As women leaders, we often find ourselves facing daunting challenges that push us out of our comfort zones.
These situations can be intimidating and terrifying, but they also provide tremendous opportunities for growth and transformation.
I recently faced my own fear of crying in a very big way. I was asked to deliver the keynote speech at the inaugural meeting for a newly formed women’s group at a health care company. There are about 200 members. I was trained in the courtroom for public speaking and then gave keynotes frequently when I was the Chief Human Capital Officer in a federal government agency. So, speaking used to be something I did and something I was good at doing.
Since my stroke, though, I’ve been terrified of public speaking and likely not for what you think – my biggest fear is that at the start of the speech I will cry. I’ve developed anxiety around new events with more than a couple people and I always cry. I wanted this time to be different – it was my first paid speaking gig since my stroke, and I wanted the tears not to be in the room when I spoke. My therapist has been working with me on new techniques to keep from crying and I noticed that they were starting to work, so I was cautiously optimistic that I could do this speech and not cry. Keep reading to find out what happened.
Here are some of the things I did to keep moving forward and facing my fears.
Recognize the Power of Fear
Fear is a natural emotion that arises when we encounter the unfamiliar or uncertain. Instead of avoiding or suppressing fear, I recognized that it was a sign that I was on the cusp of growth. I understood that feeling fear meant that I am stepping outside my comfort zone and embarking on a path of personal and professional development. I coach women through this all the time and now it was my turn.
Define Your Terrifying Thing
Identify the specific situation or challenge that fills you with dread. It could be public speaking (like me), taking on a leadership role, or initiating difficult conversations. Clearly defining the terrifying thing brought clarity and focus, allowing me to develop targeted strategies to conquer it.
Break It Down into Smaller Steps
Large and intimidating tasks can feel overwhelming. I broke down each step and made sure I scheduled time to deliver my keynote to friends, so the terrifying thing felt more manageable. I created a plan of action with clear milestones to track my progress. By taking one step at a time, I built confidence and momentum. It is amazing how good this feels.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset
Adopting a growth mindset is essential when confronting your fears. I believe and know that skills and abilities can be developed through dedication and effort. I embrace the idea that failure is an opportunity for learning and improvement. Viewing challenges as growth opportunities helped me approach the terrifying thing with a positive and determined mindset.
Visualization is a powerful technique to overcome fear. I closed my eyes and vividly imagined myself successfully accomplishing the terrifying thing. I imagined the positive outcomes, the sense of achievement, and the personal growth that would come from facing my fear. Visualizing success helped alleviate anxiety and built confidence. I also visualized my tears in bubbles going to the top of my head and popping without falling down my cheeks. It sounds odd, I know, and yet it worked.
Seek Support and Accountability
Don’t go through the journey alone. I have the gift of support from mentors, coaches, therapists, and trusted peers who provided guidance, encouragement, and accountability. I shared my fears and goals with them and let them be a source of motivation and support as I tackled the terrifying thing. Surrounding myself with a network of individuals who believe in me made a world of difference.
At some point, I had to take the plunge and face my fear. Action is the antidote to fear. I summoned my courage, trusted in my preparation, and took that first step. I embraced discomfort and uncertainty as opportunities for growth. I remembered that I am capable of far more than I realize. And I DID IT!! I delivered the keynote flawlessly and without even feeling like I was on the brink of tears. It was truly one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had!
Reflect and Learn from the Experience
After facing your fear, take time to reflect on the experience. I celebrated my achievements and acknowledged my progress. I assessed what went well and identified areas for improvement. Every encounter with this terrifying thing is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Work with me
As women leaders, it is within us to conquer our fears and do the terrifying thing. If you’re ready to embrace the courage within you and soar to new heights, click here and schedule a time to talk.