Career Fear: What it is, How to Ditch It

Be Brave, Not Fearless

Be Brave, Not Fearless
Let’s talk about fear. I know, it sounds like a real downer topic for a blog, but please, keep reading. I am not talking about the fear of heights or of the dark. Let’s address a very real phenomenon I like to call Career Fear.
In a blog post for the Ellevate Network, Ellia Communications founder, Kathy Caprino, writes about the five regrets of mid-career professionals (FULL ARTICLE HERE). Reading the short piece stopped me in my tracks. “Mid-career professionals share that they have so much fear and resistance around making change, particularly if it means they have to stretch out of their comfort zone, speak up, and stand up for themselves. They fear failing, going broke, or not being able to care for their families financially.” Whoa. But, honestly, if you’ve achieved some measure of success, who doesn’t fear these things? It is truly terrifying to think about losing ground when we’ve worked so hard to make the gains.
In my work with work teams and individual professionals, I find that it’s not circumstances that hold people back from making the necessary changes, it’s their reaction to them. And, dear reader, that reaction is your career fear talking – sometimes very loudly. Okay, if we are afraid enough of ‘losing it all’ that we automatically default to the status quo, how can we bust out of that groove?
Cue Eat. Pray. Love.

“I am not fearless, I am brave.” Elizabeth Gilbert
On a long run this week I was listening to a podcast (it was part of my effort to actually use the meditation app, Calm, that I recently downloaded – hey, so what if I was running and not sitting?!). An hour-long program from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat. Pray. Love, fortuitously began auto playing. It was ho-hum until she hit me with a zinger just as I slowed to huff and puff up a hill. “There are no fearless people, well, there are, and all of them are psychopaths that are very dangerous people that you don’t want to be around. I do it with fear. I am not fearless, I am brave.”
Love it. Love it. Love it! She points out that no matter what the excuse for not living the life we desire, the root is fear. Go ahead, analyze some of your fears – I did.

Say it, Own It, Move Past It
Liz (her friends call her Liz) is so right; fear comes to us so frequently and so well disguised as other things that we often consider it fact. But, it doesn’t have to be our reality forever. Moving past fear takes time and attention, so the next time you say no to something that you really would like to do, ask yourself if you are in fear. Then, bring awareness to that fear and let it talk back at ya! Gilbert suggests that you write down all the fears that the brilliant idea or the big opportunity conjured up and acknowledge them without even talking yourself out of them. Then, do something simple – move on. Caprino goes even further with an analogy. “Until we can get in the cage with our fears and address them head on, fear will keep us stuck in quiet desperation.” POW!
Soooo true..
So, as they say, what are you afraid of? Well, if you are a normal, ambitious, non-psychopathic, mid-career professional with a lot you’ve worked for and a lot to lose, well, you probably have quite a lot to fear! Me, too – but I am also brave!

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