When Fear Is Your Friend (and When It’s Not)

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Alexis Grant. Alexis is an entrepreneurial writer, digital strategist and thought leader in the careers community. She offers a free newsletter that’s pretty popular with writers.

Do you feel a twinge of nervousness every time you publish a blog post? Need an extra gym session when you submit a manuscript revision? Have to give yourself a pep talk before reading aloud at your writer’s group?

Here’s a secret: We all do. We all are afraid.

Scary Gargoyle Statue
Photo credit: Steven Depolo (Creative Commons)

Feeling nervous before you ship is normal. In fact, if you don’t feel a little fear when you release your work into the world, you’re probably not putting your whole heart into it.

So how do you get past that scary feeling in your gut and get your work out into the world?

The key is being able to tell Good Fear from Bad Fear.

After that, all you need to know is how to make that fear work for you (believe it or not, it’s possible).

The difference between Good Fear and Bad Fear

What’s the difference between these two types of fear?

Good Fear is the kind that screams, “RUN!” when a bear shows up at your campsite.

It’s that knowing feeling in your gut when you’re about to make a bad decision. It’s the lump in your throat that tells you to hold back when you’re not ready to put your best foot forward.

In other words, Good Fear is the kind you should listen to. And Bad Fear is its evil stepsister.

Bad Fear is what stands in your way when you try to leap outside your comfort zone. It says you’re safer when you stay put. It’s the enemy you need to stare down — if you’re going to achieve your dreams.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to tell the two fears apart. It’s easy to mistake the good kind from the bad kind, and sometimes Good Fear even turns into Bad Fear that holds you back.

How I faced the fear of quitting

In the weeks leading up to my decision to quit my job and make a living as a writer, I had a horrible feeling in my stomach. I was scared. Scared to make the right choice. Scared to tell my boss. Scared to leave behind a reliable paycheck.

Much of this anxiety stemmed from the decision to leave a “good job.” I didn’t hate my job; it was good and secure.

So why in the world would I think about leaving? Was I crazy? I mean, who does that — in this economy?

Even though I was head-over-heels excited about the potential of working for myself, I was still petrified of taking the leap. That feeling was Bad Fear, and I knew it.

I knew if I allowed that fear to guide me, it would keep me from accomplishing something great. To kick it to the curb, I reminded myself: When you’re preparing to take a big risk, anxiety is normal.

The fear might never go away

Every time I release a new guide as part of my business, I face this same fear. I wonder: Will people like it? Will they learn something? Will they be satisfied? Will they tell their friends?

I think the same thing we all think when taking a risk: What if I fail? When this happens, I bring out the Good Fear/Bad Fear meter. I ask myself:

Is this the kind of fear that will push me to create my best work, or will it instead prevent me from releasing my ideas to the world?

If the former, I hold back. I wait until I get to excellence. If the latter, I push through and persevere.

You have a decision to make

You have a message the world needs to hear. Believe it or not, whether they hear it is up to you — and you alone. You can let fear control you, or you can use it:

  • Let fear propel you toward your goals. But don’t let it scare you away from bigger dreams.
  • Let fear push you to do your best. But don’t let it keep you from shipping.
  • Let fear help you stay grounded. But don’t let it keep you from living the life you’re meant to live.

Know the difference between Good Fear and Bad Fear — when it deserves your attention, and when you should tell it to take a hike and just keep chugging along.

When’s the last time you were afraid to move forward, and how did you? Share in the comments.

Note: Alexis has a special offer for readers of this blog for the next week. You can buy two of her eBooks for the price of one. If you’re interested in starting a side business and/or launching a successful social media strategy, check out these guides.