on the other side of fear, there is the life you want
Updated: Dec 27, 2018
When you lack confidence in perceived high stake situations there is probably a very simple explanation: you are placing too much importance on the outcome instead of the process.
When we feel the pressure, we are not our real selves and we either fight, freeze or worse of everything, fly away.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus came up with a practical way to help minimize your worries. If you take some time to map out everything that occupies your mind, you can classify all of these things in either of two buckets: what you can control and what you cannot.
If you worry about the latter, you are exposing yourself to a ton of worries. When you are worried about what follows your action, start asking yourself ‘can I control the outcome?’. In most cases you really don’t.
When you want to approach a person that seems interesting or a potential mentor, or if you want to send that proposal to a potential business partner or that demo to a label, or basically do anything that scares you, if you rely on how they will respond, the fear of rejection is bound to arise. And the biggest risk is that you won’t do it.
But if you push through the other side of this fear, there are people, relationships, learnings, opportunities and growth for you, that could be some of the most important in your life. Can you accept to miss them?
For me, worries in social situations have always been a huge challenge. Lately in 2017, I was working on a new project that brought me to connect and have exposure to very experienced and senior people. For an entire day you may find a room with CEO and Board members of a large global organization, few 20-something-year experience advisors, a series of tech startup founders, and… me. Of course this is an amazing experience and tremendous opportunity to grow. I knew why I was there, and it was valuable for the other people too. When it was my turn to speak, I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but... the words were just not coming out the right way from my mouth.
I wanted to make a good impression on everyone so much that all of my attention was going to how other responded, and even the minimal sign of non positive feedback, would be amplified and throw me down.
Among contort sentences, what I really meant went often lost, like my inner confidence. I struggled. I struggled a lot and could not stand the fact that this very challenge was holding me from being my real self in these situations and from contributing to those people the way I could and wanted to.
The same thing was happening with girls I considered attractive. I would identify my ‘target’, arrange my thoughts strategically, come up with the right words to make sure I could just go there and make a good impression. You can guess it, the moment I showed up in front of that person, my plans and dreams dissolved as quickly as the words in my mouth.
I eventually took massive action to overcome this challenge: I created for myself a practice called 30 day fear challenge (below if you want to do it) to help me shift my focus toward the process and get used to deal with hundreds of perceived high stake situations and potential rejections.
This thing had a massive positive effect in my life. I still feel fear rejections but now I push it through anyways (in most cases at least :) ).
When the perceived stakes are high, we can get stuck thinking that if we don’t get the desired outcome, it says something about us. We dream about scenarios where things pan out exactly as we wished, and then the fear of that getting rejected becomes so strong that we freeze.
Ultimately we can’t control the outcome of most of the situations we are in, especially if the outcome involves others liking us, helping us, being our friends or lover. The faster you realise how to stop relying on the outcome, the faster your will manage to be yourself, pushing through fears of rejection.
Rejection therapy by Jia Jiang: https://www.rejectiontherapy.com/ and his TED talk if you want to laugh a lot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZXgApsPCQ
Some more thoughts on Stoicism and being worry free: https://www.raptitude.com/2017/03/only-thing-get-good-at/
If this resonates, I got a practical suggestion that can help you as it helped me. This is not an exercise, this is a training plan that will work only if you commit to it and really want to stop letting your worries get in your way.
I did this back in 2017 and it changed my life. And recently came across something very similar and amazing by an entrepreneur called Jia Jiang (link in the resources section).
The 30 days fear challenge:
1. Pick something you are struggling with every time you do it because of fears of performing badly. For example stopping a stranger in the street to ask their name or number, calling friend to give them feedback, asking discounts in a shop
2. Plan one relevant action (at least) per day over the next 30 days. If the challenge you choose requires planning, this is your opportunity to plan it out so you don’t need to waste time making decisions each day (and have no excuses)
3. Plan to give one present for yourself at this frequency: 1st day (very important), 3rd day, 10th day, 20th, 30th (make this big)
4. Set a penalty for not taking that action any of the days (i.e. £200 to a charity that you would never support otherwise) and set a procedure for recovery (i.e. the day after you double down, if you miss two days in a row - start over)
5. Start and have fun
You can’t believe how fulfilling this will be and the impact you will see from day one in your life. It’s going to be also very hard, but most likely also very fun. You will learn a lot and be a new person in the end.
I did this every single day for 35 days in a row by approaching 3 girls I did not know and found attractive, and asking their numbers. This was outrageously awkward, fun(nny) and very very scary, and it brought new people to my life, as well as allowing me to learn how to be myself in pretty much any situation.
And things to remember…
- fear will never go away
- you can get used to do things anyway and decide to worry only on what you can control such as the process vs the outcome
- don’ t be harsh if you struggle along the way, it’s ok to fuck it up and it’s far more important to get back on track than not falling. So don’t be afraid to be bad until you are good