How to Kick Fear’s Butt When Starting Something New

The first time I thought about publicly sharing my words online, I immediately squashed it down and wrote it off as ‘too hard’ and ‘too vulnerable.’

That was 3 years ago.

Last year, when the idea to publish my writing started knocking on my heart again, the same thoughts swarmed into my mind. Only this time, it brought buddies.

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What will people think?’

‘Worst- what if no one cares?’

Like an army, these enemy soldiers invaded my mind and set up base camp with the sole purpose of killing off any ideas to share my words of encouragement with the world.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar just as you were about to try something new. Whether that be setting up your own Etsy shop, becoming a small business owner or even as simple as posting a picture on Instagram.

If you’ve never identified if before, let me formally introduce you to Fear. Fear is the voice behind all of these self-deprecating thoughts. Although he may put on various disguises such as Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt, it’s really just Fear pulling the strings.

Fear’s main mission is to keep you small. To keep you believing that you’d never amount to much, so you probably shouldn’t try at all. Fear doesn’t want you putting yourself in situations where you’d be more exposed.

Put your words online where people may criticise it? No thank you.

Set up a shop when you may get no sales? Heck no.

Become a female business owner when female CEO’s already have a dozen harder obstacles? Just stay in bed, hun.

Fear has infinite excuses in his bag of tricks to keep you in one spot.

The difference between me last year, and me three years ago, was that I changed fear’s direction. Fear will always be there on our journey. There’s no getting rid of him. He is a guaranteed travel companion. But amongst all the scary scenarios of failure and criticism emerged an even more terrifying thought- the fear that it would break my heart if I never even tried.  

It was this horrifying scenario that finally kicked me into action. The thought that I would stay ‘ordinary’ forever because I was too scared to try something different. The thought that so many people may never benefit from the message I wanted to share because I was scared of what ‘haters’ would think.

When I finally published my words online, my first piece was about – you guessed it- fear. That article landed in front of the eyes of a female CEO who ended up hiring me to be her writer even though I had zero experience. Every time I share my experiences with fear, I hear the chimes of ‘me too’ and ‘I feel the same way.’ I only say this to show you that no one is immune from fear. Not a CEO. Not the influencer on Instagram or the businesswoman who made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Everyone – no matter how well they hide it- is scared sh*tless of something. 

You may think that because I’m writing about this, it means I’ve conquered it and become the Master of Fear. Heck no. I still deal with Fear daily. Even hourly. I feel it whenever I’m about to press publish on another blog post. It creeps up when I think about sharing my words on Instagram or when I don’t know whether I should introduce myself as a student or a writer.

I have to make an intentional choice every day- do I want to be fearful or do I want to be bold?

So how do you kick fear in the butt?

You acknowledge that for better or worse, it’ll always be there.

You recognise that out of the bazillion things that out of your control, this is actually something you get to call the shots on. You  get to choose whether fear keeps you in the one spot OR if it pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

You pair up with him and say, ‘Hey, I can’t beat you. But maybe I can use your energy for a good purpose. Every time you come into the picture, I know it’s just a sign that I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone and it’s my time to grow.’

That’s how you kick fear’s butt.

That’s how you become what you always were- a winner.


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On Other People’s Opinions

This was originally published on Windrose Magazine Blog. I felt all sorts of angsty after I published my last piece and got caught up in what other people were thinking that I completely missed the point of this page in the first place. So here’s a reminder that we shouldn’t worship other people’s

Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-start a mental health initiative and grow its influence. This one small project birthed in me a greater passion to create my own platform and share my own messy stories to help others know their worth. I wish I could say I immediately started hustling to bring this vision to life. Instead, I spent hours upon hours lying in bed watching ‘Worst X-Factor Auditions.’

You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.

Fear crops up all over our lives wearing different disguises to keep us distracted and stuck in one place. He showed up when I contemplated setting up the website. He banged on my door when I wanted to publish my first words to the world. He came and knocked me over when it was time to be vulnerable and tell more people about my craft. Sometimes he appeared as a fear of failure and other times as fear of rejection. But his favourite way to stop me in my tracks is to breed in me the fear of what other people think.

I’ve legitimately been paralysed from moving forward because of the things people have said about me. I’ve kept passions and desires to myself because others might say it’s ‘silly’ or I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ There have been days when I’ve been too afraid to speak up because of potential ‘backlash,’ and months where I’ve ended up alone because I’d stood up for my values. There are stories I’ve held tightly to my chest, and opportunities I’ve turned down because it would mean exposing more of my life to the public and what ‘they’ think. I could spend hours writing about the loss of support and all the heaviness I’ve felt from carrying around the things people have said about me like stones in a backpack.  

It wasn’t until I was listening to my friend share her story that it all clicked for me. With steaming mugs of chai in our hands and a half-eaten brownie sitting between us, she told me how people used to mock her on the bus because she didn’t fit in. How her teacher’s ‘advice’ was not to bother re- taking her exams because she probably get better. How no one thought she would ever clean up her act enough to get a decent job and out of the mess she was stuck in.  

“But you know what?” she told me, a smile spreading across her face. “Two years ago, I was awarded a prize for being the number one student in Journalism. I’m launching, not one, but two businesses in the summer. And I’m getting married in three months. I didn’t let other people’s opinions define me, and now look where I am.”

***

Maybe you have a history of people putting you down. Maybe your story is full of characters who treat gossiping like an Olympic sport. Maybe you’ve let other people convince you to stay small. Perhaps you received one snarky comment and ever since then you’ve been too afraid to tell the world about your craft.

Here’s the kicker: you get to choose who influences your life. You choose whose voice you listen to and whose opinions carry the most weight. Everyone will have something to say. Some people will declare it with love. Others will speak in hushed whispers intending to keep you small. Either way, you decide if you’ll let it hold you back.

The beautiful yet frustrating thing about us humans is how inconsistent we can be. Our opinions are malleable and can change from one day to the next. I can know someone for years and not feel any spark, but one day I can look up and it all changes. Because people only have a one-dimensional view of who you are. They see you through the lens of whatever experiences they’ve had and whatever baggage they’re holding on to. We’d forever be running a losing race if we tried to stay ahead of other people’s thoughts. You could do everything ‘right’ and say everything ‘right,’ and someone will still find a reason to have a problem with you.

But here’s what will never change:

You – beautifully complex you – are not defined by people’s negative opinions.

You – who are worth more than diamonds and called to be a light- are not meant to stay small.

You- who are sometimes a little messy and hasn’t got life figured out yet-  are more than the one-dimensional perspective others have of you.

Irrespective of who thinks you’re ‘good enough,’ or ‘smart enough’ or only a solid ‘6/10,’ it shouldn’t stop you from going after what you want.

It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.

So pursue your calling. Apply for the job. Post the photo. Tell your story. Don’t let the fear of other people’s judgement rob you from doing what you love. We only get this short little life to live. It would break your heart if you never stood up and moved forward because you were worried of what other people would say.

We don’t get to control many things in life. But we do get to control this.

The Reminders You Need Today

I woke up early today intending to write a post that would speak to your needs, only to still have a blank page at 9am. Ideas were swarming around but nothing was sticking.

Some days call for flowy words and beautiful metaphors to remind us to stay hopeful. And some days, we just need someone to tell us the truth without any fluff.

I promise to validate the heck out of your emotions on every other post, but today I’m just going to give you the reminders you didn’t even know you needed.


Stop waiting for permission and just do the damn thing. I ‘ummed and aahed’ for so long before I ever considered forging my own path and publishing something online. I asked for 10 different people’s opinions and still kept procrastinating on my vision before I ever took action. If you keep waiting for support, you’re going to get left behind by the people who aren’t looking for a pat on the back. Understand that not everyone is going to support you 100% because it may seem completely left field, but other people’s opinions shouldn’t be the reason why you give up. Stop asking and start doing.

You don’t need their approval.

Whoever’s face flashed into your mind as you read that- that’s the person you need to stop begging for acceptance. Bending over backwards and changing yourself to gain their approval isn’t serving anyone at all. One day, you may gain their respect, or you may not. Either way, their opinion of you doesn’t detract from your worth or the impact you have. You are a light and lights don’t stay hidden.

Speaking of staying hidden, stop downplaying your gifts. Stop hiding what you really want to do because it contradicts with your current path or because you’re scared no one will get it. I used to speak about my writing in hushed tones and only tell people about it in parking lots like a shady drug deal.  But all I was doing was just making myself smaller. Be bold and unapologetic about the things that give you life and make you get up in the morning.  

If you don’t actually know what lights you up or what you want to do in life, that’s fine. The majority of adults are still trying to figure it out. I always wanted my life’s calling to be handed to me in a manual with all the instructions intact. But where’s the fun in that? It’s in the uncertainty and the confusion that you unexpectedly find what you’re looking for.

For anyone that’s currently wandering aimlessly in a fog and confused about the direction their life is going, trust me when I say that the fog is a good thing. It’s the first step to making a breakthrough. The fog forces you to ask if you really like the direction you’re headed or if you’re just following someone else’s journey. Perhaps this is the opportunity you’ve always needed to chart a new course for yourself.

You need to stop thinking it’s the end of the world when you fail or when someone rejects you. Failure gives you stories to tell during an awkward silence at a dinner party, and rejection literally saves you from settling. It’s a time saver, not a time waster.

One of the bittersweet parts of life is that we don’t get to keep the people that come into our lives. I read somewhere that the people in the Pilot episode of our sitcom, won’t necessarily be there in the season finale. And I think that’s a beautiful picture. People come and go, but the next season always brings in new characters to support the protagonist. When someone leaves, let them go with the blessing that they now get a chance to impact somebody else’s life.

Savour the humble beginnings. Relish the seasons when no one is watching you or expecting you to keep performing. It may hurt when you look at how much traction others have gained while you’ve only taken two steps. But you have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes of their story. Just stay faithful to what you have and keep showing up to your craft and your journey. The rest will fall into place.

Stop finding reasons to run away. One day, the thing you’ve been waiting for will grace your doorstep. For once, it’ll be nearly everything you’ve asked for, and it’ll be so unexpected that it may take a while for your feelings to catch up. Your knee jerk reaction will be to nitpick at flaws till you find a reason to end it. But know that beautiful things take time to unfold and that applies to your feelings as well. Savour the slow burn and trust the process.

Speaking of feelings- you’re allowed to have them. So many people go about life desperately trying to hide the fact that they feel anything but happy and joyful. Your painful feelings are just as valid and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s tempting to want to fast forward through the achy breaky parts of your life. If the remote from the movie Click was real, I’d buy it in a heartbeat to skip the emotionally turbulent times. But the painful stuff increases your sensitivity for all the beautiful feelings as well. It widens your capacity for love. It breeds in you a deep compassion, astounding empathy for the hurting ones and an appreciation for who you are when you’re on your own.

You are worthy of good things. I know it’s easy to look at other people and believe that beautiful moments are only reserved for everyone else but you. But that’s not true. Your story may look a little different and it may not be what you expect, but how boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time. Just hold on. Good things are coming for you too.  

Know that you’re not powerful enough to ruin the plans for your life. But you are powerful enough to persist through each day and keep walking even when it’s dark and foggy. You’re powerful enough to give yourself a fresh start any day you want.

Above all, know that there’s nothing wrong with you. The world will try and magnify your flaws, but your life can either be all about fixing yourself or serving others well.

You were not born with missing parts and attached to a label that says ‘defective.’ No. You are utterly unique and created for a purpose.

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

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Pushing Through The Fear

This piece originally appeared on the Eight Hundred Words blog, but fear is one of those emotions that never strays far from us. I heard someone say today that ‘Fear and Excitement can feel like the same thing in our stomach,’ and I wondered how many times I’ve avoided doing something because I was fearful. This piece may apply to writing, but it doesn’t change the message behind it. Fear doesn’t get to win. You do.

‘Don’t you want to change the world?’ flashed the text on my screen. I actually laughed out loud when I read it. The notion of me, a twenty-one-year-old who’s barely completed her degree, changing the world was so absurd I spat out my coffee.

The night before, I had sent (yet another) message to my friend, vomiting all my worries and fears into the little text block on Messenger. I’d whined that my words probably weren’t going to be good enough to be published by anyone. I wondered if it was too pretentious to call myself a ‘writer’ if I only had one self-published article online. I asked a bunch of ‘what if’s’ and ‘who did I think I was to set up a platform and be a voice.’

I typed out a whole essay, and he sent me back seven words.

Don’t you want to change the world?

To his credit, those words did stop me worrying. But only for five minutes. Then I went back to overthinking every little decision I was about to make.

I’ve written a lot about fear lately. Heck, I scored my first client because of my words on fear. I think what makes me an expert is that me and fear go way back. He was there when I wanted to apply for Class Captain but didn’t because I was scared of rejection. He lurked in the background years back when the writing itch first began and made me fearful of what people thought. He showed up every time I wondered if I was worthy of more in my life, and he always shut me down.

You see, fear is the guy you didn’t want to invite to your party but felt obligated to. He is a stage five clinger who latches to your side the entire night and begs to be the centre of your attention. When all you want to do is be the life of the party, he whispers taunts in your ear to keep you off the dancefloor. Fear wants to rob you of every little thing that could make you great. He loves seeing you doubt your ability to string together words and weave stories from your imagination because it keeps you small.

So let this be your pep talk today: Fear does not get to win. Fear does not get to smother your dreams to death. Sometimes the only way to get over it is to just do the damn thing. Sure, you may come out on the other side with a bruised ego – but you’ll still be alive! Fear shrinks every time you dare to step forward.

If you want to call yourself a writer, do it loud and proud. Forget this idea that to be ‘legit’ you need fancy by-lines, a publisher or get paid per word. If you write with intention, you’re a writer. Words have power and you need to speak out your own destiny.

If you want to set up a website and claim your domain name–go ahead and put your money where your mouth is. You don’t want fear delaying you for so long that someone else with the same name claims that website first.

If you want to post about your work, just do it. You are your first cheerleader. No one else will advocate for you as hard as you should for yourself. People may scroll right on through or they may roll their eyes. But someone needs the ideas and stories and wisdom you have to offer the world. Your story might be the lifeline they need to keep going. I always tell myself that even if only one person resonates with my words, it would be worth it .

I wish I could tell you that the anxious thoughts that dart around your mind and the urge to throw up will stop once you hit Point X on the map. That once you publish a certain number of articles or achieve the most notable byline, you’ll never feel the angsty clenching in your heart again. The truth is: fear is a constant companion. He’ll tag along whenever you even think about

venturing outside your comfort zone or pursuing ‘something more.’ And gosh, I hope you’re constantly going on new adventures and saying yes to uncertainty. That’s what makes our lives so exciting.

You may think that just because I’m writing this, it means I’ve got it figured out (spoiler alert: I don’t). I still juggle fear every day–he just takes on different personas to the one I’m used to. But I have to decide every day that fear doesn’t get to smother my dreams anymore.

My friend was right to ask if I wanted to change the world. Maybe changing the world isn’t just setting up a multi-billion-dollar corporation or achieving ‘world peace.’ Perhaps it’s feeling the fear and moving forward anyways. When 99% of your head is screaming at you to stay insignificant, trust the 1% that whispers ‘just try.’

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

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SEARCHING FOR MORE?

Girl, Speak Up!

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This was originally published in The Dejure Club newsletter a couple of months ago, but it’s an issue that still continues to hit close to home. Maybe you’ve never struggled with speaking up or people pleasing. But if you have, this letter is for you. 

Confrontation makes me upset.

This isn’t something you want to figure out near the end of your Law degree. But it’s true. I hate making others feel uncomfortable, and I’m prepared to let a lot of things slide. It’s to the point where if a waiter brought me the wrong order, I would take it just to avoid making a fuss.

It wasn’t until I was sitting across from a friend that I realised how toxic this pattern of behaviour was. With latte’s clasped in our hands, he blamed me for everything that went wrong. Even though he’d misinterpreted my actions, I found myself shouldering the whole blame and apologising for everything even though he’d also played a significant part in hurting me.

Why did I do that? Why did I completely invalidate my own hurt and excuse his actions just so he could feel ‘right’? As I reflected on this, I realised I was almost always playing down my own needs and diminishing my feelings to make others feel comfortable. If someone was rude to me, I’d laugh it off. If someone disrespected me or spoke down to me, I’d bite my tongue and bury the hurt.

I don’t know how or why, but somewhere along the way I learnt to be submissive and a pushover. I don’t advocate my own needs because I’m afraid to hurt others or rock the boat. But where does that leave me?

Another friend was constantly cancelling on me at the last minute. I’d always make excuses for them like ‘they’re busy, so it’s understandable’ or ‘they have a lot on their plate, it’s fine.’ But with every ‘It’s fine’ or ‘No worries!’ text, I realised I was validating their behaviour. I was implicitly saying that it was ok for them to disrespect my time and keep flaking out on me because I’d never get mad.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t tell people their actions bother you, they’ll never figure it out. If you don’t assert your boundaries and your needs, people will continue to repeat their ways and you’ll continue to be walked over. If you don’t respect your own feelings, how can you expect others to?

I think a lot of this stems from fear. Fear that people will leave us if we come off as too difficult or not eager to please. Fear that we aren’t as ‘important’ as others. So we undermine our position, compromise on our priorities and play off our pain.

But girl, can I tell you something?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are worthy of being heard. You are allowed to assert your needs. You are allowed to say no.

Someone else’s age, race or position of authority does not make them ‘better’ than you. It does not give them licence to devalue you or make you feel ‘less than.’ It is one thing to give grace. It’s another thing entirely to let others take advantage of your selflessness. If you are constantly being walked over or looked down on. If someone makes you feel like your feelings are invalid or you’re unworthy – then girl, you have got to speak up!

And so, for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, unheard, or unseen. For the ones who have been too scared to speak up. I see you. I am with you. I am for you. So now I’m standing up for myself. Yes, give more grace than you get. Yes, give others the benefit of the doubt. But stop invalidating your needs or feelings for others. Girl, speak up!


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