You can’t do that, what if it bombs, what will others think?

I used to believe that most people didn’t deal with that inner dialogue that second guesses, points out all your flaws and is hyper sensitive to criticism and what other people think. That maybe I just wasn’t “built” to be someone  who is fearless, willing to take risks, or get up after getting knocked down ten times.

Now to be fair, I have only lived inside my own head for 40 years. I am sure there are people that are more predisposed to adventure, not caring what others think and are able to let things bounce off their chest like Superman.

However, I have been surprised and relieved to find example after example of people who have accomplished great things, but dealt with the same challenges. It is not that they don’t face the same type of thoughts, they just don’t allow themselves to live there for too long.

In fact, our brain is designed to give priority to and pay more attention to the negative.  

Let’s say your ancestors were walking along in a forest and came across a delicious fruit tree, their favorite! But a split second later along comes a Tiger. Now they could be really hungry and really want that fruit, but the danger of the Tiger is going to get their full attention. If it didn’t, if your ancestors ignored the Tiger you wouldn’t be here today!

When I learned to view some of these thoughts as a benefit and not a hindrance it helped….. a little. I understand this “logically”, but many of our negative thoughts bring with them pretty powerful emotions, so I still struggle with it sometimes like anyone else.

One thing I have noticed as I read more and more books and speak with people I admire and respect, they face the same challenges. They deal with fear before they hit the “publish” button. They wonder what people will think about their book. They thought about giving up and wondered if they were good enough. They get hurt when they get bad reviews or receive negative comments online. It is not that they are immune to all that. It is how they handle it when it occurs.

I was amazed to learn that when I had dinner with James Clear , an amazing writer with one of my favorite blogs, that he wrote for a year without publishing ANYTHING! He kept it on a document and was too scared about what his friends or family would thing to even post that material.

We ALL face these thoughts, doubts and insecurities.

So what do we do about it? Here are some ways to get you over the hump when that negative voice starts holding you back.

  • Acknowledge it and say “thank you” – Thank you? Yes, your brain is simply trying to protect you. That is its job, it is YOUR job to decide what is best for you in the moment. Just that simple awareness can help you realize that these are natural thoughts, but that you are not your thoughts, you can choose to move forward and push past the doubts.
  • Remind yourself of past successes – When the negative thoughts start flowing, it is common to start thinking of all your failures and where you have gone wrong in the past. Instead, take a deep breath and force yourself to head in the other direction. Replay all the things you have done well, your accomplishments, the adversity you have overcome, the people you have helped. Stick with it long enough and you WILL reverse the path.
  •  Stare down the worst case scenario – This may sound counter intuitive, but often times, even the worst case scenario is not fatal. Other people might judge you? So what? Is that your problem, or their problem? By facing the fear head on, it removes some of its power over you. Many times, you will see quickly that even a failure is only temporary and that it is not worth holding you back from moving you forward.
  •  Realize that you are a work in progress – Many fears and negative thoughts stem from a fear of failure. Carol Dweck wrote a great book called MINDSET (LINK) that discusses the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. When you are in a fixed mindset, failure isn’t an event, it is an indictment on you as a person. It is a label. You didn’t lose the game, you are a l-o-s-e-r. Having a growth mindset is realizing that you aren’t perfect and are always growing. You realize that knowledge, wisdom and success come from experience and experience often includes missteps. Did you just hop on a bike and ride off into the sunset on your first attempt? Probably not. Any new skill requires a period where you just aren’t very good.
  •  Just take the first step – Action is often times the antidote to fear. Jump off the cliff. Force yourself to take that first step. The hardest part is almost always just getting started. Once you get started. Establish that habit of just jumping in, ready or not!

When you find those negative thoughts popping up and holding you back, give some of these suggestions a try and see what works best for you.

Do you have any other approaches that work for you? If so, share them in the comments!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen