I love writing and it gives me huge pleasure when one of my newsletter readers tells me “I don’t read many newsletters but I always read yours”. Sometimes they go on to say “You should write a book”.
At this point I freeze like a rabbit in the headlights and my internal critic says “You can’t do that!” So another year goes by and the book never gets started.
This year I’ve decided to tackle my fear head on by joining The Writer’s Studio, a group led by the amazing Kathy Gale, former Managing Director of The Women’s Press. As I sat in the group for the first time last Friday having my writing tactfully critiqued I went right back to my 10 year old self listening to Sister Mary Cyprian, the terrifying nun headmistress of my primary school, picking apart my grammar.
I will always remember my shock as I proudly presented my story to her and she responded by criticising it in front of the class, leading to my internal decision “I can’t write”.
Last Friday a big part of me wanted to run away from the group and wholeheartedly agree with Sister Mary Cyprian and my 10 year old self. Yet I know that if I stick with this work my writing has the chance to flourish.
What I am learning about facing my fears is:
- We make decisions in childhood to keep us emotionally safe and these become “hard wired” into us. We need to periodically upgrade our “hardware” by uncovering and challenging those beliefs. This takes courage, patience and self-compassion.
- When we are making changes, sometimes it feels worse before it feels better. This is not a sign to stop but to keep going.
- Getting the skilled support of others to overcome our fears is vital. Just as it’s a bad idea to try to cut your own hair, calling on expert support can move you forward in leaps and bounds rather than trying to muddle through under your own steam.
When I’m coaching my clients on their personal impact and presence, it can feel scary for them to receive feedback about highly personal aspects of themselves such as their voice, body language and posture. Watching themselves back on video can be squirmy!
Yet when they are willing to take risks, be vulnerable and try out new methods, the results are transformational.
Leadership is as much about small, everyday acts of personal courage as it is about big, bold initiatives.
What are your secret fears and how are you overcoming them? I’d love to hear.