a compass. Learn to read it.
Your fear isn’t going away. Even if you conquer your latest fears, new ones will arrive. There is no getting around the idea of having fear in your life, so you might as well learn to deal with it. Everyone gets scared, but only the really smart ones learn to keep going anyway. And we already know you’re one of the smart ones.
By the time the fear subsides, it will be too late. By the time you’re not afraid of what you were planning to start/say/do, someone else will have already done it, it will already be said or it will be irrelevant. The reason you’re afraid is that there’s leverage here, something might happen. Which is exactly the signal you’re looking for. ~ Seth Godin
It’s that fear, the Resistance you feel when something is titillating and terrifying at the same time, that signals you are on the right track. It is your compass, your foghorn, the lighthouse to guide you forward, and if you begin treating your fear this way, it will revolutionize your life. You can reject what your fear is saying and still accept the signal it is giving you to move forward.
Little bitchy voice: You’re on notice.
We’ve got ways of dealing with the likes of you:
- Change the messenger. Think of the most annoying, negative, “sky is falling” person you know, the one that makes you want to leave the room every time he or she enters. Now imagine your bitchy little voice being replaced with that one. It makes it a LOT easier to accurately evaluate the message when you change the speaker.
- Tone does not equal authority. We often joke about Warren’s “authoritative voice.” I know when he pulls this one out during a conversation that he is full of crap. He either doesn’t know the answer and won’t admit it or he’s trying to fool someone in the group. I’ve learned not to trust him when he sounds ultra sure of himself. The lesson? Don’t be confused by the tone. James Earl Jones may sound really cool when he says stupid stuff, but it is still stupid stuff. (Imagine Gilbert Gottfried saying “Luke, I am your father.”)
- Be a friend to yourself. Most of us are thoughtful, supportive, and loving to our closest friends, encouraging them when they are down and pointing out when they are sabotaging themselves. Next time your bitchy little voice makes an appearance, defend yourself like you would a good friend who confided these thoughts to you.
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