What Are You So Afraid Of? Top 5 Fears That Paralyze the Career-Minded

This week I decided to take some calculated steps to advance my career as a journalist and writer. Most recently, I felt the need to step outside my comfort zone. So, I decided to bypass opportunities with smaller publishers, and attempted to break into the more competitive markets.

Even as an experienced business journalist working with the nation’s top news outlets, I was still riddled with self-doubt as I considered whether I would be “good enough.” Here’s something I rarely share with others, but anytime I prepare to make a decision that could positively change the tides in my career, I experience tremendous fear. This was certainly one of those moments.

My body shook with nervousness and my heart pounded to the point where I felt it was going to jump out my chest. Despite my fear, I knew that if I wanted to reach the next level in my writing career, I would have to expose myself to possible rejection and negative criticism.

Courtesy of Dreamstime

Courtesy of Dreamstime

I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys getting brushed off or broadsided, but I do know that professionals who aren’t afraid to endure the hard times, eventually move on from rejection, improve their craft, and achieve success down the road. I hope to be one of those individuals who perseveres through the trials and who never falters under the well-meaning opinions and criticism of outsiders.

Have you experienced similar fear — whether recently or in the past?

I’ve learned that there are several types of fear that we can experience in life. They sap our energy and prevent us from taking the necessary steps to launch our dream career. 

After evaluating my own situation, I determined there are certain fears that can infiltrate our thoughts, absorb our energy, and immobilize us.

This list is not at all exhaustive, but you can probably identify a couple in your own life that have snuck in to control your destiny.

1. Fear of the Unknown – You know the trepidation you feel when you’re traveling to an unknown place? Even with a map in hand and a trusty guide, it’s still kinda scary not knowing where you’re going or where a certain road will take you. On the other hand, if you’re a “glass half-full” type of person, you can easily change your mood by keeping in mind that life is an adventure and the unknown is meant to be explored. You never know what’s waiting at the final destination. But that’s part of the fun.

2. Fear of Failing — I love the song lyrics to a song called “Dirt” by artists Mary Mary. In the chorus: “Need a little bit, Need a little bit. Need a little dirt to grow…” Like dirt, life isn’t meant to be neat and clean all the time. Plus, in order to grow we must be anchored in something. If we let it, our failure can serve as the cornerstone in pursuing our dreams and put a fire beneath us. After all is said and done, and we’ve fulfilled our dreams, we’ll experience an even sweeter victory because of the challenges endured along the way.

3. Fear of Succeeding – This may sound absurd, but a lot of people fear that if they take the first step toward their dream, they will not only achieve it, but they will garnish overwhelming success. They imagine that when that day comes they won’t know how to handle the success or maintain momentum. To eradicate this type of fear, one must take a step back and embrace change one day at a time, not getting to preoccupied with what the future holds.

4. Fear of Rejection – Ugh. No one likes to be rejected. Remember in grade school, you approached that guy or girl, poured out your heart, and was then let down after discovering their feelings for you weren’t mutual?  Yeah. That’s kind of what happens when you put yourself out there in your career. But have no fear. Rejection only serves to thicken your skin. After a while, you’ll either get used to it, or eventually hit a home run.

5. Fear of Making the Wrong Decision – If you’ve attempted to pursue several different occupations in life, and they all failed to produce the outcome you expected, then you probably experience this one. It’s natural to be a little hesitant when pursuing something brand new, but usually the only way to determine if it’s the right choice for you, is to actually go for it. To minimize this type of fear, you might consider investing some time to research or conducting informational interviews to gain a better perspective on what you’re getting yourself into.

Fear is toxic. And it can be contagious.

Evaluate whether you’re letting fear dictate your circumstances or is hindering you from taking the next step in your career. My advice: Deactivate fear in your life by making the first step toward your dream in full-faith.

Remember that you are destined for greatness. It’s up to you to determine whether you will use your gifts to help others and reach your potential. Identify your talent and go start sharing it with the world. Don’t worry if you’re not good enough. Be more worried that you’ll spend the rest of your life without fully utilizing your strengths.

Keep the Discussion Going

What are you so afraid of? Are you your own worst enemy?

About the Author

Emily Brown is the key contributor and creator of  TheCareerPioneer.com, a blog that delivers articles and posts about job industry trends; plus motivational, retrospective stories about career exploration and discovering one’s passion. A former business journalist at Bloomberg News, her work has also appeared in  The Wall Street Journal,  The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and others. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC. She can easily be reached at info@thecareerpioneer.com. Feel free to drop her a line to say “hello,” suggest an opportunity, or provide news of your own.