My super scary Cambridge interview
This week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on fear. Specifically, the fear of failure. It’s one of those topics that’s mentioned all the time in the context of giftedness. In the coaching world, it’s one of those ‘buzz words’. And a lot of people talk about ‘overcoming fear’ and becoming ‘fearless’.
But you know what? I’m not buying it.
I do things that scare me all the time. As recently as last week, when I had a *super intimidating* interview for a scholarship at Cambridge University. I've been working on an exciting PhD research proposal (yes, that's right, and I'll definitely share more with you about this later...), and I was invited to an interview for one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. So last week, I flew to the UK to do the interview in person.
The panel consisted of three people: the Head of Department of Sociology at Cambridge, the Head of Department of Geography at Cambridge, and an Economics professor at the Business School that has been on all the most important councils and boards you can think of.
Guess how I felt... Scared? Afraid? Sweaty-palms-and-shaky-knees type of thing? Bingo!
I felt intimidated by this esteemed panel that I had to pitch my research to. I was afraid I would get a black out, to mess up my argument, or stumble over my words. To get to the interview, I had already survived several tough selection rounds, which had brought the number of applicants down from over 5000 to only 100 for the short-list (!). This made me especially nervous, because the competition was steep and the interview was incredibly short: 20 minutes only...
I was afraid of messing it all up after having come this far. Because somehow, it feels more painful to get very close to something and then not get it, than it is to get rejected early on in the process. I realized I was piling all this pressure onto myself to try and 'prove my worth' in those 20 minutes. I found myself going over my notes again and again, but my mind kept going blind with panic.
So I decided to change my prepping strategy. Guess what I did in the hour before I went into this potentially life-changing interview with all these renowned academics?
I had a private dance party.
Now what? A dance party? YES. I put my headphones on and danced for a good 40 minutes around my guest accommodation room. This way I managed to release all that stress, shake off the tension, and root myself back down into my body. I felt seriously good before the interview, still nervous, but way better than before.
It's supposed to be scary
Now this is not a stand-alone experience for me. I do things that scare me all the time.
Starting a coaching business? Scary. Moving to a new country? Scary. Traveling on my own? Scary. Whenever you get out of your comfort zone, it’s totally OK to feel scared. Oftentimes, it is a sign that you’re onto something that you really want. I felt scared before the interview because I really want that scholarship. The same happens when I make bold career moves or explore new countries. It’s unknown, it’s new, it’s unfamiliar. It’s SUPPOSED to feel scary.
Give yourself the chance to succeed
And while it may seem safer to not even try (no chance of failure), the downside is that you also have no chance to succeed. The pain is less immediate because you don't have to read any unpleasant rejection letters. But the pain is there nevertheless: it's the pain of keeping yourself smaller than you truly are. The pain of leaving your potential unfulfilled. It's a duller but more long-term kind of pain that can eventually eat you up, without you even noticing it. So here's a counter-intuitive truth: I hope I’ll continue to feel scared throughout my entire life. Because that means I’ll keep doing things that are outside my comfort zone. I’ll keep pushing myself to develop my gifts, to keep growing, expanding, moving and improving. The important part here is not to try and avoid doing scary things or somehow eliminate the emotion of fear altogether, but rather to feel the fear and move through it. Be guided by it. And to learn to distinguish between times when things feel scary because we want them badly but they feel like a stretch, versus times when things feel scary because they are actually dangerous. For when the experience of fear helps us survive, of course we must listen and steer clear from the threat.
On the other side of fear...
The thing is, our brain often fails to distinguish between the two. This is where coaching is a powerful tool to help you identify the fears that guide you towards what you really want, and to push through to get to the transformation that lies on the other side. Because I can tell you this: the greatest things await you on the other side of fear. So tap in with your body: when was the last time you’ve felt afraid? Where do you feel it inside your body? Why did you feel afraid, and how did you respond to it? If it’s been a long time since you last felt afraid, it’s probably time for you to make a scary move. And if you feel that the fear is starting to paralyze you, just put on some music and move your body. Release that energy and - literally - dance it off. If you want to explore your fears and experience the transformations that await you on the other side, do get in touch with me. I have 2 spots left for 1:1 coaching programs starting this month.
Coaching too should scare you
By the way, signing up for coaching might just be that scary move you need to take right now. Oftentimes, when prospective clients reach out to me for the first time, they've already had to push through several layers of fear to get themselves to send that email.
Because committing to your own growth? Scary!
Admitting and embracing your giftedness? Scary!
Investing in yourself and your future? Scary!
Whenever this happens, I am like ''great, this person is really ready for transformation. They're ready to be coached. They're ready to level up and shift their world''. Because the decision to receive coaching is supposed to feel scary. The investment and commitment are supposed to be scary. This dedication to yourself is a big deal that I don't take lightly, and neither should you.
So go make a scary move and dance it off!