Fear: Motivator or Debilitator

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a Ladies Who Launch event with Jen Groover, serial entrepreneur and author of What If, and Why Not?. She talked about fear, and how she uses it as an indicator of importance – meaning if she’s scared of it, she MUST do it.  I completely agree with her – I have always found that when thinking about something makes my stomach start to do flip-flops, it’s because it’s THAT important to me.

However, there’s a different kind of fear that can creep up and debilitate you without ever raising its flag to indicate to you the level of importance of something.  This fear is so tricky that you wouldn’t even call it fear.   You call it “rules” or “conservative estimates” or “wise criticism”.  This fear is fueled by what other people think, or more accurately what you THINK other people will think.

Yesterday I was on a panel at the Columbia Women In Business Conference discussing starting a start-up.  All the panelists were asked to give our “60-second Elevator Pitch” to kick off the panel.  The night before, my debilitating fears, or what I call my “Gremlins” drove me to review my elevator pitch, outline what I was going to say, and fret about how good the others would be and what they would think of mine.

As I sat waiting my turn to “pitch” I observed everyone following the rules – they politely and professionally passed the microphone from panelist to panelist and gave their succinct pitch.  They were good.  I was scared.   And miraculously, my stomach started churning and I thought “WAIT!  This is super-important!  I need to do what I need to do here, not what I think others need me to do!”  When I got the mic, I stood up and asked everyone to put their feet flat on the ground and close their eyes for a few seconds.  I asked them to imagine what their life would be like 5 years from now – who they were with, what they were doing, what they were feeling.  When they opened their eyes I told them “This is what I do – I help people and organizations get from where they are today to where they want to be. ”   and passed the mic on to the next panelist. I broke the rules, but I knew everyone would walk away not only knowing exactly what I did, but who I am.

In that moment I saw clearly the difference between debilitating fear (gremlins) and motivating fear (passion) and reconfirmed that I needed to stop listening to the ones that come from my head, and pay very close attention to the ones that come from my heart.


  1. says

    Great post Rebecca! I have let fear not just debilitate me, but paralyze me in the past. I love the re-framing of the word “debilitate” to “motivate” – I just started blogging too, and get that pit in my stomach every time I post, but I am walking through the fear and doing it anyway! And yes, the fears in our head don’t necessarily go away, but it’s about discernment, and making conscious choices in our actions. Have a great day!

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