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!