Feeling the Fear

I went to see the movie Horrible Bosses this week. I laughed a lot, and was grateful that I’ve never had any bosses in my life quite as bad as the ones in the movie.

I do hear a lot of horror stories, though. I certainly know that some people are not so lucky to be working with a great boss or in a great job. I certainly have compassion for people who feel trapped by their situation into staying in a job that takes advantage of them.

In one scene in the movie, the character played by Jason Bateman confronts his boss (played by Kevin Spacey). The boss has told Bateman’s character that if he tries to leave the company he will never be hired anywhere again. The boss will ruin Jason’s reputation with lies.

When movies are funny, it’s because the scenarios have a hint of truth to them. There are bosses who threaten, and that’s not funny at all. Bateman felt completely trapped into a job he hated.

Have you ever felt trapped in a job? Ever felt that if you tried to leave you would be creating a worse situation for yourself?

Fear can immobilize us. It can keep us from reaching for the brass ring, for applying for other jobs and from trying new things.

I’ve heard that an acrostic for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Sometimes that’s true. If we are speaking in public, we might be afraid of the audience laughing at us. That isn’t likely to happen (unless you are telling jokes). You might be afraid of forgetting what you are going to say. That could happen. So sometimes the evidence proves that the fear is completely unfounded and sometimes it proves that the fear is plausible.

We need to be able to tell the difference.

Jason Bateman’s character had a real fear about the boss ruining his reputation. That could happen to some people. It’s not likely, but it is possible.

What do you do when you realize that what you’re afraid of could happen?

1)   Keep breathing. Breathing is important when we’re starting to panic, because a lack of oxygen causes us to react instead of respond. We need to keep the oxygen flow going. Calmly repeat to yourself “Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.” Don’t make any decisions until you are fully oxygenated.

2)   Follow your fears to their extremes. What’s the worse that can happen? What is the best that can happen? What is likely to happen? That can help you put what you’re afraid of into perspective. When we’re calmly looking at a situation, we become aware that the worst-case scenario isn’t likely to happen, so it becomes easier to make the right choice.

3)   Is the worst-case scenario something you could live with? For public speaking, I could live with the audience laughing at me, or me forgetting my lines. For applying for a new job, could I live with the fact that I didn’t get a job I wanted? Yes. I may be afraid of those things, but I could live with them if they happened.

4)   Is the worst-case scenario even possible? Could I die from bungee jumping? Yes. Will it kill me to apply for a job that I don’t ultimately get? No. With my job, would it be possible for someone to completely ruin my reputation in such a way that I would never work again? No. (That’s not a challenge, by the way.)

5)   Journal the situation. Writing things down on a piece of paper allows you to look at the situation in black and white. When it’s written down, the fears become clearer and easier to deal with. Detaching yourself from the emotions allows you to make a more logical decision. You won’t always have time to journal, but if it’s an important issue, it’s worth making the time.

I’m not saying “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I don’t believe in that. But fear exists for a reason. Sometimes we need to listen to it, and sometimes we need to conquer it.

Share >