Many years ago, I stood hesitant on the edge of a waterfall in a beautiful crystal blue river near San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I have a fear of heights but I love the water so here I was several hours from a town standing calf-deep in a rushing river. The jump wasn’t far, perhaps a meter or two, so I knew I could do it but there were several more falls ahead and I knew one was much bigger.
As I debated stepping off the ledge into the pool below, I had to commit and decide that the resulting fun was worth pushing through the fear before me. And this - the possible result - whether it was fun, recognition, success, or connection - is what I often carry with me into the workplace when a fearful “What if?” moment arises.
I am sure you all know that moment. It is known that women especially often don’t trust that we bring ALL the skills to the table and can add value. What goes through our heads are thoughts like this:
- What if they don’t think my idea is good enough?
- What if they don’t think I know enough about that project, idea, or client?
- What if there is someone better for that job, raise, or promotion?
- What if I am vulnerable and they laugh at me?
When I have personally encountered this moment I take a minute to think about it and I flip it around and ask myself - what if I don’t do it? What will happen? And then answers like this come up:
- I won’t be considered for the promotion or project
- My team won’t understand I am going through a hard time right now and there will be a lack of connection
- A great idea won’t be considered that could add value to the company, help my teammates, and move forward our mission
Then this is where the fun begins. There are two things I do, first, I imagine what it would be like to do the thing I fear and I picture what it will look like afterward. Like during that waterfall jump, I imagined the joy of landing in that pool of water and how fun and satisfying it would be to do it! The picture of that happiness pulled me forward. In a work environment, this is what gets me over the fear. When I can see myself in that new role, the team collaborating on one of my ideas, or connecting with colleagues more deeply because I shared a vulnerability, it helps make the thing I fear feel less risky.
If you jump - you will get there. And get there faster.
This leads to the second thing I do - I change my mindset from thinking about the negative what ifs and turn it into an “I will…” What will I do to get to the place I want to go?
- I will talk to my manager tomorrow about the open role.
- I will share my vulnerability with one colleague in the morning before I start my day.
- I will write up my idea and share it with a few colleagues and get their feedback before the meeting.
All of these “I wills” are steps. They are the first waterfall jump in the river. There will be more steps but each one is easier because you have been successful once already.
At a physical level, we don’t naturally go towards what we fear however a lot of things we want are attached to discomfort. If you think about something you want to do or desire and you hear your inner critic and feel fear, listen to that as it may mean that is exactly what you should go toward.
As women in travel, there are moments of bravery and passion we can tap into and translate into our daily work. We know how it feels in our bodies to be exhilarated and challenged. Successes at our work and in our business can feel the same as climbing a mountain step by step, pedaling uphill for miles for the joyful grace of a downhill, or simply pausing to talk and connect with a local on a corner about their day in some new and far away place.
You don’t have to do everything you are afraid of but what if, you did more of them?
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