Fear is a fundamental part of our decision making and, in certain scenarios, is even vital to our survival and self-preservation. But don’t let fear sabotage you professionally. That feeling in your gut could be keeping you safe, but it could also just be the anxiety of trying something new.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of apprehension about how some changes and situations can affect us. However, we also need to make sure that these fears aren’t holding us back from taking the kind of big risks that bring great rewards. From something that could make a positive change in your life if you just let yourself try it.

Don't let fear sabotage you professionally. Photo Credit: Elisa Ventur- Unsplash
Don’t let fear sabotage you professionally. Photo Credit: Elisa Ventur- Unsplash

How Can Fear Sabotage You Professionally?

But how can fear sabotage you professionally? Well, fear can become problematic when it becomes greater than the risk. Studies have shown that people who are afraid tend to see greater risks since fear “involves low certainty and a low sense of control, which are likely to produce a perception of negative events as unpredictable and situationally determined.” Similarly, a study conducted by the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh showed that anxiety disengages brain cells in a specialized manner and makes it difficult for our brain to screen irrelevant information.

Some ways in which you can let fear sabotage you professionally are:

1Fear of failure can happen when we are faced with a big opportunity that presents new challenges. The fear of failing to live up to a whole different set of expectations can be overwhelming, especially when we are in a comfortable place professionally. But sticking to our comfort zone can keep us from growing professionally (and personally, too).

2Fear of change can also get in our way. Sometimes big opportunities come with big changes. It could be a move, a different job, a bigger team, more (or less) time at the office or even a new start in another field. These things can threaten certain comforts and routines we can easily become attached to overtime. But don’t let the fear of change sabotage you and opportunities you never imagined taking. Change will happen whether you want it or not. So, why not seek it and embrace it when it comes with positive challenges?

3Fear of losing control can make you feel like you are giving up something vital. Being in a position you know well, with schedules and goals you’ve mastered overtime, allows you to be in control in a way that might not be immediately possible if you make a big change.

4Fear of speaking up can sabotage you professionally, whether it involves fear of participating in meetings or asking questions in a professional setting. This probably stems from fear of saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid. Yet, participating lets others know who you are, what you think, and what you bring to the table plus, it makes you a more approachable team member.

5Fear of not being good enough can make you second-guess yourself and that can affect the quality and flow of your work. Impostor syndrome might tell you that you don’t deserve that great new job or the big office, but it’s important for you to trust your skills and allow yourself to shine. After all, there’s a reason you’ve been given the opportunity to do it.

Impostor Syndrome in Young People

6Fear of success is also way more common than one would expect. Believe it or not, some people can let fear sabotage them because they are afraid of what will happen if they succeed. A fear of how others will respond, how difficult it will be to maintain success, or even how it will alter a life that feels comfortable as it is.

It's important to learn to move ahead despite your fears. Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet- Unsplash
It’s important to learn to move ahead despite your fears. Photo Credit: Etienne Girardet- Unsplash

How to Avoid Letting Fear Sabotage You Professionally

1Step out of your comfort zone: It may be comfy and nice there, but chances are that if you are being offered bigger opportunities (or if you are thinking about looking for them,) you’ve outgrown your current role. You can be careful when it comes to taking the leap and do your research so you know you are making a change that will help you grow, but you should know your worth and let that guide you as you begin trying new things. You can ask for help, get feedback, or even find a mentor or career coach to help you in the process.

2Don’t compare yourself to others: Comparing yourself to others is a fast way to make your life a little more difficult. Everyone evolves in different ways and paces, so measuring your own success against someone else’s is unfair and often inaccurate. Also, it can make you feel like the race is lost before you even gave it a shot. Remember it’s not a competition and let your friend or colleague’s success motivate you instead of sabotage you.

3Let yourself make mistakes: You are going to make them, it’s just fact. At several points in your professional life, you will make choices you wish you hadn’t. Perfection is impossible and trying to achieve it will eventually end in disappointment. It’s important to accept that mistakes happen. Figuring out the best ways to deal and learn from them will prepare you for challenges ahead and make you better at what you do.

4Recognize Self-Sabotaging Behaviors: Sit down and recognize which behaviors have worked against you in the past. Maybe you procrastinate too much and it’s time to set some deadlines for yourself; maybe you’re setting unrealistic goals that make it easier to stay in your comfort zone. Maybe you’ve been letting anxiety and negativity get the best of you. Try to find your triggers, that way, even if you can’t completely avoid them, you’ll find it easier to recognize when you’re letting fear sabotage you professionally.

5Ask for Feedback: Find someone you trust and ask for feedback about your work, that new position, or the change of job you’ve been daydreaming about. An honest colleague or mentor could help you determine if your fears are justified or if they’re working against you. Knowing when to reach out for help can stop you from letting fear sabotage you professionally.

Don't let fear sabotage you
Don’t let fear sabotage you
Aline Cerdan Verástegui

Aline Cerdan Verástegui

Mexico City-born freelance writer, translator, ghostwriter, editor and Red Shoe Movement contributor with a love of live music and graphic novels. Has collaborated with Yahoo!, Blouin Artinfo, Yahoo! en Español, Savvy Heels, Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) among others.

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