Have you ever felt nervous before a meeting or event?
Have you ever worried about that upcoming social occasion and secretly wanted to just stay home?
When I feel worried or nervous about a situation, I use this little Fierce Faith mantra to keep me on track.
I developed this mantra because when I feel fear getting the best of me, I tend to want to run and hide, put on my mask, bite the heads off of the people I love, and sometimes just flat-out quit.
Let me explain.
1. Show up
Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from showing up.
When we struggle with the fear of failure, the idea of hiding at home under the covers can sound really good. Sometimes half the battle is simply showing up.
One time I got a phone call from the principal at my son’s school, asking Mark and me if we could come in for a meeting. I had no idea what he wanted to talk to us about, but of course I assumed I was in some way failing as a parent. What else could he possibly want to talk to us about? It’s terrible how our minds go to the worst possible place so quickly.
I can laugh at it now, but at the time, I tried to come up with every possible reason why I couldn’t go. I prayed something would come up and I wouldn’t be able to go.
On the day of the meeting, as I put on a little lipstick (for Southern women, this is totally part of our battle armor!), I looked in the mirror and gave myself a little pep talk. I said, “Alli Worthington, you are going to put a smile on your face and get yourself in that car. Then you are going to ride with your man and walk right into that principal’s office, head held high. You have raised perfectly good children, and you are being silly. There is nothing to fear here. You are going to show up to that meeting. Now get going!”
It might seem silly, but my “show up” pep talks to myself are inspiring in the moment. Positive self-talk for the win! And as it turned out, the principal just wanted to talk to us about being a part of the fundraising team at school the next year. All that worrying for nothing (which is the way it usually turns out)!
2. Be real
Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from being who you are.
My defense mechanism when I feel nervous around others has always been to look around, see what everyone else is doing, and make like a chameleon to fit in. If I feel certain I am going to fail as my true self, my logic has always been, why not be someone else, or worse yet, everyone else.
It wasn’t until around age thirty-five that I began to wake up to the fact that my fear of failing in social situations was making me disconnect with who I really was and who God had created me to be.
I had to decide to be my real self with others and live out of a place where I liked myself and hoped others would too. Turns out, it was my uniqueness that opened doors for me professionally, allowing me to live out the calling God had for me. God doesn’t make us quirky or interesting for no good reason. He gave me, and he gave you, your unique personality to share with the world around you.
We have to fight the temptation to dumb ourselves down, to keep our mouths shut when we know we should speak. Instead, we need to live in the confidence that we are fearfully, wonderfully, and purposefully made just as we are.
To this day, though, when I feel tempted to try to make myself more like someone else to avoid that fear of failure, I tell myself, Be real, Alli. Be real.
3. Love others
Don’t let the fear of failure cause you to treat others badly.
For me this is a reminder not to let my own fear or worry cause me to be short-tempered with others. My goal is to love others well, even when I’m a mess inside. I don’t want fear to control me and turn me into a big ball of nastiness to others.
This is the hardest for me behind closed doors with my family. When I am overly stressed about something with work, or I am afraid a project may fail, I have to work twice as hard at home not to take it out on the family. It’s way too easy when I’m staring down a work deadline or even planning a happy celebration to snap at the kids, be demanding to my husband, and make everyone’s lives miserable.
When I’m tempted to treat others badly, I repeat my battle-plan mantra: “Show up, be real, love others, don’t quit.”
4. Don’t quit
Don’t let the fear of failure, or anything else for that matter, cause you to quit. We can only truly fail when we quit trying.
I find the temptation to quit occurs most often when I am in the middle of a project or job, fearing I will fail, and I decide that quitting (and being labeled a quitter) is so much better than failing (and being labeled a failure).
Like I said, fear is not rational and does not cause us to think clearly.
Have you ever said to yourself:
• I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.
• I can’t do this anymore.
• I’m not good enough.
• What was I thinking when I thought I could do this?
You are in pretty good company. The secret is to strengthen yourself not to quit.
Sometimes, even after I speak my mantra, I struggle to overcome the fear of failure. When that happens, I take Scriptures and personalize them with my name, like this:
• “I, Alli, have been brought to fullness in Christ, who is over every principality and power” (from Colossians 2:10).
• “I, Alli, have the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, and it will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus” (from Philippians 4:7).
• “I, Alli, am God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good things, which God prepared in advance for me to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
I call these passages my “Don’t Quit” verses. When I remind myself of the things I can do in God’s strength, the voice of the enemy gets quieter and quieter until I can’t hear the lies anymore.
When we remember to show up, be real, love others, and not quit, we don’t have to control anyone else or the outcome of what we do. We get to bring our best to any situation with courage and love.
The results are up to God; he just asks us to be who he called us to be, love others, and do our best. That is the real secret to confidence!
This is an excerpt from Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety. Alli Worthington is a mom of five sons, wife to Mark, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. She is also the author of Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy.