It was Oprah who once said that nervousness is actually a selfish emotion. When I first heard this I thought she was having a laugh. As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder I get nervous about lots of situations and I thought it was a bit rich of her to say that made me selfish. But when I read her reasoning behind this statement it made me start to at least try and change my mind set when tackling new and scary things.
When Oprah made this statement she wasn’t trying to say that us anxious types were horrible people; what she was saying was that a safe amount of anxiety is no reason to deny the world of your idea. Saying that you’re too scared and then not carrying through with it because of that fear could stop something really great from being released into the world. And who are you to say that nobody can experience that thing you dreamt up? What would have happened if Fleming had decided he was too scared to tell the world that he had discovered penicillin in case something went wrong and everyone laughed at him? Or if Mandela hadn’t fought for the end of apartheid because he knew that he was going to get resistance? The world could have been a very different place, and don’t go thinking that your small idea couldn’t make the biggest of waves.
If you’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert then you may be familiar with the idea that any inspiration that comes flying into your head is a gift and it should be treated as such. If somebody gave you a gift of a million pounds and told you to spread it between your favourite charities you wouldn’t then put it in your bank and keep it to yourself. Surely this should be the same with gifts that are given to us from God? Use them and help to make the people around you happy.
So yeah, I totally get what Oprah meant when she said that it’s a selfish emotion. She meant that we need to push through our own feelings so that we can make the world a better place. If you’re struggling to get past this first step towards success because you’re feeling frightened then keep these things in mind:
Number One- Most people will be secretly impressed that you’re trying.
Because, news flash! Everyone else is scared too! If people are standing in the wings waiting for you to fail then it’s because it backs up their own theory that they shouldn’t try. If the people around you are real friends then they will support you no matter what you try and it won’t matter whether you succeed or fail.
Number Two – What’s the worst that could happen?
Even if things do go really badly you can still turn it around again. Most of the super successful people in the world have had some pretty serious setbacks. Some very famous billionaires have filed for bankruptcy several times. Hopefully you won’t be at the point where you are doing that, but this is proof that it can still not necessarily mean game over.
If you’re scared of people’s opinions then the worst that could happen is that those people fall out of your life. And would you really want those people in your life?
On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that things could go well, and then what? That business could take off or the book could get published and then you’ll be left wondering what you were ever wondering about in the first place.
Number Three – Try to see these risks like a book of puzzles
If I buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, I normally expect that I can get one or two wrong. But there are normally a hundred or so other puzzles in the book that I can have a go at. There are an infinite number of challenges out there in the world and I can have a go at them even if I’ve already failed at something else.
Keeping with the same analogy, there is nothing stopping me doing a puzzle in pencil so that I can rub it out and have a go at the same one a second time. I had this experience when I first started ultra running. I had a go at a 100 mile race and got to 54 miles before I bombed out. I could have said ‘screw that, I’m not doing that again!’ But I didn’t. I dusted myself off and started training again and it took me another three years, but eventually I did it.
So when you’re scared of taking that first step remember what you could be depriving the world of and keep in mind that even if you do fail miserably, failure is the way that you refine your skills, learn and become the very best you can be at something. So take a deep breath and have a go!