Fear of feeling the fear


I’m growing a new business at present and want to attract new clients. In my latest ploy to avoid doing the single most effective thing in winning new business – getting on the telephone and asking friends and associates for their business – I cunningly thought of consulting a friend who has several businesses and asking him for advice.

“Who knows?” I thought, “Maybe there’s a miraculous new pain-free way of winning business I don’t know about.”

Two minutes into the meeting, he says, “Narelle, you know what to do; get on the phone.” “No new way?” I ask plaintively, and he laughs.

He commiserates, shares some of his own terrors when he’s let one of his businesses run down and asks me about the fear.

I rehearse all the usual stuff: fear of being rejected, fear of being told no, fear of being ignored, fear of the sound of the gatekeeper, fear of not being taken seriously, fear of being taken seriously, fear of getting the business, fear of not being able to handle the new business, and so on.

Later in the day, it occurs to me what the fear is really about. Underneath all these fears, and any others I can think of, is the same thing. It’s the fear of feeling the fear. When I’m about to ring someone and ask for their business and the fear is there, it’s not the fear of what the other person is going to do or not do. It’s not that at all.

It’s the fear of experiencing my fear; the distaste for feeling that horrid discomfort and uncertainty.

It’s exactly as Franklin Roosevelt said,

The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself.


Image: Rooster, original watercolour painting by the marvellous, Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen


10 thoughts on “Fear of feeling the fear

  1. Good article… and very timely, Roosevelt’s words from his 1933 inaugural speech, at the height of that terrible depression. Yours is an important message, in this time of world wide economic unrest, where out of control financial institutions are allowed to run wild, by inadequate and incapable governments. A perfect venue for the powerful wealthy of the corporate world and their so called market economy, who hand in hand with the financial market manipulators play yo-yo on the backs of the small investors, and the average public, using the very kind of “fear of fear” of which you speak. Wanted or not you poked in the right direction, ergo not only good article, but a very poignant one at this time.



    • JJ, fear of fear is rampant in the Western world at present. The rage that shows up in comments to online articles is it. The greed of the kind of operators you’re talking about is it. The cynicism routinely invoked in media is it. And it all fills the space with yet more fear.

      The one and only thing to do about fear is to distinguish it as fear. As soon as one starts to pull back and see the experience for what it is — “oh I’m feeling fearful again” — it dissipates.


  2. I fear people won’t like me if I keep asking them to spend money. That’s my issue with promoting my book, and why I’m not in marketing. Some people are great at this kind of stuff. It’s a rare person who is great at having a business-worthy skill and also possesses the skills to run that business effectively.

    Good luck to you, my friend! ;)


    • Oh, yeh, that’s a good one … story I mean. Money and time are the big guns we roll out when we want to rationalise not doing something, “no time”, “too busy”, “no money”, “customers with no money”.

      And it’s BS. Just like my stories, including my old standby, “I’ve tried it before and it hasn’t worked”.

      They’re designed to cover up the fact we just don’t want to go out on a limb.

      Susan Scott has a good anecdote in one of her books, either Fierce Conversations or Fierce Leadership. She had an employee whose job was to be on the phone getting new clients. This employee had an ongoing story about the fact she never made her sales target. “No-one returns my call,” she’d say. One day, Scott had had enough and she told her, “Make yourself someone whose calls get returned!”

      The message was clear: do it or you’ll be out. Sure enough, next day, the employee started getting return calls and started selling.


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