In one of the episodes of Game of Thrones, one of the characters, Ned Stark, said: “A man can only be brave when he’s afraid.’’ This shattered my world a little. I used to think you’re brave only when you’re not afraid to do anything.
The one thing I don’t like about being an adult is that I’ve become full of fear. I think too much before I do something, I rationalize possible failures, rejections and pains. I long for the days of my childhood, when I lived fearlessly, without constantly thinking about what could potentially go wrong.
Right now I’m actually living a long time dream of mine: running my own business. I had put off doing it for many years. I told myself I needed more education, more experience, more time, more savings (just in case I completely screwed myself over) and a “specific” business plan.
But the main factor that prevented me from becoming an entrepreneur was my own fear and doubt that I could even do it at all.
The idea of running my own business was idealistic to say the least. (Consider all the freedom and control I would have! Imagine doing something I love! And how much of an impact I can have!)
But being an entrepreneur means living with ambiguity, facing challenges regularly, having very little idea as to whether I will succeed or not, and anticipating possible failures ahead.
And you guessed it. One of the biggest challenges I’ve been experiencing is overcoming my fears and doubts.
I’ve been told that it takes 40 days to change a bad habit. So I decided to do this challenge — 40 days of fear, during which I did one of the following each day:
- Something I fear
- Something I’m uncertain/doubtful of
- Something I’ve been procrastinating to do
I kept a daily record of what I did and what I learned. Here are some of the highlights:
Fear is a choice.
When I asked myself, “What is the worst that could happen?” I found that of all the things I tried to do during this challenge, nothing was dangerous, deadly or physically harmful. Overcoming the resistance in my head was the most challenging. But at the same time, I learned I could control my thoughts, and they were something I could turn around.
Most of my fears came from uncertainties about situations and myself. Sometimes, I would be dreading just making a phone call. I learned that I could never be sure of my abilities and limits unless I did something to test them. In the first day of my challenge, I did something that I was very afraid of: I met one of the most important persons in the government. Of course, though I had overwhelming anxiety and wasn’t prepared adequately, the meeting could have gone a lot better. But the fact that I DID it was very empowering. I learned what my limits were, and how I should prepare for meetings like this in order to do better next time.
Accept my own limitations.
This project demanded a lot of self-awareness. It constantly pushed me to look within myself as I tried to answer why I felt what I did. Whenever it was difficult or whenever I found myself resistant to something, I was often tense and overwhelmed with the nagging feeling that I wasn’t enough. Slowly, I learned to be honest with myself and to accept my own limitations and imperfections. I learned to be kind and forgiving to myself whenever I failed my own standards. It has been very liberating.
I will always be afraid and doubtful.
I started this challenge hoping to completely overcome some of my fears and doubts. Along the way, I learned I would always be afraid and doubtful. True, I’m no longer afraid to talk with a government official or walk alone in the dark in my house. But I’ll still be nervous if I ever meet the president. And I’ll still be afraid to stay alone at a house somewhere isolated.
Here are some of the fears and insecurities I faced over the 40 days:
- Met with a top national government official
- Called myself an entrepreneur publicly
- Made cold calls to important people
- Met with highly well-known Myanmar scholars and experts
- Was home alone at night
- Spoke into a microphone in front of a huge audience at an international women’s forum
- Walked in the dark at night
The challenge didn’t teach me how to completely overcome my fears and doubts, but it has inspired me to keep challenging myself, to constantly expand my limits and to go beyond my comfort zone.
Flickr photo (cc) by ~Zoe~