Overcoming fear and self-doubt

The pandemic has grown and magnified many people’s fears and imposter syndrome. We have all been forced into a huge amount of change in a short amount of time, and those new and old fears are starting to manifest in bad ways for a lot of people and companies. In this episode, we will look at why fear and self-doubt grow in people, leaders, and companies, the 6 types of fears creatives often suffer from, and our mindsets that often feed those fears.

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We have talked before about how important understanding things like trust and imposter syndrome are to your creativity and career. I want to revisit this area because I think the pandemic has grown and magnified how people have been struggling with these issues.

But these issues have gone on for long enough and we have all been forced into a huge amount of change over the past year and they are starting to manifest in a bad way for a lot of people and a lot of companies. It is manifesting as fear – a lot of deep-seated fear

In people fear can make you doubt your next decision, feel overwhelmed, lose your way, or make a leader ineffective. In companies, it can lead to groupthink, the inability to create original thinking, groupthink, politics, panic, and burnout. The obvious question would be if this is such a widespread problem why don’t we talk about it more or why isn’t it more widely understood? Because we either don’t know that is what is going on or we don’t know how to break the cycle and change. In this episode, we will look at the reasons why fear and self-doubt grow in people, leaders, and companies, the 6 types of fears creatives often suffer from, and our mindsets that often feed those fears.

Why is it worse lately?

If we step back for a second, fear is often the result of a breakdown in confidence and trust. We can arrive at that fear from a lot of different directions and it can and will happen at any stage of your career. And I think it is particularly important to skip over that last point too quickly. I think there is a perception that as you move on in your career you have everything figured out which isn’t true.

But for the past year, it has been different. The pandemic made it all worse. Normally we all struggle with these things but being surrounded by people eases these fears and feelings somewhat because we lost on the important things – context. We no longer can easily see how we are doing compared to other people since we have often lost out on the casual conversation, industry events, and more. We only get brief glimpses through Zoom windows of other people and often only focus on work. When we don’t have the context we often have growing doubt, and then the doubt becomes uncertainly imposter syndrome, and then fear.

6 things we fear

In coaching people in all stages of their careers fear is the root of most of what we work on. I find those fears usually fall into one of 6 different manifestations. To understand fear and how it may be effecting you it is important to look at yourself and see which of these could apply to you.

The fear of being seen as an imposter.
If you secretly feel you’re not really good enough or smart enough, you’re not alone.
We all go through this and the bigger the change or the newer the things the more this will try and creep in.
Episode 69 goes into all the types of imposter syndrome in more detail if you haven’t explored that yet.
I have found that the fear of what might happen is almost always bigger than does happen – so let it fly and see what happens.

The fear of being a failure.
We often think of things in absolutes. Good or bad. Success or failure. But creativity doesn’t deal in those absolutes since it is a process of figuring things out.
We get into trouble when we take a process that is about learning and think we have win or succeed at every step. It isn’t gong to happen and we become our own biggest enemies when we encounter a natural part of the process like not getting something right or needing to iterate.
It is a time when we should expect this to happen and just keep going. Yet we think in these absolutes so we think we have failed.
Remember this is about progress and learning and as long as you are going that you will never fail.

The fear of being criticized.
Facing criticism is part of the territory when you create anything.
But we often create criticism of what think people will say – without ever actually letting them say it.
This is a place where you need to deal in the facts and see what people actually say or what actually happens instead of imagining it.
You need to get to a place where see it as feedback and not criticism. Feedback is a process and a conversation you can work with. Criticism is a one way negative conversation.
Episode 85 on giving and getting better feedback would be a good place to start here.

The fear of making hard decisions or saying hard things.
Hard decisions and hard conversations create a lot of fear for a good reason – you know they mean something or can have a big impact.
You rarely have a reference point to know if you are making a good decision or are taking the right approach which only makes it harder.
I don’t think there is an easy answer here but when it comes to hard decisions do your research, ask for other people’s opinions, and don’t take on the burden alone.
When it comes it hard conversations the best I know is, to be honest, and make it a conversation. Looking back when someone has had a hard conversation with me even if I didn’t like what they had to say I respected that they were honest with me.

The fear of not taking responsibility.
As the saying goes, with much power comes much responsibility. To take responsibility you have to first realize that your leadership is the cause of and the solution to the things that matter, and you can’t escape that responsibly by postponing or evading it. The moment you move past your fear and take responsibility is the moment you can change anything.

The fear of not getting it done.
In today’s global economy, effective leadership is defined by results—but, as we all know well, there are hundreds of distractions and millions of diversions that can get in the way. If you’re fearful you won’t get the job done, stop focusing on the results you want and concentrate on the actions you can take right now that will lead to those results.

What thinking creates these fears?

Those are the areas we struggle with but what does our mindset have to do with this?

You are in control.
Control is an illusion. You must allow yourself to drop the illusion of control.
Focus on the things you can control and let the rest go.

You can do this on your own.
No one does anything alone. No matter what accomplishments you have achieved, you didn’t do it on your own. It takes a great team, a wonderful group of talented people to make an impact.
Ask yourself who has contributed to your success.

You don’t have time.
Time is precious for everyone but there is always time in the day for what is important. Telling yourself you can’t meet a priority because of time is just making excuses.
Prioritize your top three things every week and focus on them. Delegate or push back on things that don’t focus on them.

If I ignore it, it will go away.
It’s sad but true: there are times we all still fall for this old lie. Most of the time what we ignore grows bigger and becomes even more cumbersome.
Whatever is happening, deal with it. You can’t change what you refuse to confront.

You always know best.
Really, is that the truth? Creativity is about learning, not about being right. You won’t know what’s best or have the all the answers,
It’s best to focus on continuing to learn and grow. If you think you know or have the answers, look around to see where you can ask more questions.

Your ego does not get in the way.
Nothing destroys creativity and teamwork faster than ego. The next time you feel yours getting out of check – which can happen to any of us once in a while – take a minute to be sure that you keep the drive to succeed but also keep the humility to know you can always learn more, ask more questions and know any success will be born out of how you work with others.

Emotion is weakness.
Some people want to hold themselves beyond emotion to appear strong. But to share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable, and to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.
The best people and leaders touch hearts, and that truth always works.

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