Do not let your fears stop you

It was my first day at a new job. While packing up, my new boss turned to me with a request: ‘Hey Sarita, can you just oversee the printing of this word document.?’ ‘Sure’, I said with aplomb. The truth was – I was nervous. I was new to the world of computers and the internet. My experience did not go beyond an email ID and the use of the now obsolete Yahoo! Messenger for chats. But you don’t say that to your boss on day one, do you? Like many others, I too kept my doubts within myself and tried to look like I was competent enough to oversee this oh, so simple task. I was after all hired for my competencies (though those did not include Microsoft usage savvy, and we will come to that later).

I still remember my wet palms after my boss had left. The demons in my head telling me I can’t do this, I have never done this, I don’t know if this is to be done; making me feel helpless and a little trapped. The office was almost empty. There was no one I could turn to. Then the landline rang – it was my boss. It was as though intuitively he had reached out. ‘I called to check if you had gone home or not. What are you still doing in office?’ ‘I blurted out immediately, ‘I can’t seem to get this right’. ‘It’s okay, don’t sweat. We will sort it out tomorrow. Go home. It’s late.’ Phew. What a relief. Guess what – it was perfectly okay the next day. And I learnt how to do that job right.

I still laugh when I remember this episode. I had let my fears take a grip over me. I was not able to muster the courage to acknowledge that there were some things that I still had to learn. We let our fears stop us from succeeding and learning. When fear grips us, it is almost like a dark shadow that bolts out all the sunshine around us. You are unable to see the light; for you think the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a fast-moving train hurtling at you ready to snuff off your life.

“Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air – until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore. “My God, this is terrible,” the wave says. “Look what’s going to happen to me!”

Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, “Why do you look so sad?”
The first wave says, “You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?”

The second wave says, “No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.”

– Tuesdays with Morrie

We all have our fears. It is normal to have clammy hands before a big event. It is fine to feel nervous during the dream job’s final interview. The point is to convert that fear into that push that will take us to newer heights.

How do we do that?

  • Recognize your fears – be aware of situations/moments that seem inordinately challenging for you and seem to paralyze your thinking. Make a note of them. by being aware, you will be to better be prepared to handle the oncoming situation. As they say, ‘the sooner you can catch it, the sooner you can release it!’
  • Talk to someone – do not bottle up your fears. Share and talk to people/colleagues/friends/your mentor/a coach, or even strangers. Sometimes it is easier to open up to strangers for you know they will not judge you. At such moments all that you need really is a listening ear. It will surprise you to know that many people have similar fears to what you are experiencing. You are not alone and that can actually give you comfort.
  • Believe in your strengths – focus on what you are really good at and do not let the fear dwarf that even for a single moment. Many times, the maze of fear leaves us feeling utterly worthless that we forget that there are competencies and skills that make us unique. You need to surround yourself with your competencies and skills for which you were hired and draw upon them whenever there are moments that make you feel like you are on shaky ground.

Remember, no one is perfect, and no one can get everything right. Do not let your fears define your worthiness.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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