What Bears and Latkes Taught Me About Fear

How to get out of your own way and go after what you want

“Bear” before her debut

For this article, I’m taking a look back. Specifically, a post I wrote 5+ years ago about not letting fear get in the way of what you want. It seems I needed a reminder, and it’s a positive affirmation for your week. Enjoy!

My 7-year-old daughter is doing a play. While normally this wouldn’t be front-page news, the fact that Sofia has agreed to do the play and, even more importantly, is excited to be doing the play, is. Allow me to explain.
 
This summer, when Sofia found out who her teacher was going to be, she got very anxious. Apparently, her new teacher had a reputation for doing an enormous amount of plays (“Like, five, Mommy!”).
 
I sat Sofia down to talk about what was bothering her and to ease her fears, citing her independent and fearless nature and the joy she finds in singing Justin Bieber songs to anyone, anywhere, at any time. We also talked about how useful her naturally projecting voice would be on stage since she probably wouldn’t even need to use a microphone.
 
Though she nodded her head in agreement, she added: “But I’m a little bit scared, Mommy.”
 
And there it was. Fear. Of the unknown. Of performing in front of people you don’t know. Or people you do know. Fear of failing. Or fear of — gulp! — actually doing well.
 
But a funny thing happened. Though Sofia started the school year with preconceived notions about her teacher and those plays, over the course of a few months, excitement replaced her fear, which is not surprising, since fear and excitement are often intertwined.
 
Also not surprising are the parallels I found to my situation. When I first became a free agent, I was secretly giddy…and terrified. I was in completely uncharted and scary territory. Like Sofia, I had to put myself out there, on stage, for all to see (and judge). I might fail to perform. Or I might do well.
 
Preferring the latter, I chose to prepare and practice. I poured myself into research. I became an even bigger networker, infusing caffeinated beverages and lunches into my meetings with friends, colleagues, and peers. I sought counsel from my trusted circle. I rehearsed, mentally and physically, to make this shift become more natural and second nature.
 
All this effort might seem futile to some, but for me, there were (and continued to be) real rewards. I’ve maintained and expanded relationships within my professional and personal networks, discovered new trends and sources of information to stay fresh and current and learned that most people already believed in me and my abilities — I just needed to accept it and get out of my own way. 
 
In short, my confidence is back up where it belongs. Which is why I believe I’ve been able to land a few new gigs, actually found the courage to decline one opportunity that didn’t jive with my skills, level of experience and abilities, and am currently evaluating two potential, long-term options. And, like Sofia, I hope to have rave reviews that will garner encores.
 
The first of Sofia’s class plays is entitled “The Holiday Show,” a lovely work celebrating a myriad of Winter holidays and traditions. Sofia will be starring as “Bear,” a lovable creature that finds herself being drawn out of her hibernating slumber by the call of the latkes (‘“Bear,” they’re saying, “we’re waiting…Bear, come get us while we’re hot.”’). And (spoiler alert!) Bear ends up overdoing it with the latkes (“I should have stopped at sixty-three!”), singing a seven-stanza song about it. 
 
I know all this because Sofia’s been rehearsing, every day. Which of course makes me immensely proud, and inspired: if my little bear can continue to find and express herself, then so can I.

© Amy Blaschka, 2017

An earlier version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.

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Amy is the president of rbp consulting, a consultancy specializing in helping transform people and organizations in transition.

She’s never played a latke-obsessed bear, but she is a badass writer and loves connecting people and organizations one word at a time. Contact her at rbpconsulting.org or say hi on Twitter @amyblaschka.

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