Overcoming the Fears That Hold You Back From Success
If you are not reaching the career and life goals that are important to you, the chances are you are blocked by the fear of poverty and the fear of criticism. To get past these gatekeepers to success, confront them head on. Once you look at what you fear and why, you can take the action that moves fear out of the way.
The Fear of Poverty:
The chief symptom of the fear of poverty is constantly worrying about not having enough money, even when you have the money you need. For example, as soon as you think about changing your job or business, up comes the fear of what will happen when you run out of money. There you are, out on the street, pushing a grocery cart full of your belongings down a lonely street. Since there’s no proof the new will be better, you don’t take the first step to change that works: get accurate information, such as talking with people who have achieved what you want to do.
Asking what-if questions is another way to conquer the fear of poverty: “what if I am paid to do the work I do easily and well?” And, “what if the work makes such a contribution to others’ lives they are happy to pay me?” Or most importantly, “what if I like my work so much I never want to retire?” Can you see that changing the way you think about work–from what you have to do to survive to what you would do anyway–reduces the fear of poverty?
Here are the steps to overcoming the fear of poverty:
• Admit that you are not happy.
• Put away some savings. Spend for only what you need.
• Get the education or training you need to excel at what you want to do.
• Don’t talk about what you are doing with negative people, some of whom may be family members.
• Associate with people who take risks in spite of their fears.
• Persevere through the discomfort of anxiety and self-doubt until you get where you want to go.
The Fear of Criticism
The second fear that keeps you stuck in a rut is the fear of criticism. This fear is rampant in a culture that measures success by status and money, rather than being true to oneself.
The symptoms of the fear of criticism are procrastination, inability to accept correction without defending, lack of perseverance, ambivalence about starting and completing projects, seeing mistakes as unforgivable failures, and the need for approval. Many ideas have died at birth because of the fear of looking wrong or stupid in the eyes of others, often people who are also afraid of criticism. Regrettably, the fear of criticism can cause you to miss golden opportunities for growth.
If you grew up in a highly critical family the chances are you internalized a voice that shames you when you make a mistake. Even when you have done nothing wrong you default to blaming yourself. If it rains it must be your fault; if someone is unhappy something you said or did caused the distress. When you are criticized it does not occur to you that the critic could be wrong, or (more likely), the flaws they see in you belong to them.
Here are the steps to overcoming the fear of criticism:
• Have compassion for the human condition. Don’t be fooled by appearances: we are all insecure travelers on this planet. Tolerance for error makes it easier to correct mistakes and move on to the next challenge. You will also be more open to constructive criticism from people who can show you how to improve.
• Be prepared. Preparation is like a pair of hiking boots that take you through the roughest terrain. If you don’t take shortcuts, no matter how severe the critics you handle criticism with ease and grace.
• Keep your sense of humor. Even the harshest critics are disarmed when you can laugh at your mistakes. If you find yourself getting too serious watch funny movies, read stories that make you laugh, exercise vigorously, and talk with people who remind you that the mountain you are making of the situation is just a molehill.
The fear of poverty and criticism is no match for the confidence that comes after you take the risk that terrifies you. So don’t expect absence of these fears. Meanwhile, if you keep your mind focused on what you can do today, what you can do tomorrow will surprise you.