“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” A straightforward and beautiful quote that illustrates a complicated issue many of us face. The fear of failure.
We spend years fantasizing about finally making a living doing what we love. We create plans that we don’t keep. We create excuses and bring up obligations that make it feel as though those dreams are impossible.
We think about our dreams, and our brain creates a million different reasons it won’t work. I’m not good enough. No one will want to pay me for that. I’m not ready. These excuses play on repeat every time we start to dream.
Sometimes it’s not only the thoughts in our mind but also our surroundings. Have you ever thought of an idea that you loved and immediately ran to tell someone about it? What did they say? Were they supportive?
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. What if your dreams scare those around you? Self-doubt and fear are so common that they can permeate our relationships with others. When you share your goals and passions with others, they can sometimes stop you from taking the next step. Their own fears and thoughts of self-preservation are reflected onto you.
Another reason we may be afraid to pursue our passions is imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is very real and can give you chronic feelings of self-doubt. The adage of fake it until you make it has some truth but can also be inherently harmful.
Imposter syndrome occurs when someone feels like they are not worthy of following their passions or succeeding. So, asking someone with imposter syndrome to fake their feelings and pretend like they deserve to be successful reinforces the idea that they’re not already worthy and qualified.
Instead of putting on a brave face, take time to fix the underlying issues.
- Treat yourself with kindness. Remember, you are not the first person to feel this way, and unfortunately, you won’t be the last.
- Validate your feelings. They are real and will take time to heal.
- Do a daily practice that includes validating your abilities. Whether that’s writing down one thing you did each day that was a success, reaching out to peers for external validation, or saying a daily affirmation.
- Keep learning and growing in your chosen career. Reach out to people who have achieved success and ask them if they have ever felt the same way. The chances are that they have.
How to overcome your fear
- Validate your dream
A significant first step is to acknowledge that this dream is important to you, and it is something you want to pursue. First, validate yourself. Then, if there is someone you know will be 100% supportive, tell them as well. If you’re unsure if someone in your life is supportive, it is okay to keep it to yourself at first.
Start by writing down your goal as clearly as you can. Create a basic roadmap of how you might get there and what you will need along the way. This is not a binding document but should instead be used to brainstorm and build your excitement. Pursuing your passion is scary, but it’s also incredibly inspiring and exciting. This is your chance to live in that moment 100%.
- Get clear on your why or purpose
Having a clear reason why you want to achieve this dream is necessary in order to persist. When you encounter new obstacles or skeptics, having a clear why can help you overcome them.
Creating a mind map is a great way to understand your why.
- Get a clean piece of paper and write down the goal you want to achieve in the center. Then draw a circle around it.
- Spread out throughout the page, write the different areas of your life this goal would affect. For example, social life, finances, health, career, etc. Draw a line connecting each area to your goal in the center.
- Then, underneath each area of your life, write down anything that scares or inspires you about the possible changes to this area of your life. Achieving this goal could mean financial freedom, but it could also mean going deeper into debt.
- Grab a highlighter and highlight all the things you listed that inspired you.
- Spend some time looking at this map. Then, once you start finding patterns like, building financial stability or finding a sense of purpose, write them on a new piece of paper.
- If possible, hang this piece of paper up in a place where you will see it every day.
- Create boundaries
When it is time to start telling people about your plan, prepare for a fair amount of skepticism. Be clear with them what kind of feedback you are looking for before telling them and reinforce those boundaries. Other people’s fear is not ours, but it can be hard to separate their concerns from ours in the heat of the moment.
If needed, pull out the paper you created above and remember your purpose.
- Create clear goals
The best way to make goals is to reverse engineer them. Start with your end goal and work backward. Create smaller deadlines for yourself, so your dream doesn’t become too overwhelming. Also, leave space for mistakes and obstacles that may arise.
You want to make sure the goals you create are reasonably achievable. Timelines can always be moved up, but it feels much worse to miss a deadline and then have to move it back.
Spend as much time as you can spare thinking about these goals, but also keep in mind that they will have to change and adapt.
- Use your fear
Instead of avoiding your fears and pretending like they don’t exist, use them to your advantage. Fear can tell us a lot about what we want and don’t want.
Fear lets us know that we’re moving into the unknown. It alerts our brain that it doesn’t know what will happen, so we should be wary. But the unknown shouldn’t be scary all the time. We have to learn how to decipher between things that are scary for a reason (things to avoid) and things that have the potential to change our lives for the better.
Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself. Pursuing your passion will take time and energy, just like anything else worth doing.