• Leila Ainge

Is fear holding you back?

When I scheduled the October newsletter for 2022 instead of 2021 I laughed, and then I procrastinated. I didn't want to hit send. I have a great tool to help clients get clear on the type of delay tactics they use, so I did what any good coach would do and read my own guide on how to stop procrastinating, and the last prompt ‘what are you afraid of’ struck a chord. Failure.

I was being unusually critical about my writing, normally I’d email a copy to a friend, ‘hey what do you think? – wait for some feedback and make amends or changes. My critical self was getting noisy and I couldn't ignore it for much longer, I knew that this fear would just come back again next month if I didn’t give it some compassionate attention.

Have you ever been told to speak to yourself like you would a friend?, this is self-compassion. If you’ve practised mindfulness when you are feeling overwhelmed, this is self-compassion. So self-compassion looked like reading through the amazing feedback and email replies you’ve sent me over the last year. Thank you, I love reading your replies to The Debrief.

How effective is a self-pat on the back though? I needed more than this, I needed to practice some fierce self-compassion. Kristen Neff, the psychologist who coined that phrase talks about three areas of self-compassion we need to be getting right. Kindness is the bit most of us find easy to talk about and do. I was kind and tender to myself about not sending out the email, and actually I give myself permission to be irregular with my content, perhaps you’ve noticed! Kindness helps me with a busy schedule, this is tender self-compassion.

Next up there is humanity and mindfulness. My fear was that I was spreading myself thin and producing low quality work in the process. When I started to unpick this it was the constant shifting and switching between different writing styles that felt overwhelming. Here's where humanity comes in, I’m not the first person to find switching between academic writing, professional report writing and content writing for my business challenging. My brain was sending regular fixed mindset alerts to remind me that academic phrasing is the opposite of an engaging email. When I started speaking to other academics who write for fun they told me the same thing, it’s tough but it gets better, and creative writing becomes the perfect antidote to the formal rigour of research papers, reframing the writing styles as complimentary in this way really helped, I’m human and I fell into a fixed mindset trap.

I asked a good friend for advice, I enjoy reading their column in courier magazine, within five minutes I had some writing prompts to get me moving on an article idea (dare I say it, a Linkedin article is coming soon!) and I found a safe place to be myself, I talked and laughed about my fear in a REALWORK hangout chat in front of Sara Arkle (a professional newsletter and creative writer).

Being fierce about accepting the fear has helped me move on, it pushed me to ask for help and get the perspective on my writing that I needed. On balance I am neither failing or winning prizes for my creative writing, but I am getting my message and ideas across in all areas of my work, and importantly I'm learning every day.

Self-compassion looks like this, there are times you need to be tender with yourself, do some yoga, read your best reviews and there are times when you need to be fierce and sit with what you are experiencing in the knowledge that you are not alone, there are things you can change, and it won’t be forever.

So tell me, what's holding you back?

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