What are your fears?
I was asked this very question during a coaching session. I couldn’t come up with an answer right away because thinking about my fears isn’t something I do often. Unlike strengths and weaknesses which are standard self-assessment and behavioural interview questions, I didn’t remember the last time I had to talk about my fears.
Even though I couldn’t give my answer right away, I thought about the question of “What are my fears?” over a few days and wrote them down in my notebook.
My two biggest fears are:
Not having any direction in life aka the fear of uncertainty
I am not someone who is so spontaneous and can decide things on a whim. I am adaptable with changes but I need to know the vision to be really comfortable. To know that I am heading in the right direction for my life is pretty important to me. That is why I have never done anything like taking a year off work and seeing where life would take me. Or moving to a remote country and waiting to see what opportunities would present.
Not being good at what I do aka the fear of failure and inadequacy
I have written about it a few times, I want to be good at what I do. It actually used to be “I want to be great at what I do” but after going through a few growth mindset activities, I accept that I cannot be perfect the first time around. But I still want to give my best and be good at it. No matter what it is; whether it is a speaking gig or being a mother. The side effect of this is that I am afraid of taking on too much risk or stepping into an unknown because I fear that I might not be good at it. Sometimes I may even pass up great opportunities because I worry that I am not the best person for the job.
Once I have written down my fears, I sort of had an AHA! moment. I realised why I made certain choices in life and why I tend to choose a familiar route. You might be able to resonate with my fears because those fears are not unique.
Now that I have admitted my biggest fears to the world, what is next? Of course, I ought to share what I am doing about them. The following are some activities that I do to help me overcome my fears.
Think through the choices that I am not making and why
Previously, when I was making big decisions, I thought about the choice that I was making and why I was making that choice. Nowadays, I consciously think about the choices that I am not making and what were the possible reasons behind it. And I started noticing a pattern. Either those choices were too out there and did not have a visible path forward, which is my first fear or I thought I would fail if I were to make those choices, which is my second fear.
Take small steps towards addressing my fears and take them often
For someone who fears uncertainty and failure, I can’t possibly be asked to quit my job, get rid of all my belongings, and go and live in a rural country town to begin my life work. While all that sounds inspiring and will probably excite someone who is adventurous, it just isn’t for me. I don’t know if I will ever do such thing in the future, but I can’t imagine doing it right now. So a small step to addressing my fears means taking on a new project at work that I have never had any prior experience with or doing a side hustle that could possibly result in nothingness. At this point, when the stakes are low, it is a lot of fun and just a little bit scary. As I make these small steps often, I hope to get more comfortable and be acquainted with unknowns, failures and new possibilities.
By now, a lot of people know that I like to write but the truth is I actually like reading more than I like writing. When I attended college in a foreign country and not having a lot of friends to hang out with in between classes, I’d go to the library and read. Back then, I didn’t realise that eventually, I would enjoy reading much more than I’d enjoy going out. Reading has been such a good habit that I had developed because through reading, I am able to experience a lot of different situations that I would normally never go and try out myself and understand different perspectives of people from all walks of life. I am a true believer that learning from your experiences is good but learning from other people’s experiences is even better. I don’t have hours and hours of uninterrupted time where I can sit still and absorb a good book so I like to read Quora and Medium. Both platforms feature a lot of real life stories and in my opinion, sometimes more interesting than reading a fiction.
Remind myself of the fundamental truths about life
No matter what I do or not do, it is the undeniable truth that I live only one life, and only one to make an impact. Because in the end, everyone, regardless of who we are, experiences the same destination, death. Now, it sounds a bit depressing but it really brings home the saying that there is nothing to fear than fear itself. In 40 or 50 years from now, I don’t want to sit at my verandah, old, grey and wrinkly and watch the world goes by and regret the things that I didn’t do or say when I was younger. But the truth is, we never know when our time on this earth will come to an end so I might not even get to experience that. What I know is I don’t want to limit myself from doing what I want to do or being who I want to be or having amazing experiences in life because of my fears. And for that, I embrace my fears and remind myself to be brave and take chances.