Fear can present itself in many areas of our lives. One area you may encounter fear is in the workplace.
You can feel it through anxiety over an upcoming presentation. You may worry about a pending review with your manager or team leader. You might be fearful that a large initiative you’re helping lead completely fails.
One way many of us encounter fear is through impostor syndrome. This is a sometimes overwhelming feeling that we have not earned our successes and achievements. It can manifest through anxiety, overthinking, perfectionism, and fear. It can stem from self-doubt, comparing yourself to others, or a recent failure.
However fear manifests itself in your work life, know that it might not always be a bad thing. Fear can actually be used to your advantage.
On a recent episode of Formstack’s Ripple Effect podcast, Tiffany Sauder shared her story about how fear has helped her learn how to be a better leader, business owner, boss, and mother. The CEO of Element Three and mother of four young daughters has faced a lot of fear in her life, from running a business during the recession to leading large-scale marketing campaigns for clients.
She makes it clear in the episode that you can allow fear to control you, or you can use fear to your advantage: “I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways.”
You won’t be able to conquer fear in one night, but making small changes in the way you process, react to, and face fear can help you get control over whatever fear is impacting you. Here are a few tips to consider when developing your own strategies for conquering fear and impostor syndrome.
Listen Now: Hear Tiffany share her story of overcoming fear by listening to her Ripple Effect episode Using Fear to Propel You Forward now.
1. Break Down the Fear
To begin conquering your fears, you need to break them down. Think of this process like you would achieving a new goal: you need to set objectives, tactics, timelines, and milestones to be successful.
Pick a fear and begin breaking it down into smaller pieces. Let’s say you’re worried about an upcoming review. You’re fearful that you will say the wrong things or become forgetful. If your review is in a month, consider actions you can take each week leading up to it to prepare.
One week, you can review the process and get a handle on what to expect. The next week, you can chart out items that align with the review process, such as highlighting big achievements and tracking down results of projects. The third week, you may take some time to make some notes to yourself or discuss the upcoming review with a mentor.
By creating a plan that includes small steps, you can make progress towards conquering your fear and avoid becoming overwhelmed with the task at hand. Over time, this can become a great strategy for minimizing stress and feeling overwhelmed.
2. Discuss with a Mentor
If impostor syndrome is bringing you down, find a mentor to talk with. This should be someone who knows you fairly well and understands your work history and successes. Turning to a mentor to discuss impostor syndrome can feel very scary at first, but it can help you in a variety of ways.
First, your mentor can help you see your accomplishments and achievements from a different perspective. If they know you well or have worked alongside you, they can clearly define what you have done, how you did it, and the impact of the work.
Second, a mentor can provide you guidance on how to best handle your impostor syndrome. They may be able to share their own experiences or provide you with helpful books, resources, or contacts. Impostor syndrome is more common than you think, and your mentor may surprise you with their own stories and experiences.
Above all, a mentor can provide a safe space to simply talk through what you are feeling and experiencing. Conquering impostor syndrome is incredibly difficult to do on your own. By finding a mentor you trust, you can begin segmenting out the root cause of this fear and making a plan on how to eliminate it.
Read Next: How to Find a Mentor: 4 Places to Look
3. Name the Fear, Speak the Fear
Sometimes, just acknowledging your fear and speaking out about it can be enough to propel you forward. If you keep your fears locked inside and bottled up, they can become overwhelming. When you limit your fears to inside your own head, you increase your anxiety and stress over time.
Find someone to speak to about your fears, whether that is a close friend, relative, spouse, or trusted mentor. The simple act of speaking about your fears with someone can help you realize your fears are not silly or unfounded, plus it’s a way to begin processing more about your fear in a healthy, deliberate way.
4. Export Your Fears
Tiffany makes a great point in her episode around the idea of exporting your fears. This tip is especially helpful if your fear is rooted in failing a team or falling flat in an initiative or project.
"My style is to export fear and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions, this is what I'm working at, and I need your feedback. We're working to be excellent for you, but these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of that we may be failing, and we need to be able to talk about that."
In these situations, it is helpful to identify one fear that is impacted by others. For instance, you may be worried that your transition to a hybrid work model will cause issues or fail to work efficiently.
Instead of isolating the fear to your own mind, export your fears or concerns to those around you. This is not a fear dump or therapy moment; it’s actually a way to control your fears by addressing your major concerns with those who are involved.
If you’re fearful that employees may not adapt to your new policy, have clear conversations around this fear. You can position it in a positive light by asking employees for their thoughts and feedback, enabling you to get their reactions early instead of letting the fear infiltrate over time. The more you’re able to capture your fears in a constructive way through clear, open, and honest conversations, the more you’ll be able to control and minimize them.
Start Conquering Your Fears
Fear is a normal human emotion, but it doesn’t have to rule your mind or life. Try using some of the strategies above to conquer your fear the next time it rears its head in your life. You may find that over time it gets easier to face fear and develop plans for overcoming it.
Tiffany Sauder’s story will make you rethink the role fear plays in your life and how honesty, transparency, and courage can help you overcome challenging times. Listen to her Ripple Effect episode Using Fear to Propel You Forward now.