I have been feeling a little disconnected of late. I'm self-employed, and as many people who work for themselves will understand, that can be quite isolating. Not being one to sit around wallowing in self-pity, I decided to create a collaborative events and coaching company with a friend.
However, there was an ulterior motive behind the move. You see, I have decided to go full out and embrace any fears that might be holding me back in my business this year, so that I can make this year my most profitable one yet.
Leaning in to the fear
What I've been aware of for a long time though, is that one of the things that I've been avoiding ever since I set up my coaching and Cognitive Hypnotherapy practice is public speaking.
I've been invited to speak at networking events, asked to run workshops, and even wanted to plan and run my own retreats for some time now - but I've always turned down those opportunities or pushed them to the bottom of the pile. That fear though, was an indication to me that I needed to start pushing through it if I wanted to get to what was on the other side.
As 2015 was drawing to a close and I began to reflect on the year, I noticed that I had some negative feelings about the progress I'd made. I've been very happy seeing clients 1-on-1, and I always knew that until my boy started school this business was going to be a part-time thing to me. But that milestone came and went in September, and I hadn't pushed myself towards the next level. Which for me, has always been about getting out there more, speaking out louder about what I do, and sharing what I know with more people. I love the idea of doing a TED talk, or speaking at a festival such as A-Fest, but that was never going to happen if I kept telling myself I can't do public speaking. I haven't even been to any networking events, because I was worried I was going to be asked to introduce myself.
Going all in
So I decided the only way to face the fear and sucker punch it to the side so I could storm on through and reap the rewards, was to get out there and do it. And not really being one to do things by halves, I decided that rather than prep for a 60 second pitch at a networking event, I would set up a situation in which I was presenting for 45 minutes, all eyes on me - and I was going to ask people to pay to come and listen.
The funny thing is, I used to LOVE being on stage. I always wanted the biggest speaking parts in the school play. I'd always be the one to put my hand up to read out to the class, or to get up the front for a demonstration. It clearly wasn't that I was uncomfortable being the centre of attention! I'd forgotten all that though as it's been so long since I've had to do it, and was assuming that was all part of my fear now. Until I went to see stage hypnotist and mentalist Derren Brown a few weeks ago and realised that I was itching to go up on stage with him - in front of almost 1,500 people!
After some detective work with my own therapist - in which we did also reframe some past events where my being centre of attention had gone a bit tits up - I realised that my fear was of being found out to be a fraud. That people would realise I didn't know what I was claiming to be an expert about, that I wouldn't really be able to find the words to say what I wanted to say because, perhaps, I didn't have them. I was afraid of being called out as a fake.
As you read that, you might realise that it sounds quite familiar to you. It's one of the biggest fears that people have, and it's also known as imposter syndrome. Feeling like it's only a matter of time before someone finds out you're faking it.
So while I KNOW that I know my stuff, while I have the client testimonials, thank you cards, bottles of wine and flowers to prove it, I realised that I haven't really had the absolute confidence in myself that I need to have to take this to the next level. I've been believing that I'm not good enough to go public with this, to put myself out there as an 'expert'.
And, being a therapist and a coach, I know that's all bullshit. I know it's just the protective part of my subconscious trying to keep me safe from putting myself in a situation where I might be kicked out of the tribe and therefore face death fending for myself. And I know I don't need to listen to it.
So, with the support of my wonderful business partner I put myself out there. We set a date, made a facebook page, a website and a flyer for the event. We got on the radio and in the paper, and we started to sell tickets. And there was no turning back.
Permission to fail
On Saturday, I faced my fear of public speaking and stood in front of 30 amazing women to talk to them about how they can collaborate better with their subconscious minds to produce incredible results in their lives. And it went fantastically. There was so much support in the room among everyone there, and when I finished I was buzzing. Sure, my voice was a little shaky, I'd had to keep drinking water to combat a dry mouth, and my hands were shaking too. But I gave myself permission for all of that beforehand, and I also gave myself permission to fail. I realised that if I was ok with making an arse of myself, then whether I did or not it was a win-win situation.
In my talk that evening, I hoped for people to get a better understanding of how the subconscious works, so that they can begin to notice ways in which they can influence it to give them more of what they want in life, and less of what they don't.
I had to influence my subconscious into thinking that I loved public speaking, that I was choosing to do it and that it was safe to do it. I did this by telling everyone I met about the event and that I was really looking forward to it because I love speaking in public. Every time I noticed the lurching feeling in my stomach when I was thinking about the event, I called it 'excitement' and remembered times when I had felt that feeling before and I had been excited - first date nerves, anyone? And I used a self-hypnosis recording to visualise myself giving my talk confidently and calmly, and it being appreciated at the end with applause and cheers. And do you know what - that's exactly what happened.
And now, I'm itching to get up there and do it again.
The next step for you
So I wonder what fears do you need to face to take your life or your business to the next level? Where did those fears come from, and what are you doing that might be reinforcing the belief that you're better off avoiding facing that fear? And also how could you begin to challenge that fear and push the boundary of your comfort zone a little bit further?
Because once you stretch your mind to a new dimension through new experiences, it never, ever goes back, and your limitless potential expands with it.