At one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of caring too much about what other people might think. We hesitate to be innovative, creative, or to speak up because no one wants to be told that his ideas suck or her plan was just a big mistake. Or, we might even play that role for ourselves, turning down a challenge or selling our own ideas short because we worried they wouldn’t work.
The first step is to remember that if many people have felt this way and still achieved great things, that they’ve faced their fear of failure—and judgment—and won. Successful risk takers manage to keep criticism from holding them back.
If you want to go from being that person who’s scared to say anything in meetings to the person who confidentially speaks up, look no further than these steps to be able more often to do that.
1- Ask Yourself: “What If I Do Nothing?”
Whenever an opportunity arises to do something new or outside of our comfort zone, the most helpful thing is to think about the worst-case scenarios. In other words, before you hold yourself back because there’s a possibility of failure, ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen…” Is there a possibility you’ll fall flat on your face by going for something new and challenging? Sure, but what if you don’t say anything?
Write a list of all the things that could happen if you said yes to taking on this scary opportunity. Include all of the worries about the criticism you might get from this decision. Next to that list, make another one with all the things that will (and won’t!) happen if you decide to play it safe and keep your ideas and plans hidden from the world. Compare each list and decide which path you’d rather take.
2 – Don’t Let Others Get You Down
Silencing your inner critic is only step one. That’s because you have to be prepared for others to judge you, too.
If the person critiquing you isn’t also out in the “arena,” putting himself on the line, but just criticizing you, you should not worry about what he is saying. However, you don’t have to do this by wholly ignoring the other person. Rather, take an approach of saying, “I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to show up and do this anyway.”
You don’t have to pretend people who disagree with you don’t exist; you have to decide that you’re going to follow your plan anyhow. (After all, you’ve already decided that action will be better than inaction and that even if you miss the mark, it won’t define you.)
3- Embrace judgment
There are “only two choices” in life: being criticized or « being ignored. » You get to choose. But if you’re holding yourself back because you fear judgment, ask yourself this:
– If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impacts? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat, or lose important friendships? If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from doing something worth doing. Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable, and great for your career. Feeling bad wears off. And then, once you’ve compared the two, and you’ve sold yourself on taking the remarkable path, answer this one.
– How can I create something that critics will criticize? If you stop viewing feedback as a sign that you did something wrong and instead see it as a sign you did something notable, it’s suddenly not so scary. In fact, it becomes a badge of honor that you did something worth other people taking the time to comment on.
It’s natural to doubt yourself or let others’ harsh words stay top of mind. But, if you practice these mindset shifts, you’ll be able to overcome your fear of failure and achieve what you’d set out to.