In last week’s blog post “I Want to Become a Freelance, Writer, But…”, I said there is one word that keeps freelance writers from promoting themselves, and really, from achieving the success they desire.
Let’s start by eliminating the top two excuses we often use to cover up the real issue.
- Knowledge. I just don’t know how to promote myself. I don’t know what step to take next.
These statements can be true, but lack of knowledge is something easily remedied. The internet is flooded with information and opportunities to learn what you need to know. Usually, we use lack of knowledge as an excuse to take more training courses and listen to more podcasts and put off taking real action.
- Skill. I don’t know if I’m a good enough writer.
Good enough for what? The New Yorker? Probably not. But if you can put together sentences that make sense and string them together into paragraphs, you have enough skill to start. Skill can always be improved upon. The best way to improve it is to practice in a situation that provides accountability. Freelance writing gives you plenty of opportunity to do that. My clients have done more to improve my writing than any course I could have taken.
If knowledge and skill aren’t the problems, what is?
One person gave her guess at the word in the comments of last week’s post. She said the word was “insecure.”
And what is at the root of insecurity?
Whenever I procrastinate (which is often) or try to avoid doing something, the root cause is always some kind of fear.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of failure.
Fear of success (that carries responsibility).
Fear of people’s opinions.
Fear Isn’t a Bad Thing
Fear isn’t totally bad. Fear, after all, is just a reaction.
Fear is our response to danger. It is a protection mechanism built into us to protect us from causing ourselves harm. Fear is NOT a bad thing.
We develop our strongest fears from experience. Experiences that involve pain.
It could be physical pain, like a burn from touching something hot. Or it can be emotional or psychological pain from the treatment or reaction of others.
Again, pain, like fear, is not bad, in and of itself. Pain is a teacher. It teaches us to fear, to avoid danger, to change patterns that cause us pain.
Unfortunately, many of the fears installed in us by childhood pain, become a trap. The danger is past; we are adults, but we continue to react to circumstances as if we were vulnerable little children.
Time to Take Off the Training Wheels of Fear
Fear can be compared to training wheels on a bicycle. The wheels keep you from falling and getting hurt while you are learning the art of balancing and peddling. Likewise, fear is there to protect you from hurt as you learn to navigate life as a vulnerable child.
Once you’ve learned to operate the bike with the aid of the training wheels, it is time to take them off and operate the bike on your own. Will you fall and get hurt without the training wheels? Probably. A few times. But you learn that the pain is temporary and that uneven ground and sandy spots need to be avoided or approached with care. You’ve learned how to use your brakes and how to steer around obstacles. You are free to traverse the world without fear.
Your internal fears of rejection, failure and people’s opinions has served its purpose. It has protected the tender child in you, so you could mature and grow. It’s time to take off the training wheels and ride with confidence, don’t you think?
Maybe it is time to say to your fear, “I don’t need you anymore.”
Replacing Fear with Confidence
I have been shy and timid all my life. I hate conflict and avoid it whenever possible. Decision making is extremely stressful. I tell people I married my husband so he could take care of me and make the decisions so I didn’t have to. He was confident and strong in my eyes. I’d rather have someone else make the decisions for me than possibly make wrong ones myself.
People like myself often put off making decisions. Many times, if we put it off long enough, the decision gets made for you by default. That’s why we procrastinate. There is always the underlying hope that the problem will disappear or someone else will solve it for us.
So, how do we get free from the fear we have become accustomed to guiding us and protecting us from pain?
Just like with training wheels, there has to come a day of decision. And with the decision has to come action.
You have to take on a situation that has the potential of delivering pain, the very pain you have worked so hard to avoid.
You have to consciously choose to open yourself up to the possibility of pain with the mature understanding that the pain, if it comes, will only be temporary.
Your first try may be an exciting success, bolstering your confidence. Or it may be the opposite, the very painful rejection you feared.
If it is the latter, don’t go heading towards the garage to grab your training wheels of fear again. Don’t believe the lie that you aren’t capable or don’t deserve the joy of living free from the limitations of fear. You’re all grownup. You can do this, and you can do it well!
It’s Okay to Fall
You will fall. You will fail. You will make wrong decisions. You will experience pain. Anyone who tells you different is painting a false picture.
The key to gaining confidence and overcoming that fear of failure and rejection is to realize that it isn’t the end of the world. It’s a setback, not a roadblock. But it has to go beyond just knowing it in your head, right?
The way to get anything beyond head knowledge, to truly believing it, is to act upon it.
The next time you feel the anxiety and the old patterns of thoughts and feelings invading you, stop. Recognize it for what it is. Say it out loud, “I’m doing it again.”
Make the choice.
Take off the training wheels.
Tell yourself, “I can handle this.” Push through and do the thing.
If the pain comes as a result…
Stop. Recognize it. “That hurt.” But it didn’t destroy you, right? Because you didn’t let it.
You’re a big kid.
Heck! You are all grown up. You don’t need to ride around with training wheels, afraid of every bump or turn in the road.
Start practicing how to ride without them. One little trip down the sidewalk at a time.
When you fall, have a little cry, get up and get back on again. You can do this!
Tell your fear – “I don’t need you anymore!”