Fear is the one thing that holds back many professionals from underrepresented backgrounds from advancing their careers, claiming their seats at the table, and pursuing their dreams.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary Fear's definition is:
: an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of the danger.
: a feeling of being afraid: a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful.
Fear is a universal feeling that comes in response to situations where we sense danger. It is a natural response to a physical threat, yet it can be triggered in certain stressful situations. This reaction is a direct result of evolution. Fear can immobilize us and paralyze us.
Given the first definition of fear, it's completely understandable that we feel afraid. Many of us, professionals from underrepresented minorities, come from communities where we've seen the struggle. What is worse, it keeps happening again and again. We've seen our immediate family go through dark days, full of pain and struggle; thus, we become creatures of fear.
Fear of not having the financial means (scarcity)
Fear of not fitting in
Fear of not knowing enough
Fear of not being accepted
Fear of rocking the boat
Fear of expressing our voice
Fear of what others would think of us
As a result, we miss out on financial and career opportunities.
We say no to that role that just opened up, or we say no to the recruiter message on your mailbox. We do not speak up in meetings or ask for a raise. Instead, We rationalized our low "below-market salary," or we hide under that "until I get that next degree" excuse.
And thus, we miss out on living to our fullest potential only because we are so paralyzed by fear.
Unless we choose not to, we will always be in the world of fear.
What if we could tap into that power and harness it instead?
I'm not here to give you the usual "fear" pep talk, where I go off about facing your fears by going "all-out" after you read this article; neither will I go over the gazillion strategies that are out there. Instead, I like to extend an invitation to try another approach to deal with fear. It's by far the strategy that has proven the most successful with myself and my clients, which is Explore, Befriend, and Harness Fear.
Explore your fear by using the NAME technique. It stands for:
Expand your awareness of "now."
Notice your thoughts and feelings. How does it manifest in your body. For most is an intense gut punch or a knot in your throat. Take a few seconds to scan your body for all the feelings. Notice all the details. Also, pay attention to the different thoughts that come to your mind. They usually manifest with your inner critic voice and notice them but try not to get hooked on them. Instead...
Without being judgemental, acknowledge the feeling by internally telling yourself:
"Here is my feeling of fear and, normally, I'm feeling this"
"I'm noticing Fear, and of course, I'm feeling this given the challenge."
"My nerves are here, and they ought to be, given that____"
"I'm feeling anxious, and this is a normal feeling."
My go-to strategy to make space is a breading technique that I learn during my meditation practice, and it's called rhythmic counting. When acknowledging fear, next is to hold space by:
A) Breathing and counting until four
B) Then hold for four
C) Exhale counting to six
While you do this, focus on your lung's expansion and on the gap between your breath going in and out. This technique is a proven way to calm the system and allow the conscious brain to take over again. You can also incorporate a small mantra here. I personally like to use "Let it be" or "Breathe and open up"
Expand your awareness of "now"
Lastly, as part of this exploration, it's essential that you expand your awareness by bringing in your senses. Pay attention to what is around you, smells, taste, touch, etc. Using your senses will allow you to regain control and come back to your present world, not the word of fear.
Befriending your fear helps to change our attitude towards it. It might sound weird but think of your fear as someone that has been trying to protect you all along. Think of it as your good intention untie, who is only trying to protect you. What would you say to your fear then? Knowing that he/she is there for your own good, how would your attitude change? Would you still be paralyzed?
I personally like to do humor and curiosity. When I'm afraid of something, I know it is self-made. I acknowledge it by envisioning addressing my fear in a short conversation like: "hello there _fear_! You are so nice to check in with me" Then I follow by getting really curious about the situation by asking myself:
What about this situation, I can get curious?
How likely is that ___ will occur?
Do I have evidence that ___ will happen?
If it happens, what is the worst-case scenario? and then what?
By having this internal conversation with ourselves, our relations with fear change. We are no longer afraid but instead empowered by the energy that fear gives (all the focus and stamina)
Then we are ready for the last step, which is...
Harnessing Your Fear
As you are reading this and probably thinking, "It' is no way in hell this is going to work with me," I like to ask for your to stop that thought for a second and to close your eyes and recall
a time you felt nervous and anxious.
How did you felt afterward? How much of your energy was drained, spent into avoiding or tolerating fear?
Now, like to ask you to imagine what you can do with all the energy instead? How would you feel if you are not resisting or tolerating?
What you are feeling is right: the possibilities are endless.
I've seen this happening many times with my clients. Either overcoming their fears of public speaking, asking for a raise or promotion, or pursuing a new career path, it works.
However, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this technique works, but it requires practice and intention on your part. It will take a little while, but once you do, it will make all the difference.
There is a faster way.
However, this process is much faster if you work with a trained professional like myself. I'm both certified COR.E Transitions and Leadership Dynamics and a Certified Professional Coach. I specialized in leadership development and career empowerment.
I work with BIPOC and women professionals with the mindset and skills to achieve their next-level roles. Through my coaching program "Elevate and Own Your Voice" I do that. We will work from the inside out to facilitate your transition to that authentic and powerful you.
If you are ready to elevate and own your voice, stop feeling afraid and experience the possibilities apply here.