If you caught last week’s email with all the latest Made Vibrant news then you know I had the awesome opportunity to fly up to San Francisco this past week to film an online class with the team over at Brit + Co.
It was SUCH a cool experience getting to collaborate with a brand I’ve admired for so long, and I didn’t hesitate to use the chance to pick their brains about everything from producing content to marketing online classes. I feel like I learned so much in just two days!
I’ll be writing up a full behind-the-scenes post on the blog this week if you’re interested in hearing about the full experience, but for today’s newsletter topic, instead I wanted to focus on one very REAL emotion that bubbled up for me behind the opportunity: FEAR.
Yep, you heard me. As much as I’d love to say that getting an email from your dream collaborator is all sunshine and rainbows and heart emojis 💖, you guys know I like to keep it much more honest than that.
The truth is, when I got the email from their team asking me if I was interested in becoming an online instructor, of course my first emotion was excitement, but that excitement was quickly followed by a strong sense of fear and anxiety.
Would I be good enough? Could I deliver what they were looking for? Would I use this opportunity to its fullest potential for my business?
Despite spending literally YEARS trying to reprogram myself not to fall into this trap of trying to live up to other people's expectations of me, there are still plenty of times when that ol’ Achilles heel rears its ugly head and I can feel the pull of wanting to please other people in every part of my being.
In fact, would you believe me if I told you I actually considered saying NO?
It’s not that I wasn’t thrilled to be asked -- I was -- but I had just started my summer hiatus when I got that first email and I was finally starting to feel the benefits of taking up a slower pace. No anxiety, no pressure -- just creating and exploring and unfolding.
I worried that taking on a project with these kinds of mixed anxieties would distract me from my mission.
Still, the other part of me felt like this was the perfect challenge for me to push through those fears and really test myself to see if I’ve evolved past needing the approval of others. I wondered if I could find a way to calm my nerves and actually just enjoy this for what it was: an exciting learning opportunity and a chance to collaborate with a fun brand.
That very fork in the road leads me to today's topic, which is one that hopefully all of you can relate to in one way or another...
When you encounter something you're afraid to do, how do you know when to say YES and conquer your fear or say NO and avoid the anxiety?
Listen, I don't typically prescribe advice like... "Oh that feels hard? Well just AVOID it altogether! That will work!" I know avoidance can be unhealthy and repressing emotions can simply lead them to pop up in all sorts of fun places in our lives.
BUT on the flip side of that, I also don't think it's necessary to put ourselves through suffering -- whether physical or mental -- for the lone purpose of proving to ourselves (or others) that we're some kind of badass fear-conquering warrior princess (or prince.)
For example, I have an irrational fear of open water and large sea mammals (see: whales, manatees, sea lions, etc.) When we moved to San Diego, I got talked into going snorkeling with sea lions near La Jolla with friends. I was literally terrified but I kept telling myself this was a fear I wanted to overcome (not realizing I was really just afraid of looking weak in front of my friends.)
I agreed to the excursion which resulted in me basically frozen and treading water in the middle of La Jolla cove, having a full on panic attack at the thought of one more seaweed plant entangling me or one more sea lion sneaking up on me. (Really take in that scene for a moment, and feel free to giggle if you must -- looking back it’s a pretty ridiculous thing to relive.)
The point is... that was NOT a good experience. Did I conquer my fear? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell no!
I should have trusted my gut when it was telling me this was something I would not enjoy, but instead I let the peer pressure get the better of me.
Not every fear needs to be conquered. Not every challenge is worth taking on.
So then, like I said, how do we know the difference between fears that are worth facing and those that aren’t?
Well, the truth is, only YOU can fully grasp where your fears come from, what it takes to face them, and when you’re ready/willing to go to that place or not.
BUT, I have come up with a rule of thumb that might help in gauging whether a fear is worth facing or not.
Since so much of the dissonance in this dilemma is created by how we believe other people will perceive us, the first thing I try to do is eliminate that from the decision altogether by asking myself this question:
"Would I still want to conquer this fear if no one would find out about it?"
Asking yourself this question can help you get to the bottom of what’s driving you to confront this fear: the experience OR the validation?
For instance, with the Brit + Co class, I close my eyes and I imagine what it would be like if I filmed the class and for some reason it was never released. What if I could never tell another soul that I filmed it? Would I still say yes to the opportunity? Would the experience itself still be worth facing the anxiety?
Ultimately, my answer was yes. Despite knowing that I’d be nervous and at times I might doubt myself, I knew this would be the perfect chance to improve some of my skills and learn new ones about filming content, teaching course material, producing online videos, marketing my classes etc. And I genuinely did want to prove to myself that I could find a way to work with a bigger brand that I admired while not losing my confidence in the process.
I’m SO glad I made that decision because I was able to prove to myself that I could step up to the plate under pressure (which allows me to build trust, and in turn, confidence, in myself). I was able to still find a way to enjoy the process and be myself, which is major progress in the people-pleasing department for me.
I used this same question recently when I was asked to give a speech at an event, something that is definitely exciting, but also something that brings up a good amount of anxiety for me. I kept wondering, should I say yes or should I say no?
It felt like such a hard decision until I asked myself that ever-important question (experience or validation?) and realized the ONLY reason I was drawn to say yes was the visibility and notoriety of the event. I felt like it was an opportunity I SHOULD want, only I realized I really didn’t want it.
The time that I would spend overcoming the anxiety of preparing a 20-minute speech for this event would only take creative energy away from the projects I do love and that do bring me immense joy (and little to no fear.) So... I politely declined.
Though I know it may not be a popular opinion...
You get to choose which moments are worth pursuing in order to stretch your capabilities, and which moments you can casually wave at as they pass you by, knowing that every day does not have to be THE day to get uncomfortable.
Like everything in life, I believe it’s all a balance. It’s a matter of knowing when you’re ready to confront your fears for YOU and when you feel compelled to face your fears for others.
This week, I challenge you to dive deeper into some of the opportunities you’ve been afraid to take on.
Ask yourself where your fear stems from and if you’re ready to conquer it. Finally, use the guiding question above to recognize whether this courage is driven by your own desire to push your boundaries or the perception you want other people to have of you.
If you do that, one of two things will happen:
Either you’ll finally be able to walk right into your fear and conquer it with the knowledge that you’re TRULY ready to test yourself...
You can shut the door on that fear for now and confidently apply your time and resources to opportunities and projects that you can take on without anxiety, and live to fight the fear another day.
I hope this simple framework will help you the next time you encounter that simple-but-deceivingly-tortuous question: should I say YES or should I say NO?
Wishing you all a wonderful week!