When Linda first walked into the room, she was surprised there was no stage.
That’s odd, she thought. I figured there’d be more people. And I’d just have to listen….
I hope it’s not one of those rah-rah gatherings. I don’t know what I’m going to tell Joe if this turns out to be a mistake. We can’t really afford this…
She grabbed a seat in the back of the room and was worrying that she’d made a horrible decision….
I didn’t actually meet Linda face to face until the second day of our Fearless Foundation Workshop when she somewhat reluctantly volunteered to get some one-on-one coaching in front of the group.
By that time she knew that the event was pretty much the opposite of rah-rah. Or woo-woo, for that matter. Because by Day 2 she’d already filled pages of her notebook with practical ideas for conquering her fears and changing her life.
She told me later the first turning point for her came right away, when I asked the group, “Do you ever feel any of these things or do any of these things?”
Wishing things were different?
The list continued through about 20 more feelings, challenges and wishes.
And Linda circled at least 80% of the items on the list.
What Linda didn’t realize is that everything she checked – in fact the entire list – relates to just one single feeling:
All of these thoughts and conflicts are what I call your fear responses.
Think of it this way: your fear responses are those things you usually label as your problems.
But the reason you have any of these problems, if you’re like Linda, is you always put other people first.
You’ve told yourself that if you could only say no, then your life would be so much better. But you just can’t.
The thing is, you’re right. Your life would be better.
So why haven’t you learned how to say no or put up boundaries?
Because you’re afraid.
Afraid of rejection.
Afraid of being judged.
Afraid of not being enough.
And underneath all these fears is a single fear that is so deep it drives the others. What I refer to as your Core Fear.
Most of us don’t even know what that core fear is. We may swear we know what our biggest fear is, but we’re usually wrong.
It’s why the entire first day of the Fearless Foundation Workshop is devoted to discovering your Core Fear.
Because when you identify your Core Fear, you realize that all your mistakes, all your bad decisions, all the times you don’t trust yourself, are not your fault.
They occur because fear is having its way with you.
But once you understand that – once you recognize how your core fear works and how to deal with it – it can no longer trick you.
As I presented this idea to the Fearless Foundation group, I could see Linda in the back of the room, furiously taking notes, but doing her best to avoid eye contact with me. So I figured this would be a good time to shake things up.
“Linda,” I asked. “Would you be willing to share what you’ve discovered?”
After giving me a deer-in-the-headlights gaze, she hesitantly stood up and faced the rest of the group.
As I began to question her, Linda revealed that by going through the exercises we had done, Linda came to realize her own Core Fear: being INCOMPETENT.
She had spent her life working overtime to make certain no one would see her or think of her or accuse her of being incompetent. She had to prove to the world that she was ABSOLUTELY NOT INCOMPETENT.
So Linda was always the first one at work, and the last one to leave. She was the one everyone could count on to work overtime, or fill in for an absent co-worker, or take on the volunteer project at church.
She would do everything she could to avoid tasks she might not do perfectly. And oh, how she hated to be micromanaged. She never wanted anyone to see what she was doing, just in case she was doing it wrong.
So much effort and exhaustion and perfectionism – all because of fear.
“So Linda,” I asked, “is there anyone in your life that you have difficulty talking to? Anyone right now you worry might see you as incompetent?”
Her voice came back in a whisper. “My boss,” she said.
“And if you weren’t afraid of talking to your boss, what would you want to say. Or ask for?”
She didn’t hesitate. “A raise. And better hours.”
“So if I gave you some tools to use, would you be willing to ask your boss for those things?”
We could all see the dread on her face. But very nervously and sheepishly she nodded her head and squeaked out, “I’ll try.”
And in the next post, I’ll tell you what happened when she did….