A few months ago, I delivered a talk to a group of women. I wanted to address the kinds of topics that come up for us again and again. The truth is, quite often we are getting in our own way; there’s nothing really stopping us but ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even know we are getting in our own way; we disguise it with things like procrastination, and perfectionism. In the talk, I addressed things like how “getting in our own way” shows up in our life, what are the symptoms to look out for. And once we recognise it, what can we do about it? I also included some useful resources we can use to help us, which I have noted below (with links!!).
Fear of failure
The first big concept is around FEAR. Fear comes in many forms. One of the biggest kinds is fear of failure. Or “I know that’s not going to work so I won’t even try”. Let me ask you this: What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? You are guaranteed success, now what will you do? I know for me I would love to deliver a TED talk, write a novel and a business book… and if we’re really going all out, I’d like to be an astronaut and go to the moon! How many times have you told yourself “I tried that before and it didn’t work out” and used that as an excuse not to try again? What if I told you there’s no such thing as failure? How does that make you feel? Let’s reframe our thoughts: There is no failure, there are only degrees of success; look at what went well, and specifically what you did well. What can you learn from what didn’t do so well? How can you improve for next time? Over the duration of my coaching diploma I learned the importance of reflection, and now I use it in all aspects of my life. The questions to constantly ask yourself are: What did you do well? And what will you do differently next time? What actions can I put in place to improve? If you think about it, we get this kind of feedback in our life all the time, but when do we actually listen and take action…?
Fear of what others will think
Another form of fear is what other people will think. In Ireland, we have this thing called #notions. How dare anybody rise above their station, for fear of judgement and ridicule. “Look at that Mary one down the road, who does she think she is?” Is this something that resonates with you? I left my job in March 2018, and of course I had all the fear – what will my parents think? My colleagues? My friends? Thankfully most people were very supportive of my decision, saying how brave I was to take such a risky leap. Of course, my parents worried about how I was going to earn money! This type of fear is all about owning it. So, put a label on it “this is me, this is who I am” and I can assure you, you will know who your supporters are. When I first started sharing content, be that on Facebook, Instagram or on my website, I was worried about people judging my ideas. But according to Brené Brown, in order to live your life to the full, you have to put yourself out there; you have to be vulnerable. Don’t listen to the opinion of others if they haven’t also put themselves out there; if they’re judging you from the “cheap seats” rather than from inside the arena. And even then, make sure the feedback you take on board is constructive, that it empowers you to improve in some way. I’ll leave you with this thought: What others think of me is none of my business!
Fear of not being good enough
This links in with another form of fear – “I’m not good enough” otherwise known as “imposter syndrome”. This shows up ALL the time! The bad news is that this is part of the human condition. There is no cure for this, it doesn’t magically go away with age or experience. We all encounter it at one time or another. You may not even know you’re doing it, as it can be very good at hiding itself. Ask yourself this, is there something you really want to achieve, but keep putting it off? You’re waiting for the right time, waiting to lose weight or move house or find a boyfriend? Or are you waiting til it’s exactly right before you share it with the world? I have news… you could be afraid to share your ideas and put yourself out there because you’re really afraid that you’re not good enough. Past success doesn’t guarantee future success, or so you tell yourself. Remember Aleksandr Petrovski, Carrie’s boyfriend in Sex and the City? “what if they think I’m just the old man with the lights?” Even when you have attained a level of success, you think it was by luck or accident, and soon you will be found out for the fraud you really are (I know I have experienced this in my career, unnecessarily so). But what can we do about it? For perfectionists, learn to strive for excellence, not perfection. What does “good enough” look like? Is this good enough to be shared? If you are procrastinating or experiencing “imposter syndrome” then affirmations can really help – I have listed some useful affirmations in the resources at the bottom of this page.
Fear of success
The last fear I covered was the fear of success. Yes, it’s a real thing! It sometimes shows up as being reluctant to try new things. Knowing that you will be successful means you actually have to do something about it. You could go out of your comfort zone, into unchartered territory. It means you need to take action, put some steps in place to get you there. Or you could be afraid of being in the spotlight, with all your flaws, being judged, and under scrutiny. To overcome this fear, you need to own it; nobody is responsible for your life but you. You are in control, own your own success. Realise that you deserve success just as much as the next person. The world needs to hear your ideas and see your creativity. There is only one of you, share your uniqueness.
Comparing ourselves to others
We can also get in our own way by comparing and judging. We compare ourselves to others, or to how life was “supposed” to be. Do you constantly think the grass is always greener? That someone else has it easier or better than you do? Are you comparing their “highlight reel” with your own “behind the scenes”? Do you often feel sorry for yourself, adopting a “poor me” attitude? We tend to want what we can’t have, that’s a reality of life. I have friends who are overweight and would prefer to be slimmer, and friends who are slim and would prefer to be more voluptuous. When is the last time you were grateful for what you do have in your life? Gratitude is a great way to notice all the good things you have in your life (even if only a few right now), and a great way to bring more positivity, and more things to be grateful for. Learn to appreciate others for what they are; they are human too, with their own strengths and flaws. Know that you are in control of your own life, rather than being jealous or feeling sorry for yourself, you can do something about it to change your own life. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just stop.
Judging ourselves and others
Judgement comes in many forms. We judge ourselves, and others, we use negative self-talk to beat ourselves up, and we tend to judge in others what we dislike about ourselves. Do you find yourself judging people on the street? Do you judge yourself when you look in the mirror? How about when you make a mistake? Let me ask you this: how is this helping you? If it’s not serving you (and let me let you in on a little secret, it isn’t!), why are you doing it? Like a lot of things, this is a habit caused by repeated behaviour. But there is a way to stop it. Practice self-compassion; you’re only human. Be kind to yourself, especially when you make a mistake. Loving kindness meditation is a great way to practice kindness for yourself and others. Turn self-limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. Again, affirmations are a great way to put this into practice – focus on what is true for you today and work on that.
When it comes to fear of failure, learn to feel the fear and do it anyway! There’s no such thing as failure, just learning from experience. Fear of what others will think can be combatted by not listening to opinions from the “cheap seats” and only listening to constructive feedback from others. When you think you are not good enough, ask what “good enough” even means, use positive affirmations to build your self-belief. When you fear success, own your life and own your success. Know that you deserve success just as much as anybody else. If you find yourself comparing yourself to others, just stop. Be grateful for all the good things in your life, and you’ll be surprised at how much more positive you become and what others thing show up in your life to be grateful for. If you’re feeling a bit judgemental, stop. Become aware of your own negative self-talk and use positive affirmations which are true for you today.
- I deserve success as much as anyone
- I can achieve anything I put my mind to
- I flow easily with new experiences, new challenges, and new people who enter my life
- I am gentle with myself
- I choose to feel good about myself every day
- I am ready
- I am capable