How to prevent fear and shame from destroying your performance

I discussed both fear and shame in earlier posts, but I want to explore the relationship between the two and why understanding is key to your performance as a leader and the ability to fulfil your purpose. As a reminder.

Fear

Fear describes our emotional response to danger. Clearly, an element of fear permits a necessary healthy response. After all, if we had no fear, we’d walk into a fire or cross a busy road without looking.

The ego, having learned from experience, recognises danger, intervenes, and keeps us safe. The problem is the ego isn’t rational; it learns from experience and raises the alarm when an event subconsciously reminds it of a past, painful event. It doesn’t rationalise it and, when reminded of it, interprets an earlier experience as though it’s automatically going to happen again.

Shame

The subconscious mind sees shame as a perverse benefit because it provides an excuse for our struggle and failure to maximise our potential.  The mind finds a way for us to take responsibility and goes to “What did I do to make this happen?” It then moves on to “So, if I did something, it’s my fault.” The logic then is that we can put it right if we recognise there is something wrong with us or that we were responsible. “If there is something wrong with me, that means I have to fix me, and if I can fix me, I have the power to change” The problem is until that is achieved, we wear a mask to prevent the world seeing how broken we feel and seeing our shame. 

One of the most common fears is fear of failure. We can try to reframe ‘failure’ so that we see our experiences through a different filter and think of experiences that didn’t work as just another step en route to finding out what does work. Easier said than done, perhaps. So why is the word failure so evocative? Because our minds translate failure, which becomes not what I did, that didn’t work, but “I am not good enough” which is then only a small step to “I feel ashamed of myself”

The relationship

Although fear of failure is very common, fear of rejection is equally, if not more, catastrophic as we go down the direct route of I am not wanted because I am not acceptable. Not only do I fail with my tasks, but my very self, my very persona is too much for the world and unlovable. We believe we are irrevocably flawed. The causes are many. It could be because one or both of our prime care givers (our parents) didn’t love us or because we were compared less favourably with our siblings or peers.

Because we link these two fears with our self being flawed, we feel the shame of our very identity.

What to do?

We have to understand the cause of our fear, as when we understand the cause, we can let go of it. When we let go of it, we are ready to let go of the accompanying shame.

Therefore, doing the exploratory work with a coach or therapist, and better still, in a group setting with other like-minded people, is invaluable because shame needs the oxygen of secrecy. Take away the secrecy, and shame dies. Shame’s co-dependent lover fear has nothing to protect and likewise fades away.

The more we reveal our true selves, the more we overcome fear and shame, and the more powerful we become

Now you are free to fulfil your mission and to be the Leader you were born to be.