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Breaking the Confidence Illusion: My Personal Tale of Fear and Courage

Do people ever assume you’re confident when you’re actually nervous inside? Turns out that’s more common than you think. Many of us wear masks of confidence while battling self-doubt behind the scenes.

Several years ago I attended a friend’s event. He was coaching a woman on stage when she told him that one person in the room really intimidated her. She slowly raised her hand and pointed to me, standing in the back corner of the room.

If only she knew, I thought…

I had a knot of anxiety in my stomach because I felt intimidated and overwhelmed in a room full of strangers. I’m not good at making small talk, so my silence was a clue to my insecurity, not my confidence.

Most people have no idea that I was a fearful child and that I’m sometimes a fearful man.

I’ve spent much of my life doing all I can to look confident on the outside, while feeling deeply insecure on the inside.

I’m a people pleaser by nature. I’m driven by a belief that if only I look good enough, then you’ll like me. I’m afraid of speaking truth to power. I’m even afraid of speaking my truth to my partner for fear that she’ll leave me. I’ve done whatever it took to fit in – losing ‘me’ in the process.

I’m driven by the question: “Who are you?” Who are you to be a leader… to be successful… to be powerful… to be respected…?

I relentlessly compare myself to others and feel less than. I’ve spent much of my life playing Robin, looking for Batman.

I’ve sought out powerful leaders, assuming they are far more powerful than me. And I’ve tried to emulate great leaders and lost myself in the process.

I’m extremely good at putting other people’s needs ahead of my own. I’m afraid to ask for what I really, really, really want. I care so much about what everyone else might think – there’s often no space left for what I think. I hate to look silly, or messy, or like I don’t know.

I find it hard to make friends. And I can feel lonely in the middle of a crowd.

I say I don’t need help – when I’m craving support – because I imagine I’ll be weak for needing it. And that you’ll judge me for accepting it.

I’ve been afraid to put my stake in the ground. I’ve been afraid to take a stand. I’ve been afraid to be ME.

A Timeline of Fear

  • At 6 years old, I hid in the school toilet during lunch hour because I was scared to tell the teachers I hated school lunches.
  • At 11 years old, I joined the Boy Scouts because it meant I didn’t have to play soccer at school – I was afraid of such a physical game.
  • At 12 years old, in an all boys school, I auditioned for the school play. I loved drama. And I was devastated when the teacher cast me in the role of Shakespeare’s Titania, Queen of the Fairies. I cried myself to sleep, for weeks. But I was terrified to say NO.
  • At 17, I was really good at having girl “friends” but I had no clue how to have a “girl-friend”. I was scared to ask anyone on a date.
  • At 21, my first real girlfriend cheated on me and I stayed with her because I was afraid to ‘lose’ her.
  • At 22, I was so afraid of losing my first job that I let myself be ‘bullied’ by a woman who was just a year older than me.
  • At 30, my teaching colleagues told me I was so ambitious they thought I loved promotions more than I loved the kids I taught. It hurt so much that I’d given that impression.
  • At 37, when I was fired from a job I didn’t even like, I cried and begged my boss not to let me go. I ran away from leadership for years because I was so humiliated by that experience.

 

I’m still afraid. I’m afraid of not being liked, of running out of money, of dying before I see my kids grow up, of telling Monique what I really, really want, of aiming too high, of failing, of looking bad, of getting NOs…

Fear is a mask for desire

Fear is the voice of your ancestors whispering to you, across the ages. “Don’t do it. Stay safe. Don’t take a risk. You might get hurt. You might die. Don’t do it…

That voice is part of what makes you human. It’s designed to keep you ‘safe.’

But we’re no longer hunted by wild tigers, and that innate fear has become a liability…

What seems safe is often most dangerous because with safety comes stagnation. And without risk there’s no growth.

Fear is a sign that you’re dreaming big. Don’t try to eliminate it, use fear as your compass to find out what you really, really want. And then step gently in its direction.

Make fear the clue that you’re doing something worth doing.

Find out what scares you and lean in.

I’m often scared to speak my truth but I’ve learned that the truth is what high-level leaders crave. My clients invest a lot of money in my truth-telling.

The more successful, wealthy or well-known my clients are, the less they want another yes-person in their world.

If you want to work with top-performers at the highest levels of excellence, don’t hide, don’t hold back, and don’t try to please them.

Powerful clients are attracted to coaches who are honest and direct, even (especially) if it might jeopardize the relationship. Clients are drawn to coaches who don’t need to look good.

HIDE NOTHING, HOLD NOTHING BACK, SERVE DON’T PLEASE, SPEAK YOUR TRUTH.

It’s not comfortable.
It’s not easy.
But it’s my path.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is feeling totally afraid, but doing what needs to be done in pursuit of a purpose bigger than yourself.

I’m in.
Are you?

Love. Rich

 

PS. More transparency here: almost 20 years into my coaching career, I still get nervous every time I launch a new program. When the first person signs up, it always feels like a fluke! And it’s only after the second person is in that I believe it’s real.

Well, the first two people have already signed up for The $100K Club, so strap in, we are ready to fly!!

There are now just 13 spots left at the early bird price. They include a gift ticket to my four newest programs (a $3,686 value bonus). Don’t miss this opportunity to join an exclusive group of coaches committed to growth and success.

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