We all have things that hold us back: We’re uncertain, we lack confidence, we worry about looking stupid….
Oddly enough the more “successful” we become the more of those fears we often have; the more we have to lose, actual or perceived, the more we try to protect ourselves.
So how do you move past the fear? Get naked — whether literally or figuratively.
When I first started riding a bicycle to get in better shape I felt like a poser. The last thing I ever want to be is that guy: The guy who decides to start playing tennis and buys an expensive racket and shoes and bag before he ever steps on a court. You know; that guy.
So I did wear a helmet — a series of motorcycle crashes has literally hammered home the value of a good helmet — but I stuck to wearing regular shorts and shoes and standard pedals. The last thing I wanted to appear was “serious” (or, worse, to be taking myself seriously) since I could barely ride three or four hilly miles.
Over time I got in better shape and started wearing bike shorts and using clipless pedals. But I still hesitated to wear full-on cycling gear and buy a nicer bike because I still felt like a poser.
We all have our hangups, and poser-phobia is definitely one of mine, along with the worry-way-too-much-about-what-random-strangers-think syndrome (if you know the cure for that one please send it my way.)
And I avoided a certain long, steep hill near our house because the road cuts through a massive student housing complex and I didn’t people to see me huffing and puffing and struggling my way up the climb.
So one day my wife said, “Oh, get over yourself. You’re fitter than most people now and besides, what does it matter if you aren’t? Stop caring so much about what people think.”
“You’re right… but that’s easier said than done,” I said.
“It is easy,” she said. “Just go ride the hill 15 times… without wearing a shirt.”
She knew I worried about how I appeared, so she figured why not go all the way and look really, um, awful? It would hardly be fun… but if I could manage to ride for an hour or without a shirt in front of tons of people… then just about any riding situation from then on would be gravy.
And it worked, even though countless innocently by-standing coeds surely suffered long-term mental scarring from collateral self-improvement damage.
It even made cycling situations like this possible, my sheepish grin notwithstanding.
Here’s how to make “undressing” work for you, too:
- If you typically avoid confrontation, take a deep breath and talk to a colleague about an issue that’s bothered you. Or call a habitually late-paying customer. Or complain about a service issue. Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated you blow your top; be proactive and initiate the conversation. You’ll quickly realise few confrontations are as scary as they seem ahead of time.
- If you feel uncomfortable selling, cold call 20 potential customers one after the other. Don’t stop until you’re done. Afterwards talking to “normal” customers will be a lot easier. (And hey, you might actually sell a few of the people you cold call.)
- If you hesitate to speak in public, join Toastmasters. Or volunteer to make a presentation at a meeting. Somewhere, anywhere — but especially where you feel nervous and uncomfortable — stand up and speak. From that day forward, speaking up in impromptu or informal settings will be a lot easier.
- If you steer clear from giving feedback (even though you’re in a leadership position), don’t wait for scheduled reviews. Bring every employee in for an informal session. Talk about what they do well and where they could improve. From then on, making minor corrections and providing spontaneous suggestions will be a lot easier because you’ll have worked through the hesitation we all sometimes feel when we need to give on-the-spot feedback.
Think of it this way: When the water is freezing and you slowly ease in, every subsequent inch is a fresh and horrible jolt of cold. Dive in and you’re immediately cold all over but you quickly get used to it.
And you feel better about yourself, because you took control. You turn getting cold into something you did yourself; it no longer feels like something that was done to you.
Take a look at the situations or tasks that make you apprehensive or anxious. Then go all in: Undress for success.
In a manner of speaking, of course.
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