Hi everyone! I hope that you’re all well and are having a great summer so far. Today I thought I’d write about a topic that is very dear to my heart, and also very relevant in terms of my own start to the year, and something I continuously address. You see, putting yourself out there and announcing to people that you’ve started a health coaching business (or any business…or any kind of goal for that matter) can be somewhat daunting. There’s always the fear that people won’t like what you have to say or that you’ll fail.
Facing fears like this and putting myself out there is something that I am constantly working on, and I know that a lot of others are too. So, I thought I’d kick off the blog with a written version of a talk that I gave towards the end of 2018. I hope that you find it useful!
As you’ll see from my about page, I lived in Dubai for nine years and was previously a teacher. I say ‘previously’, but that’s not quite true, as I’ve recently returned to teaching as a substitute teacher in Dubai (also known as a cover teacher), both to keep my toes dipped into the waters of education, and to keep a little money coming in whilst I make this transition. I founded Chasing Zest, which was a website all about being active and well, in June 2017 and began the IIN Health Coach Training Program in July last year.
Fear can hold us back, and it certainly held me back for so many years, particularly the last four. I think it’s important to talk about fear because so many of us can give the illusion of confidence on social media and believe that others are confident too. However, what I’ve learned is that a lot of us struggle with ‘putting ourselves out there’ and somehow feel inadequate, which then becomes a vicious circle because it may prevent us from achieving certain goals. I spent four years trapped within this, even after I started Chasing Zest, and it’s only now, since starting with IIN really, that I’ve finally managed to begin dealing with fear. So today I want to share my story in the hope of helping others. I’ve also got some tips for you, and a little bit of optional homework, if you wish.
Fear is individual
As mentioned, I was previously a teacher for seven years, in the UK, then Egypt and then for three years in Dubai. This brings me to my first point, which is that fear is different for everyone. Just like some of us are scared of spiders and others are afraid of heights, there’s no fear that is ‘scarier’ than another. Fear is real to the person who is experiencing it, and what may be terrifying to one person may be perfectly normal to another. For me, I was able to stand in front of a class of 11-year olds day in day out. I could speak to over 200 children in year group assemblies and I could deal with parents at parents’ evenings. When we had inspections, I was nervous, but rather than stifling me, the nerves made me perform even better. It is important not to confuse fear with nerves. Being nervous usually gives you energy and adrenalin that you can draw from, but fear stops you in your tracks.Despite being able to contend with raucous children (and equally raucous parents), when I left full-time teaching over four years ago in the hope of starting a new career, I found myself absolutely frozen because all of a sudden I didn’t feel ‘good enough’. I had so many dreams and visions of the future, but whenever it came to implementing them…well, it never happened. My main goal was to become a freelance writer, but my fear stifled my ideas and creativity and I was unable to pitch to publications. On the few occasions that I did write, I spent so long worrying about not being good enough that it took me forever to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) that what I ended up writing was inevitably rushed, and I was not happy with it, thus only confirming what I thought of myself.
Eventually, a year after finishing teaching and after getting married, I managed to get regular freelance work as the assistant editor of a website in the UAE. I stayed in this job for three years, and although I learned a lot and am grateful for the opportunity, it eventually dawned on me that I stayed so long not because I enjoyed the work, but because it was ‘safe’. It was unchallenging, familiar and almost robotic in its nature, needing very little input from me and requiring minimal creativity. Being hidden away at home gave me the perfect excuse for not putting myself out there. After a while, I came to realise that the job was not aligned with my passions at all and left me feeling incredibly unfulfilled and as if I had no purpose in life. Of course, this just made me miserable as I still harboured the dreams I once had, but I had become even more fearful of acting on them.
What I’ve realised now is that doing the things we enjoy often means doing the things we care most deeply about. And when we care so deeply about something, fear is always waiting to tell us that we are not worthy of doing something that is so important to us.
One thing that had changed during the first three years after teaching was that I was taking running more seriously and had joined a running club. I truly believe that this progression in one area of my life had a deep impact on other areas. As I achieved success in running and got faster, or ran for longer, I began to believe in myself and started to think that maybe I was capable of more than I was giving myself credit for. There was something about having a plan, following it through and seeing a consistent improvement, achieving what I had previously thought impossible, that made me wonder if the same could be done in terms of my career.
It was a slow process of realisation, but eventually, it led to me creating Chasing Zest, which launched in June 2017. The very title of the website says a lot about how I was beginning to feel and how I think a lot of us often feel. ‘Zest’ refers to a vibrancy and energy that my professional life was so missing. But I knew that it wouldn’t just come to me if I hid away at home behind my laptop. I had to go out and chase it! The website was a perfect way of getting out there without revealing too much of myself, since we had and still have expert contributions and interviews with others. So, despite the fact that it’s my baby in a way, it featured so many other awesome people that I didn’t have to be centre stage. This is something that I certainly wasn’t ready for back in 2017!
With the launch of Chasing Zest, it soon became apparent that for me to develop the site, I’d have to put myself out there more. This inevitably involved networking and meetings. I still remember my first networking event, which was actually with a lovely group of people, but I was absolutely petrified. I happened to see two people I knew on the way in, and I clung to them for the whole event rather than meeting others. I ate far more than I should have done because I figured that at least if I had a mouthful of food people might think twice before speaking to me! I couldn’t wait to get out of there and felt emotionally drained (and full of food!) when I got home.
Meetings were slightly less intimidating as I found that I was better able to prepare for them. I remember meeting fellow health coach Heidi Jones for the first time to chat with her about Chasing Zest. As usual, I was incredibly nervous, but what struck me most about that first meeting was how Heidi just got down to planning how we could work together there and then. She didn’t stop to procrastinate for hours and days and there was no sense of her wondering if she was good enough. It was straight to work, pen to paper, being productive right away. This was eye-opening for me and I wanted to be able to have the same mindset.
This was when I realised one of the most important ‘secrets’ to conquering your fears and putting yourself out there. It seemed so obvious, but I had never considered it before. It’s so important to surround yourself with supportive people who are going to believe in you even when you don’t. They act as your safety net when your confidence wains. Another key is to ‘fake it till you make it’ and get used to talking about yourself and what you are doing with others. By repeating your goals, dreams, and what you have achieved so far, you’ll start to believe all the good things that you are saying about yourself or your company/project.
With regards to my IIN story, I actually first came across IIN in 2015, a year after finishing teaching (I still have the initial emails to prove this!). At the time, I was put off from starting the course because I didn’t feel I’d be good enough. Looking back, I don’t think starting the course in 2015 would have been right for me. I was far too buried by fear and would not have been able to go to events, nor conduct my 1-1 or group coaching consultations. Maybe sometimes fear can help to time things correctly. Just don’t let it put you off something that you can’t stop thinking about! I truly believe that I am now on the right path and that in order to get there I had to work on myself first in order to help others.
Tips for conquering fear and putting yourself out there
☆ Identify exactly what it is that you are scared of: when I was offered my first speaking opportunity, I accepted, and then the date was moved forward by a month. This completely freaked me out, but what I realised was that it wasn’t the date change that scared me, it was the thought of giving the talk in the first place. This fear would be with me whether the talk was in 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years! Once I recognised exactly what I was afraid of, I was able to accept it and get on with meeting that fear head on!
☆ Ask yourself what might go wrong and what the worst-case scenario could be. How can you prepare for this? Remember, things may go wrong or may not live up to your expectations, but these things probably won’t even be noticed by others! Things rarely go smoothly for everyone.
☆ Turning things down out of fear can have a greater negative effect than being nervous/scared/or having things not go to plan. Surely, it’s best to give it a go than not to try at all?
So, how do you ‘give things a go’ when you are frozen with fear like I was for four years?
☆ Move towards and through fear step by step. Identify your goal, and as we usually do with goals, plan action steps towards it. This may mean taking more achievable steps than others might. Each time you take a step and achieve something towards that goal, you’ll have more courage for the next step.
☆ Try to take small, frequent steps. If you take too long between steps you may lose momentum. This is why it’s important to work with manageable mini-goals.
☆ Tell others about your plans so that you are kept accountable. Putting it out there (using your manageable steps) means that you’re more likely to action it. I’ve done this a couple of times now with both Chasing Zest and Chasing Zest Coaching, and it really works!
☆ Look at yourself as an outsider would do. Write a short biography about yourself. This can be tricky, but when you realise what you have already achieved so far, it gives you the courage to go further.
☆ Recognise that there’s probably always going to be something that scares you. Otherwise, where’s the challenge and growth? The key is how to deal with it and not to let it stop you. When I was arranging my first ever coaching consultations, I was so nervous that I was secretly hoping that my clients would cancel so that I wouldn’t have to go through it, but now I love doing them!
☆ Give yourself room to grow. You will make mistakes as you are only human! Again, try not to dwell on this but use it as a learning experience to improve upon next time.