Everyone in life struggles with some form of fear, whether it’s in business, as you’re about to enter a room and deliver the biggest presentation of your life, or in your personal life. Ultimately, leaders have to learn how to address their fears each and every day.
Part of being a leader is understanding that fear is normal. In fact, I disagree with the statement that fear is “false events appearing real.” Fear is actually a very real experience, and a true leader knows how to identify it and walk through it.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned the best way to slay the dragon of fear is to understand your belief windows. Belief windows are a concept one of my early mentors, speaker Tony Jeary, taught me.
Essentially, we grow up and view the world through a certain lens or set of beliefs, which inform how we think, feel, and apply information to make our life decisions. Belief windows can be limiters, or they can be a catalyst to break through what may appear to be unattainable.
Here are five common fears and limiting beliefs that can hinder success and keep you from being your best self.
I have to behave contrary to who I really am.
Many believe that in order to be successful they can’t truly be their authentic self. For me, I thought I had to act like a man in order to be taken seriously. My breakthrough moment was when I embraced my differences and reframed the critical importance of being my true and authentic self. Busting through this belief window gave me the freedom to be who I was. I was able to celebrate the fact that I was a woman instead of feeling inferior. What about you? What beliefs keep you from being your most authentic self? When your beliefs change, your actions change as well. This newfound confidence will enable you to reach higher levels of success that benefit not only yourself but also your company and those around you.
I can succeed on my own.
We’ve heard it before – keep your head down, stay focused and your work will speak for itself. I bought this line for years thinking if I kept my head down, focused on working harder than anyone else and delivering good results, the promotions would follow. Still, why were promotions being given to others while my work was not broadly appreciated? Busting through this belief window gave me the freedom to see the importance of building a strong network and learning from mentors. I became a student of successful leaders and the company culture. I assessed my gaps and asked individuals who could help me close those gaps to become my mentor. Reaching out and actively engaging with other professionals will truly help you break the mold in your leadership journey.
That’s just the way it is.
At times, it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that things will never change so you might as well go with the norms. When I first started my career, traditional female jobs were in teaching and nursing. And although these are critically important and noble professions, they were not my passion. When I chose retailing, there were not many store managers or merchant category directors who were women. If I was going to be a successful business leader, I was going to have to break through my thinking of what was normal.
I may never have discovered the importance of courage and confidence if I said no to stretch assignments and career moves along the way. Some roles were unexpected left turns, leaving me scarred and questioning my own capabilities. By far and away, most of the new roles were hard-right decisions that propelled me into opportunities far beyond my expectations. All of the roles made me the gracious and strong leader I am today. They required me to break through my old belief windows and explore what was possible.
I’m not good enough.
One of the fears many have is the fear of not being good enough. As I was gaining more responsibility and being given progressively larger roles, I often thought to myself “when are they going to discover that I am not ready for this new role?” The moment I realized my fear of being good enough was behind me was when I received my first promotion on the Walmart side of the business. My boss dropped by to congratulate me and said, “I knew you were going to be OK when you stopped leading for me, as your boss, and you started leading for you.” It was a profound moment, realizing that my accountability was to my authentic self and to the people I had the privilege to lead. I will never forget that lesson! You are good enough when you believe you are, and extraordinary accomplishments become the fruits of your belief.
I can’t make a difference.
This false belief will paralyze you into becoming a bystander in life as opposed to playing the important role you were created for. On the other hand, if you believe the opposite to be true, you will actively pursue ways to make a difference and get to experience the joy of helping, serving and engaging with others—a much more fulfilling way to live and be the leader you were meant to be.
I urge everyone who is reading this to challenge your limiting beliefs, quit assuming the worst, and quiet the negative self-talk that keeps you from pursuing greatness. Be warned that whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are correct every single time. What you believe matters and the moment you learn to identify your limiting beliefs instead of avoiding them will be an empowering experience.