Fear cripples. It’s true. Fear can take a person who is brilliant, fascinating, and insanely creative and turn them into the person who sits quietly in meetings, staring down, not making eye contact, and barely uttering a sound. It cripples teams, it cripples relationships, and it cripples individual spirits. Fear is one of the main things, if not the main thing, that stops real, meaningful, substantive connections from forming.
“I know you’re really passionate about all of this, so we want you to talk about it!”
That’s how it starts. Someone has heard me talking, likely to some other person during a cubicle/white boarding session or slightly more formally in a casual meeting, about data modeling or achieving interoperability or systems engineering… something… and now they want me to share that information and passion with a broader audience.
Flattering, no? It totally is. Super flattering. They heard me just talking and they liked it so much they want to share that.The passion and the information. With others.
As I’m typing this, I’m thinking to myself that really, it’s sort of the ultimate form of flattery for a person such as myself. I love talking and sharing my passions. I love when I can connect with others over them even more! After being asked to share my passion with an audience, I wouldn’t classify my feelings regarding the request to be ones of flattery or anything like that. I felt sick. Really panicky. Kind of excited. More panicky than excited. Planning my escape. Looking for the door.
Why? Why on earth did I not want to do the very thing that I love doing, just with more people in the room and me standing at the front of it? Well, I squirmed at the idea of being the center of attention. My fight-or-flight response would kick in so hard. It was positively primal.
And this response? The fear? It held me back in my career, and in my life, for years. It stopped connections from forming – connections between me and other people who were passionate about the things I was passionate about, connections between my work and ideas and thoughts and other people. It isolated me, and I didn’t enjoy that. You see, I am a passionate person. I love, love, love sharing ideas and working with people and creating things and sharing those things. All of that? That’s my jam. But in order to do this effectively, I knew that being comfortable in the limelight would be a big help, yet it was so hard. Because I was so scared.
That was 4 years ago. I cannot tell you how many opportunities I passed on because I was so fearful of what might happen if I went up there and made a mistake, or if people didn’t like what I had to say, or if they just didn’t get it. I can tell you it was a lot.
For those of you who know me, personally and/or professionally, the idea of me being a fearful person may seem a bit surprising. My job is to work with technology and people; to connect those two in all kinds of ways. And I love it! It fits “me” so well… Me? I am a tech-loving, information consuming machine that is almost always happy, talkative, opinionated, and excited about public speaking. But I wasn’t always like that. It took hard work and a not-so-subtle push into the limelight by a trusted friend to bring me to this place.
The subtle push? That presentation? It was a disaster. Just so we’re clear – I didn’t walk out there and dazzle everyone with my amazing skills, probably because I had never practiced them, but I did it. Taking the first step is the hardest, but once you take it? You have momentum and can you choose keep going and see where it takes you.
Someone cared enough to eliminate the place for my excuses. They removed the space for fear. It was a decision: do you want to be amazing? Do you want all of that stuff you say you want? Well then, get up there and claim it.
… just a push.
Well ok, maybe it was more like a shove, but still. It happened, and I’m grateful, even though at the time I was so pissed. Now? I get it.
It’s a funny thing but if you take that step and face your fears, courage will begin to take over.
Having courage didn’t remove the fear. I was still scared. My mouth was dry and I talked way to fast for the first few minutes. But my courage got me through it. It put me out there to begin with, held my hand through the rough spots. It was what let me know I could do it, and totally rock it, but that didn’t mean it would be perfect. It will be real.
Being able to get over that hump left me feeling so much gratitude, that I was compelled to help others, because it’s not about me. That’s not the end of the journey. It’s about everyone that I can now connect with and understand a little better. It’s about the things that I can do with that lesson under my belt, that awareness and understanding. Paying it forward. Sharing the love. Being a giver of strength. Being the voice for someone who hasn’t quite found their own yet, but you know it’s there. It’s so close!
I feel that sometimes fear is a sort of tragedy. It is tragic that a person may never know the joy of being able to express their passions and ideas to the people who want to hear them. Who would love to hear them. That because of this, they may never see their ideas take shape, and become real. Instead, these ideas will live in their minds and therefore, the creative and passionate part of this fearful person may go unnoticed. Unless someone like you cares.
If you see one of these people, keep in mind that people can change. Maybe all they need is someone who is willing to give them a little confidence and a rather large push.
If you are one of these people, ask yourself: how badly do you want it? Are you willing to do the work? In the meantime, surround yourself with people you trust and who believe in you. Work diligently, no matter how long it takes, on believing in yourself and becoming that courageous, passionate person you know that you can be.