“Feel the fear, do it anyway.” I can’t remember where I first saw this quote or where it originated but throughout the years it has become a sort of mantra for me in difficult moments.
I always used to think I had to feel brave, or else I would be perceived as a weak and worthless person. We’re all scared of something. We all get nervous. But we must live. We go towards our greatest fears anyway despite that nagging voice in our head telling us we won’t be good enough for that position, we won’t succeed with that business idea, we won’t ever have the life we want. The fear comes up no matter how we try to avoid it.
The key is – we can’t let that fear control us.
I spent most of my time at a former job walking in fear. Afraid to say the wrong things to co-workers, clients, and especially my boss. Knowing that anything I said or did could trigger my boss to have an explosive meltdown, I was walking on eggshells every day. There was constant arguing, blaming, and lack of accountability. Any given day someone was about to either quit or be fired and this was taking a physical and emotional toll on me.
“It’s just a job” people would say. “Maybe you’re there because you need to learn something” – among other phrases that were meant to encourage me but instead, I felt even more trapped. Was I wrong to want something more? Should I just accept this treatment and deal with it? At least you’re working…it could be worse…just be grateful to be making “good” money…
Before I knew it, one whole year went by. No one could believe that I put up with it for so long. I couldn’t even believe it either. I kept taking the hits and getting back up again. My mental abilities were questioned so many times I lost count. I was asked repeatedly if I had any common sense. I was screamed at and belittled in front of new hires, instead of being taken aside and corrected with constructive suggestions on how to improve. I never saw any discretion or sense professionalism.
After the first year, I still didn’t see any signs of improvement. Periods of being understaffed forced me to come into the office even when I wasn’t feeling well. Once I had a cold and was told to make sure I’m taking something for it because my boss had to go on a trip and didn’t want to catch anything before traveling. Oh, and to please not pass it to my only co-worker so she wouldn’t get sick too. I’d like to add that it would have been logical (and decent) to have me to stay home but, we weren’t dealing with logic here.
I was just going through the motions and trying to survive. Until the brave face I was putting on started to fall apart. I realized how bad the situation was getting one Sunday. It was actually a nice day; the sun was peaking through our blinds and you could hear the birds outside. Around this time, Sunday became my most hated day because it meant the next day I had to go back to work. It was the “Sunday Scaries” on a whole other level. On that afternoon I had an anxiety attack. I felt like my walls were physically closing in on me. I had to run into my room because it really felt like the four walls of my living room were going to physically collapse and crush me. After some crying and deep breaths, I began to write in my journal. Writing has always helped calm me. I put down one of my favorite lyrics by Bethel “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God”. I didn’t feel it that day, but I was making a statement to myself of where I was going to be.
I wish that I could say the next day I just quit but no, I would stay past that year anniversary and past another one too. I would stay to be screamed at for things I didn’t do or had no control over. I would push myself to go in to work after a particularly tough morning. As I inserted my key into the doorknob, I had a breakdown. My heart was racing, I felt like my throat was closing. Not knowing what else to do, I went to the bathroom to collect myself. After some deep breaths I went in, my eyes still filled with tears because I knew I had to get the brave face back on before anyone came in. I didn’t have any other option but to be there until I could find something else.
And then, it finally happened. After rejection, so many applications that I lost count, tests and interviews – I landed an amazing opportunity. One that was an answer to so many prayers. I had some specific qualifications I was looking for and this job actually met every single one. At times I felt like, who am I to ask God for all of this – it was a long list. But, then again, who am I NOT to. I was done playing small. And I was overjoyed.
Now, this meant that I had to break the news to my employer at the time. Talk about being afraid. I knew it wasn’t going to go well. Especially considering other situations that had been going on with the company that year. There were big transitions happening and my announcement would be a burden. I had already prepared a concise and professional resignation letter thanking the company and informing them of my last day.
When I was about to go turn my letter in, I honestly thought I would feel more nervous than I did. I was slightly nauseous and little shaky. The main thing that pushed me through, aside from my faith, was the unwavering support of friends and family. I am beyond thankful for these humans – your support saved my life and could be a post all in its own.
On a Friday morning I walked into the owner’s cold office and closed the door. “I need to talk to you”, I said. I can still remember the look on their face. I can’t recall the last time I felt so uncomfortable in a room.
I knew the announcement of my departure wouldn’t be well received but I could have never predicted the next few words I would hear: “You’re making a huge mistake.” For what seemed like an eternity this employer continued to tell me all the ways it could go wrong wherever I was going. My mind was made up and I stood my ground. They explained to me that to work in a new place wasn’t a good idea and all the risks that would come with it.
The thing is, I knew the risk I was taking. But I also knew it was a bigger risk to stay in a place that was no longer serving me. Staying meant that I would risk looking back and seeing how many years I wasted holding back on my dreams. I was risking my health and my relationships. I could have very well been making a mistake. But a bigger mistake would have been one more year of stress and unhappiness.
If you’re reading this, I hope you will take risks. Don’t stay in the safe and comfortable place just for the sake of making someone else happy. You’re going to come across many difficult people who will tell you your plans are a “huge mistake”. DO IT ANYWAY.
**DISCALIMER: Names, dates, and locations have been withheld to protect identities. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent any organization that I am or have ever been a part of. The statements expressed in this post are based on my memory of the events and are not intended to disparage any individuals or corporations.