unleash your fear

How To Stop Hiding and (Finally) Grow Your Business

By Jessica Ruprecht

Here’s what I know to be true: growing your first business or blog is scary. It asks you to show up in public in ways you’ve probably never dared to before and to make yourself visible before a larger audience than you’re comfortable with.

Growing a business is not for the faint of heart!  But here’s the thing: some of you might desperately want to start a blog or a business, but feel stuck because you’re equally afraid of being seen. For years this was me. I desperately wanted to grow an audience for my blog and launch an online business, but every time I put myself out there I got so scared I eventually gave up. It was too much for me – too uncomfortable, too scary, too difficult.

I felt like I was never going to be brave enough.

The courage that I saw in the women around me successfully launching and growing their online businesses just didn’t seem to be accessible for me. No matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t able to fight my way through my fears and “do it anyway”. The truth is, trying to force myself to act more bravely than I felt never made me feel courageous. It only ever made me feel smaller, more cowardly, and less worthy.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

It took me years to figure out that there’s a way of working with your fear that doesn’t involve holding on for dear life and trying to fight your way straight through it. I learned to navigate my fears in way that was gentle and compassionate – and it was learning this that ultimately made it possible for me to stop hiding, show up in the world, and build my business.

You can learn how to navigate your fears, too. Here’s how.

The first step is to learn to recognize when fear is present.

The purpose of this step is simply to help you become more aware of when fear (or the avoidance of fear) is motivating your actions. To do that, it is helpful to learn to recognize what fear feels like in your body – do your palms sweat, does your heart pound, does your belly clench, or do your feet itch to get up and go somewhere?

Fear wears many disguises: it may look like apathy, exhaustion, procrastination, avoidance, restlessness, distraction, or numbing. But no matter what disguise fear might be wearing you’ll always know it if you become familiar with the sensation of it in your body.

The second step is to listen to your fear and honor it.

When we try to force ourselves to take action in spite of our fear we are not honoring fear’s purpose – which is to alert us the presence of danger. Instead, when we try to white-knuckle our way through fear we are ignoring how scared we feel and disregarding our own intuition.

Our fears are not silly or foolish – they are doing their very best to protect us from getting hurt. The trouble is that sometimes our happiness is worth running the risk of getting hurt. Unfortunately, our fears will never understand that we might be willing to risk a few mean comments for a chance to share our message with the world.

The truth about fear is that most of the time it really just wants to be heard. Your fear wants you to be aware that danger is present. Most of the time your fear only wants your attention – it wants to let you know that it perceives danger, so that you can be cautious as you take action.

Step two is about engaging with our fears in an honest dialogue. It’s about acknowledging that our fear serves a useful purpose and is never malicious. Step two is about asking ourselves what about this situation is my fear reacting to? And what does my fear need from me in order to feel safe?

It is important to ask these questions because this is how we allow our fear to protect us – by acknowledging that danger is present and acting to first meet our own needs in order to help ourselves feel safe.

For example, regularly publishing content to my blog is a way that I choose to grow my business; however, if I am afraid of publishing content because I’m worried that I will say the wrong thing and upset people, then publishing content to my blog is going to be a constant battle. I’ll perpetually be resisting actually doing it even as I pressure myself into blogging because I know that I should.

But here’s the thing: my worry about what other people will say isn’t foolish – it’s about protecting myself from getting hurt. What I’m really afraid of is that if I receive criticism for my words that my feelings will get hurt. So then the question is how can I protect myself from getting hurt and still publish my blog post?

This is what I can do: I can choose to not let someone else’s criticism or praise change my own opinion of myself. I can choose celebrate the courage that it took to publish my thoughts no matter what someone else does or doesn’t say in response. And I can choose to take care of myself if my feelings do get hurt – I can soothe my hurt feelings with my own affection.

When I do this, my fear eases because it knows that I have seen the danger and have taken steps to protect myself from being hurt, no matter the outcome of publishing my blog post.

As we learn to listen to our fears and honor their wisdom, we no longer have to fight our way through them in order to achieve our goals – which makes attaining our goals so much easier.

The third step is to have compassion for yourself as you struggle with fear.  I used to see my struggle with fear as cowardice. I’d tell myself, If only I were braver… then I’d be able to achieve my dreams. This approach never helped me move forward; usually, it only made me feel worse.

So this third step is an invitation to embrace your glorious humanity and be gentle with yourself as you navigate this process. You are allowed to find things frightening. You are allowed to feel uncomfortable.

In no way do these feelings detract from your inherent worth. This process doesn’t always work overnight. Sometimes our fears are deeply seated and it takes time to soothe them.

But if you keep showing up to listen to and honor your fears and keep having patience with yourself as you struggle it will become easier to step outside your comfort zone, stop hiding, and take action in your business. Because the truth is that the courage you need is already inside you. You just need to learn how to wield it.

Jessica Ruprecht is a life coach and writer at http://jessicaruprecht.com. She works with women entrepreneurs and creators who have big dreams, but whose fear of sharing their work with the world is holding them back. She helps women trust that their work is good enough so that they can finally stop hiding and start living. Her new ebook, Practical Courage: A Heart-Centered Guide to Achieving Your Dreams, will be released this spring. Sign up here to receive her free newsletter, designed to help you live your life with less fear and more courage – plus, be the first to know when Practical Courage is released!

3 ways to use your fear to skyrocket your business

By Luisa Zhou

When I first started my business, I thought I was doing something brave in pursuing my dreams. What I didn’t realize though, was that I was actually scared out of my mind.

I was scared of disappointing my parents who didn’t understand why their up-until-now perfect daughter would want to “throw away” everything she’d achieved for what they viewed as a fantasy. I was scared of the unknownness of a path that was not predefined and didn’t have set benchmarks for “success.”

And more than anything, I was scared of being seen by everyone (even strangers) as less than perfect, of being judged as “not good enough,” and of being mocked as the once-envied success who threw everything away for a pipe dream.

Because of those fears, my business floundered. I sat back and convinced myself that I was being a courageous entrepreneur when in fact, I hid. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, I didn’t try to make sales or find clients and the only marketing I did was through impersonal social media ads. I was up to my eyeballs in debt, I wasn’t making enough to sustain my business and my life was crashing down around me.

Then, in literally the blink of an eye, it all changed.

Attending a conference with some of the most successful, high-profile women in the online business world, I was stoked by all of the strategic takeaways I was sure to get from their talks.

However, my biggest takeaway was far less tangible and far more valuable. Watching the successful women giving advice from the podium to those who waited in long lines to ask for it, I realized that only one thing separated those on stage from those off stage.

It wasn’t knowledge or time or talent or luck.

It was fear. Or rather, the ability and willingness to act despite it.

In that moment, I was struck by a fear greater than any I’d ever known—the fear of failing. Because I knew I wasn’t acting like those women who put themselves out there no matter what without even pretending at perfection.

Fast forward to today, and not only is my business more successful than ever, but I’m also finally at peace with myself. I feel fulfilled, happy and possibly even more importantly, unafraid.

In the hope that my experiences will be useful to you, I want to share with you 3 tips that helped me use my fear to skyrocket my business instead of letting it hold me back:

1. Use your fear of NOT succeeding to help you move past your fears around putting yourself out there.

I never want to be that struggling businesswoman whose business appears glamorous and seductive on the outside but who is in truth barely breaking even. Who can’t afford to take care of her family or live the life she created her business in the first place to be able to live.

And that fear of not having my dream business and life, of not being able to provide the life I’d envisioned for my loved ones—that was far more powerful to me than the fear of stepping out of my comfort zone and the fear of being judged as not good enough.

2. List out your fears and excuses and the worst case scenarios - you'll realize they aren't as bad as you think.

This exercise is both deceptively simple and incredibly powerful. Listing out our fears forces us to confront them instead of letting them grow in power in our imagination.

And oftentimes, the worst case scenario, when we’re forced to confront it, means simply returning to a job for the short-term or a slight bruising of our ego.

3. Fall in love with your fear.

Spanx founder Sara Blakely often credits her upbringing for her success. In particular, her father used to ask her everyday at the dinner table to share one thing she’d failed at that day, which helped her develop the attitude that failure is only a stepping stone on the way to success.

Learning to embrace fear instead of dreading it will make the entrepreneurial journey so much more enjoyable. And to put our fears in perspective, remember Steve Jobs’s powerful words: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

Luisa Zhou is a Business Architect for women ready to build profitable online businesses. She’s also a former International Space Station engineer, an educational entrepreneur, a mobile payments start-up co-founder and a digital advertising manager overseeing millions in ad revenue.

For her stories, tips and inspiration on building your dream business and life, visit luisazhou.com, and get her free training series on jumpstarting your business and getting your first paying coaching clients here.

Photo Credit: Top: Picjumbo