Raise your hand if you’ve been referred to (or heard another woman referred to) as “fearless.” What does that mean? Well, fearless is literally defined as “lacking fear.”
And “fearlessness” is a growing trend right now. The idea, bolstered by messaging from every direction (think the “Fearless Girl” statue in the Financial District of Manhattan), seems to imply that fear is bad. If being without fear is good and to be desired, then to have fear must be a losing proposition.
But fear isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s fear that drives us forward in the face of adversity and propels us to – and beyond – heights we never thought were possible.
Fear is a growth hack.
Here’s the thing: in many circles, the term “fearless” is misused. It is used to describe people who charge forward, despite inertia, seemingly insurmountable challenges, or other hostile circumstances. Most people – when they dig deep down – are able to charge forward in this way. But they do it despite fear, not without it. And isn’t that what makes it a true hero’s story?
The key is getting in touch with that fear, sitting alone quietly with it, letting it voice it’s negativity and hostility, and getting comfortable
with the uncomfortable. Then, it’s letting the voice of your higher self persevere through that fear, smashing through the lies of “you can’t do it” and “you aren’t enough” and “you’re too much”, and coming out the other side a better, more dynamic, more intricate, and more resolute person.
The problem many women face is believing the misconception that fear is a bad thing. Instead, we women need to focus on the power of fear. Fear is a type of energy – just like happiness, excitement, sadness, anxiety, and joy. As an energy, it has the ability to be harnessed and channelled into something productive. We are in the driver seat in terms of where we channel that energy.
“Many times, fear gets channeled into worry, which converts into paralysis and the inability to move forward in any direction. But just because that is a conditioned response to fear doesn’t mean it is the only response” Ashley Poynter | CEO/Founder | Digital Strategist & Corporate Storyteller @ Content Rewired
Let’s breakdown the steps to using fear as rocket fuel:
- Acknowledge that fear exists. Acknowledgement and acceptance is necessary, scary as it may be. Failing to acknowledge fear is denial and there are no “next steps” from denial. You shut yourself down before you even start.
- Make friends with the fear. Cozy up to it. Make yourself at home with the fearful feelings and condition yourself to find comfort in the uncomfortable – to embrace the unknown.
- Question your fear. This requires some digging and introspection. Ask yourself why you’re feeling fearful. What you uncover may surprise you. For example, you may be fearful about giving a presentation to your company. Is it the presentation itself that’s causing you fear? It might not be. Perhaps it is who will be in the audience that is making you shaky in the knees. Or perhaps the subject matter strikes a chord with you. Dig deep and dig thoroughly to pinpoint the root of your anxiety.
- Separate helpful fear from damaging fear. Yep, there are different brands of fear (isn’t this fun?!): the good kind and the bad kind. Helpful fear is rooted in instincts we all have as humans – namely, the instinct of survival. Drilling down to what needs you fear might not be met can help you transform your fear into useful action. The other type of fear is that which feeds on lies and taps into the negative self-talk that has been cultivated by society’s sometimes warped views of reality (or from your own negative past experiences). Those can be discarded because they aren’t based in the truth and serve no purpose in getting you from Point A to Point B.
- Establish action items that will smash the outcomes you fear. Now that you a) thoroughly understand your real fears, and b) understand what truths lie in them, you can create an action plan. You are both the driver and the GPS system – the car goes where you want it to. Take stock of what you can control in the situation eliciting fear and take decisive action that puts you on the path to success.
- Trust. You’ve done all you can. You’ve looked fear in the face, taken an honest self-appraisal, and made moves to elevate your outcomes beyond what fear said was possible (or not possible). The rest is out of your hands. The only thing left to do is trust. Trust that you are enough, that you’ve done enough, that you’ve said enough, and that you put your best foot forward despite the odds. Outcomes aside, you are a real badass.
The real, gritty, honest, no-holds-barred truth is we are all afraid. What matters is what you do with that fear – how you use that fear- to catapult you into greatness. Being fearless isn’t the answer; being your fear-best is. And with one foot in front of the other, you can learn to remove fear-fed friction from the path to innovation and jump in, head-first, to your next amazing destination.