I'm So Afraid

I'm so afraid.  Those are the words I cried into my husband's shoulder last week when he got home from work.  I hadn't realized I was panicking inside or that I was about to use up our entire month's supply of kleenex, but as soon as he asked how things were going, I lost it...

You see, last Wednesday I quit my full-time job as an Air Force Officer to pursue my business full-time.  It was by far the most satisfying and terrifying step I have taken on my entrepreneurial journey so far.  Leaving the security and comfort of the life we know to pursue things yet unseen takes courage and faith. And it was clear that in that moment i felt neither courageous nor particularly faith inspired.

This step was a HUGE leap of faith since right now my business can't replace my full-time income and in all honesty isn't completely viable yet.  I mean I think my mom reads my blog, but I don't have a huge audience.  I have a few friends that have agreed to take some of my courses, but I'm certainly not generating consistent leads or income.  I have a few speaking engagements on the horizon, but they aren't coming in as quickly as I'd like.  

Even though I am confident that this business is my calling and is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing right now, as I sat there in my kitchen last week, all I could think about were all the reasons why quitting my secure, comfortable and well-paying job was a big mistake.

In that moment, the doubts and questions flowed freely.

What if no one will hire me to speak and coach? What if no one likes what I have to say?  What if I completely fail at this?  

What if, what if, what if...I couldn't stop the little voice that told me I was crazy.  "What if", two words that are so simple and yet have the ability to completely paralyze us and keep us from achieving our dreams and desires.  Two words that if left roaming around in our minds have the ability to turn excitement and joy into fear and doubt in an instant.  I know because that's exactly what happened to me last week.  I let those two words cloud my mind and squash the belief I have in myself and in my calling.

The only good news about this whole experience was that it reminded me that we all experience fear.  Even in the midst of confidence and certainty, fear can creep in and make us pause.  Sometimes that is good, but so often we listen to that little voice of fear (or the screaming fear monster) and we stop ourselves from growing.  

One of the biggest reasons the women I work with aren't moving forward in their lives and businesses is fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of not knowing where to start. Fear of looking silly.  Fear of hurting someone.  Fear of letting their families down. Fear of...fill in the blank.  Maybe you can relate?

Here is what I'm learning about fear.  It's one of the most common human emotions we experience, but it's also one we have to learn to manage if we want to move forward with our lives.  The idea of getting comfortable with fear is icky.  I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling like a failure or worrying all the time.  And yet, when we are moving forward there is almost always fear involved at some point along the journey. It's a normal part of life.

The good news about fear is that it doesn't have to stop you from living your dreams.  Feeling fear doesn't mean you are doing the wrong things.  It doesn't mean you are going to fail. And it certainly doesn't mean you have to give up on the dreams that get you excited and bring you joy.  

I've learned 3 lessons about fear, that can hopefully help you the next time the little panic siren goes off in your head.  

First, I'm learning to simply acknowledge when I'm afraid and then pause long enough to get comfortable with it.  I honestly think the biggest breakthrough for me is just realizing that fear is part of the growth process.  I know that when I feel fear it probably means I'm trying something new or pushing my limits just a little bit.  Both of those things are good things.  

Getting comfortable with fear doesn't mean accepting it as a permanent state, but rather acknowledging it as a passing emotion that is completely normal.  It means allowing myself to be honest about my doubts and then pushing forward anyway.  It isn't an easy process, and I don't always get it right, but I am learning to not let fear paralyze me.

Second, I'm learning to acknowledge the fear and learn what I can from it.  When that little voice says, "what if," I listen.  I listen to that voice not because I believe it's telling me the complete truth, but because I recognize that sometimes it shows me where I'm missing something in my plan.  Sometimes fear highlights things we haven't even thought of yet.  "What if", gives me a tool to use to see if I need to change directions or add a new skill before I take action.  It helps me plan for the next step in my journey.

Finally, I'm learning to occasionally just ignore that pesky little voice in my head.  Learning to say, "of course I'm afraid, this is something new, but I know I'm ready for it," allows me to acknowledge the voice, learn from it and then ignore it!  Learning to simply ignore the voice goes a long way in helping us achieve our goals and dreams even when we are a little anxious or nervous about the outcome.  There are times where that little voice that tells us we aren't good enough, or that we aren't smart enough, or that we don't have anything of value to add just needs to shut-up!  

Fear is such a powerful and real emotion.  It's one that we are going to continually face on this journey we call life.  But I think President Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right when he said, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."  When we learn to use fear as a tool rather than a roadblock we can achieve so much more and with a lot less kleenex!