Don’t let anything stand in the way of realizing your ideal lifestyle. What’s stopping you from going after that job opportunity of which you have always dreamed? Don’t be afraid to request the pay raise or promotion that is rightfully yours! Fear is the most persistent obstacle that stands in our way. It prevents us from exploring the unfamiliar, being judged for it, and succeeding at it – but this shouldn’t stop us! Although there’s no definitive path to overcome anxieties, we must keep in mind that dread will only prevent you from achieving your highest potential.
To reach our highest potential professionally, it is essential that we work through our fears. Whether this means confronting them and letting go of them, using their energy to motivate us, or turning the negative into a positive–the seven women we spoke with each have valuable strategies for overcoming fear in order to flourish.
1. Janice Holly Booth, Author, and Motivational Speaker
“I was a non-profit CEO and while I wouldn’t describe myself as fearful, there were certain lines I was hesitant to cross. Two decades of adventure trips—everything from rappelling into dark slot canyons to learning how to master the flying trapeze—helped me learn how to be comfortable with ambiguity and to step forward even if I was unsure of the footing. I became a stronger, better, more capable leader. I also developed greater empathy for staff members who were struggling with their own fears. Instead of being frustrated by them, I was able to guide them through whatever issues were holding them back.
Ultimately, learning how to manage fear has allowed me to make big, risky decisions with equally big payoffs. Three years ago I quit my corporate career to become a full-time writer and speaker.”
2. Annalisa Berns, Yoga Instructor
“In 2012 I started to have the dream of hosting a yoga festival in Big Bear, California. I didn’t know the first thing about holding an event like that. I was afraid it would be a failure. I used many different methods to keep moving forward. When I was thinking worrisome thoughts, I would block the thoughts by repeating a positive mantra. This encouraged me to stop the fear-based thoughts and focus on actions I could take.
I asked for help. I think that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for one person to have success without the support and help of others. I asked for help and shared my vision with people I could trust to be supportive. I was blown away by the response. I had volunteers helping and friends cheering me on.
I just took one step at a time. I realized that I didn’t have control over the outcome but I could control the steps I was taking along the way. If no students showed up, oh well. I was going to just do it anyway! After moving past the fear and taking action anyway, we have had two successful yoga festivals and are currently planning number three.”
3. Jamie Prefer, Speaker, Coach, and Radio Host
“I was petrified of public speaking until age 33. I finally decided to face this fear head-on. I joined Toastmasters. Its purpose is to help individuals learn how to speak publicly in a variety of settings. The environment is safe and supportive and members’ growth is evident after only a few meetings. I needed support and that’s what Toastmasters gives.”
4. Sara Davidson, Entrepreneur and Founder of Hello Fearless
“To overcome our fears, we must first understand them and why they control us. Once I identified my fear of failure, I was able to confront it through ‘what if’ scenarios. It turns out the answer to ‘what would happen if I fail’ was a lot less scary and more manageable than the answer to ‘what would happen if I do nothing.’ And the answer to ‘what would happen if I succeed’ was too enticing to ignore. I kept these things in mind as I launched my business, and was able to reframe my mindset to stay excited and optimistic. Instead of controlling my decisions, fear fueled my success.
See fear as an opportunity, as fuel, as a muscle that must be flexed. When coupled with the right perspective, fear is the single best motivator. It sheds light on our desires, what we need to work on, and what we need to move through in order to take action. Entrepreneurs appear to be fearless because they recognize their anxieties and leverage them as fuel to drive them further, farther, faster.”
5. Sabina Vajraca, Film Director and Screenwriter
“I used to be painfully shy, to the point of blushing profusely if someone addressed me in public. In the film business, shy introverts who succeed are very rare and I didn’t want to risk my chances of success by succumbing to this fear. So when my first film got into film festivals 10 years ago, I knew that in order for me to do Q&As successfully, I’d have to get rid of my shyness, or at least get it to a manageable level.
To do this, I created an exercise for myself. I’d go alone to parties where I didn’t know anyone, and I’d make myself walk up to a group of people and start up conversations. It was terrifying. I think the first time I did it I shook like a leaf. But after a while, I got more and more comfortable, and by the time I was in front of film festival crowds, I didn’t even blush!”
6. Kaitlin Smith, Entrepreneur and Founder of Simple Mills
“When I was growing up, I used to feel like being an introvert put me at a disadvantage. I wanted so badly to adapt to be an extrovert. It’s too difficult to become something you’re not. Find opportunities to break through your fear and play on your strengths. As an entrepreneur, you can really take advantage of your introversion. Introverts prefer listening—this goes over well with employees, investors, and customers. Often, people just want to be heard.”
7. Dina Proctor, Author and Life Coach
“The biggest fear I’ve overcome professionally was starting on a new career path. The practice that alleviated this fear for me completely—and even brought me to a place of excitement and positivity—was implementing three minutes of focused meditation into my routine three times a day.
It was immensely powerful to be able to shift my mindset and reduce my stress level several times throughout the day. I ended up gradually eliminating the stress and fear completely with this practice. The biggest piece of advice I can give to others feeling fear is not to fight it but to gently release it using meditation.”