Episode 67: Overcoming Fear and Doubt in your Career


August 3rd, 2021

29 mins 52 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Fear and doubt come in so many forms, including imposter syndrome, self-deprecation, and holding yourself back in other ways. We’re here to talk about how to overcome these things in the workplace.

Kat comes from a position of normalizing fear and doubt and accepting them as a part of the human experience.

How do we recognize fear and doubt? Awareness and acceptance. It’s about “oh -- I recognize this! It's fear and doubt!” and then allowing ourselves to address and combat those thoughts to take away the power we give to them. We have to normalize the human experience and be prepared to move forward despite fear and doubt.

Fear can be a good thing, a warning sign to watch out. If everyone is optimistic all the time, sometimes we miss the warning signs that a devil’s advocate or pessimist may bring. Hearing our fears allows us to see what could get in our way, so that we can deal with it.

Our responses to fear and doubt are personalized. Some people thrive on stress and others hide in corners. If you’re avoiding your fears at all costs, what’s that doing to your career? Some people use adrenaline to fuel their work, and others work systematically to avoid that last-minute stress.

Today we’re sharing several coping strategies for fear and doubt.

The best one we know is first to calm down -- to step away and take a 5-minute break, or at least a few breaths to set your head right. We talk about box breathing (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4, exhale for 4, wait for 4), and other breathing techniques.

Remember, feelings aren’t permanent, and acknowledging them takes their power. We also tend to tell ourselves stories that aren’t always true. Ask yourself what you know, acknowledge that you’re feeling fear and doubt and WHY you’re feeling it, and take that power back to help yourself move through it.

Liz likes to ask, “Can I control this?” If the answer is no, you can’t engage with the fear because you have no control over it (e.g., if your company gets acquired), but you can think of best-case scenarios instead of worst-case.

Sometimes fear is an indicator of excitement. Ask yourself, “Am I afraid or am I excited?” Often new and/or growth opportunities bring up fear and doubt, but when you can acknowledge that you’re excited about the growth that they will produce, you can lean into those feelings and push yourself towards learning.

When something feels huge and scary, break it down into pieces to make it more manageable and plan out how to make it happen.

Do your best, understand your resources, and know that if you aren’t 100% successful, it’s ok. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and when we learn from mistakes we’re actually stronger than if we’re always successful. Think of batting averages or VC wins/losses….nobody hits home runs 100% of the time.

When you combat fear and doubt and take risks, REWARD YOURSELF. Give yourself the acknowledgment of getting to the other side. Not necessarily with a designer wardrobe, but maybe an ice cream or a mocha. Make sure to reward yourself with a job well done. Whatever works, do more of it.

When you’re in a state of stress, it’s important to sleep, eat well, and take care of yourself. By taking care of yourself, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Decisions need to be aligned to values and what’s close to your heart. Using your must-have list and values to make decisions will help guide you towards opportunities.

Liz introduced a term: name it to tame it. When you can identify the feeling, it loses some of its power. And if you can name it, understand it, and then talk yourself through it, you’re able to move past the fear towards a goal. Liz gave an example of sending her kids to camp vs hiding them in their rooms after an anti-Semitic incident.

Women disproportionately succumb to fear and doubt, feeling like they can’t go for opportunities. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do now?” or “how can I make this happen?” For every 100 men promoted to manager, 80 women are promoted, according to a study by the consulting firm McKinsey. We’re here to encourage you to move yourself forward.

Sometimes we worry about current job performance and the ability to be successful in something new. Often people, especially women, won’t raise their hands if they don’t feel 100% able to take something on. If you’re feeling it 70%, GO FOR IT!

We think about L’areal Lipkins and her vision boards from Episode 54, what excuses you’re making, and what you can do to make those excuses go away.

Make sure your people, your friends, and the colleagues you hang with are positive, helping, and encouraging. Surrounding yourself with people you admire can help you try new things and having role models helps you to aspire to grow. Liz and Kat use each other as sounding boards to evaluate new decisions.

Sometimes trying new things takes practice; find what tools work for you.

Remember, the most successful people have overcome Imposter Syndrome. For proof listen to our episodes with Amy Lewis and Joep Piscaer). Kat is also an incredible coach through fear and doubt. We’re here to you support you in not letting fear and doubt hold you back. You can do hard things!