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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

How to Overcome Fear in the Workplace

Fear is tricky, isn't it? It can show up as all-encompassing anxiety that makes our hands sweat and our knees shake, or as a quiet voice in the back of our head that says, "You're not ready." It's a huge blocker in our careers, especially for professional women, and knowing how to handle fear is a crucial skill.

Here are my best strategies for overcoming fear at work.

Dethrone the fear

We tend to think that all mistakes mean we've failed. You mess up an email and kick yourself for the rest of the day, or you hesitate to raise your hand because you're not totally sure you know the right thing to say. We are terrified of mistakes because we feel like our failures are going to be permanent.

Everyone is going to remember that I had the wrong data set or that I messed up this presentation. But even when we mess up, failure is an incredible teacher, and it isn't permanent. No minor screw up is going to go on your permanent record because success isn't linear. There's no one way to succeed, and minor deviations from the path aren't going to ruin you for the rest of your life.

There's a huge benefit to be gained from going backwards. Messing up builds resilience. Okay, so maybe you bungle a presentation or make a misstep with your boss. You feel terrible and beat yourself up for a few days.

But guess what? You keep going. You keep growing.

Generating that growth mindset frees us from the paralyzing fear of not being perfect.

When you're caught in the throes of that terrible cocktail of shame, fear, and panic, ask yourself:

  • What can this situation teach me?

  • How can I grow from this?

  • Is there any way this could end up benefiting me?

I know this sounds a little corny, but fear truly is False Evidence Appearing Real, so if there's anything you can do to dethrone that sense of perfection you thought you had to achieve, do it. Flip the script. Negative self-talk ("I'm not good enough, I'm so stupid, everyone thinks I'm incompetent") is overwhelmingly unhelpful and untrue.

Are you afraid of succeeding?

One thing I see with a lot of women in the workplace is that our fear tends to take the shape of our own sense of potential. "What happens if I mess up" is often a sneaky version of a deeper fear: "What happens if I succeed?"

The extent of our own capabilities is terrifying! If we know that we are talented, authentic, amazing people who can do basically anything we set our minds to and that adds a lot of pressure. So we keep ourselves small, focusing on the things that humble us, dwelling in that place that doesn't require us to push ourselves.

But if you can remove those mental roadblocks when you hear negative self-talk enter your mind, you can start to inhabit your authentic self, and then nothing can stop you.

I've seen people with overwhelming anxiety develop their sense of self-worth to become more confident, authentic versions of themselves in the workplace, and I'd love to help you do the same. If you're looking for one-on-one coaching, click here to book a free consultation with me.

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