A degree, a baby, and no job: 4 Thoughts on Overcoming Fear and Insecurity (Read time: 4 min.)

dont let fearI nervously moved across the quad.  Unlike most of the other 20-somethings on Tuskegee University’s campus, I was 20 pushing a 1 year old in a stroller.  It was a gorgeous fall day and I was absolutely afraid of what I was about to hear.

Not five months before that moment, at 20 years old, I’d finished my B.A. in Sociology from Vassar College.  Backtrack four years before that and I’d graduated high school early and had started Vassar as a 16 year old who thought she knew it all (what’s that quote about youth being wasted on the young?).

So here I was, 20, married with a baby, a sociology degree from a top notch college… and no job.  I was about to walk into a professor’s office in the College of Business and seek out an answer to a question I’d been pondering for weeks:

Should I get another bachelor’s degree and, this time, in something useful like business?

I hesitated when I got to the entry way of the professor’s office.  While my baby was babbling, fear was creeping into my thoughts:

  1. You were supposed to be so much farther by now.
  2. I told you not to leave pre-med for sociology.
  3. You could be in med school but, instead, you’re a baby raising a baby and you don’t even have a job!
  4. Are you really going to do ANOTHER bachelor’s degree and lose years of your life?

You get the drift of my fear monster and it was raging.

For a second, I thought about turning around, driving myself back to my tiny apartment, crying my eyes out because for a whopping $27,000 a year Ivy league quality education, I’d made the huge mistake of majoring in a degree as useful as pottery making.  For a split second, I wanted to give up, give in, and accept the fact that where I was, in that moment, was exactly where my poor choices said I deserved to be.

And then another thought stepped in:

You don’t get solutions by NOT finding out answers. 

In other words, if I didn’t face my fear and step into this professor’s office and ask the questions I needed answers to, how was I ever going to solve my problem?  I wasn’t.

So I strolled my baby into that office, sat down with Dr. Upchurch and that one conversation changed my life.

I didn’t go get a second bachelor’s degree.  Two years later, I had finished up an MBA and was now a professor (one of the youngest on the entire campus) at the same university I’d strolled my baby into only a few years before.  None of that would’ve happened had I listened to my fear.

So I write all of that to say that fear could’ve stopped me.  Instead, I transformed the insecurity that fear was promoting into the bravery I needed to make a shift in my life… and maybe you’re at one of those crossroads right now.

Here are 4 thoughts on overcoming fear and insecurity:

1. It’s never as bad as fear makes it sound.  

There’s a lot of black and white thinking when you initially assess your fears.  None of that’s true.  Life is a whole lot of gray and way more complicated than your inner critic makes it sound.  Resist the temptation to make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.  Until you’ve transformed your fear, hear it but do not heed it.

2. Your fear can have a say but it doesn’t get a vote.

Repressing or suppressing fear doesn’t work.  The only way to get rid of fear is to transform it into courage.  The transformation requires that you hear your fear out.  You’ve got to experience the fear to alter it.  But hearing the fear and allowing the fear to live through you are two completely different things.  Fear can have a say but it doesn’t get a vote in your life.

3. The thing you fear to do is EXACTLY the thing you MUST do.

Obstacles are opportunities in disguise.  If you run from every obstacle, you miss every opportunity.  The thing you fear isn’t the source of your defeat; it’s the secret weapon behind your success.  See it that way and courage will come quickly.

4. Insecurity provides its own antidote.  

Insecurity remains as long as inaction is the choice you keep making.  The moment you decide to do it afraid is the same moment that insecurity has lost its hold on your life.  Take action at the source of your insecurity and the insecurity goes away.

Think about one decision that you’re afraid to make in your life right now.

What do you think would happen if you faced your fear and made the decision anyway?

How would you handle the outcome (best, base, and worst case scenario)?

Would you still be standing and breathing- even if the worst happen?

What would life look like if you didn’t move forward, stayed right where you are, and spent the next year or so still pondering the decision?

I’d love to read your comments below 🙂

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