A few months ago, I ran for a Director of Communication position for my chapter of the HRPA, and lost. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I can’t stand losing anything, but I was fully inspired by the leader who won the position, who had about 20 years of corporate communication experience and runs her own communications company. She was certainly the best candidate for the job. I would also be lying if I didn’t take some pride in the fact that, even against such an ideal candidate, I only lost by one vote. So all in all, I am really happy with the way things went.
In reflecting on my own performance that night, though, I realized that I actually might have won the election, had I not allowed something to hold me back. There’s lots of excuses for why I didn’t perform as well as I would expect – a busy weekend full of family commitments, a broken down car that pushed my work and priorities all back by a couple of hours on Monday, a frantic day Tuesday playing catchup, etc etc… but really, when I reflected on what happened, I know that it comes down to that four-letter word: FEAR.
I had five minutes to speak about my experience and compel my peers to vote for me. I had outlined a powerful story of why I was right for the role, from broad communication experience to passion for the HR profession and our the chapter, to involvement in social media as a great way to build communication and engagement. The problem was, as soon as I met the other candidate and heard about her experience, before a single vote was cast, I lost the election. I convinced myself that I was not good enough for the role, and my FEAR of failure got in my way.
I am in my glory when in front of an audience, given an opportunity to speak. Yes, it’s true, I can admit it – I love to be the centre of attention! But that night, my fear of failure overtook my joy of speaking to my peers. After meeting the other candidate, I psyched myself out, told myself I had no chance of winning, and completely flubbed my presentation. Somehow my fear had convinced me not to try to win the election – if I didn’t really give it my all, it wouldn’t really be “failing”, would it?
Fear is so limiting. I think of some of the fears I have dealt with in the past and, for the most part, conquered: fear of looking stupid, fear of getting hurt, fear of losing, fear of missing out on experiences, fear of not achieving my goals. The list goes on and on.
One thing I’ve learned, though, is that life is too short to allow fear to get in your way. I put my foot down and decided that I will not waste any more time worrying about failing. My life has changed. I have started my own business, which I’ve thought about but been too afraid to do for years. When I don’t know something, I raise my hand and ask. Wasting time being afraid of looking stupid for not having all the answers just doesn’t cut it for me any more. I conquered my fear of getting hurt – I have found great love, and I give it freely, without fear of consequences.
I see others operating under some of what I would call fear. Telltale signs: covering up your faults with sarcasm; acting “troll”-like to others; avoiding asking for help. Most recently, Michele Price’s (@prosperitygal) post on limiting yourself pointed out how people limit themselves by not promoting themselves or others, and inspired me to finish writing this post that I started the day after my election.
What fears do you have? I challenge you to conquer them. Stop limiting yourself. As Nike would say, just do it – go after your goals. You’ll never achieve if you don’t try. Be yourself, genuinely, completely. Reach for the rainbow. You’ll be amazed at the happiness you can find when you live outside your fear.