Fears and phobias affect business leaders too

We all face fears throughout our lives. It’s natural, we’re human. And more often than not, we face our fears and grow mentally stronger as a result. The problem comes when we don’t face them but instead develop unhelpful thinking styles and/or behaviours to avoid them.

The majority of our fears stem from a root cause known as a limiting belief. But how do you excavate your own mindset to find that root cause? And do you need to? If unhelpful thinking and behaviours are starting to impact your life, then the answer is yes. If you’re starting to feel that your fears are with you every day, then the answer is yes.

For some people, talking to family and friends can provide some relief. These social connections promote the release of oxytocin in our brain to fight the stress. For others, professional therapy is the chosen course of action. And many (sadly one in 10*) will turn to medication prescribed by their GP.  It’s unlikely any of these avenues will get to the root cause. And until the root cause is addressed, the dreadful symptoms of fears and phobias will likely persist. The Thrive Programme gets to the root cause.

What are some of the fears of today’s business leaders?

The fear of being unable to cope when something isn’t within my control

While we all like to have some control over our lives, we can’t control everything. We can’t control the behaviour of others for example. We can’t control our job security. For people who fear being unable to cope, they will develop an excessive desire for control. They may fight to maintain (control) the status quo even when that isn’t an option. They may be more frustrated than their coping colleagues, causing them undue fear and anxiety.

The fear of being poorly judged by others

It’s natural to feel a bit embarrassed occasionally. Perhaps you didn’t prepare nearly enough for your presentation and you made a couple of errors. Don't dwell on it. Instead, learn from it and move on.

If on the other hand, this scenario has you thinking “do they think I'm hopeless?”, “do they think I’m getting too old for this?”, or “do they think I’m too young and inexperienced?”, then social anxiety is a root cause that needs addressing. It will stop you from challenging yourself, or maybe it’ll coerce you into not being your authentic self.

The fear of being criticised / not being good enough

We all learn social anxiety from whoever raised us whether they be our biological parents or others. Socially anxious parents, because they fear being judged themselves, tend to be more judgmental towards their children. They tend to convey a greater sense that making mistakes, behaving badly, and transgressing social and cultural rules will have substantial negative consequences. Unless we’ve challenged this fear during our adult years, the chances are the root cause is still lurking and the unhelpful thinking continues to reinforce this fear.

The fear of being wrong / making a mistake

Unhelpful perfectionist thinking drives this fear. And the root cause, low self-esteem, drives perfectionist thinking. Ridiculously high standards and self-criticism creates the perfect storm to fuel this fear. It’s obvious to say that no one is perfect, yet for the person who fears being wrong or making a mistake, getting perspective is difficult because of their habitually unhelpful thinking style.

What’s the cost of ignoring your fear?

I believe, rightly or wrongly, that many things in life are on a continuum. Fear is on a continuum. At the extreme end, fear becomes a phobia, a pathological fear. It’s a sizeable cost when it comes at the expense of leading a life that is filled with happiness, good health, and overall wellbeing. Not to mention the sizeable cost in terms of professional success.

That “kick in the guts” you feel when criticised that knocks you over for days or weeks, that frozen fear of saying something “out of place” and then berating yourself for weeks believing others are judging you, or the physical sickness you feel when thinking about your inability to cope in an unpredictable and upcoming event. These are all significant costs that will create stress and anxiety.

How can you overcome your fear?

95% or more of what you need to do, in order to overcome your fear, is to understand exactly why and how you created it in the first place. When you do understand the components of your mindset, and how they interact to create your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and beliefs, then, and only then, can you set about changing them with ease. That’s exactly what The Thrive Programme does.

*There were 1.7 million people (7.8% of the Australian population) who had at least one PBS subsidised prescription for antidepressant medications filled in 2011. That statistic is undoubtedly higher today. (www.abs.gov.au)

Michelle Carlyle is a Licensed Thrive Programme Consultant. “Everyone has the capacity to thrive in every aspect of their lives.”

Click on each link to find out more about The Thrive Programme for Organisations, The Thrive Programme for Business Leaders, and The Thrive Programme for Individuals.

Michelle Carlyle