DEAR KRISTIN: I just received a huge promotion that will put me in a senior leadership position. I’m proud of myself -- I’ll be one of only two female executives in the company -- but I’m also terrified. I shared this fear with my closest girlfriend and her response was, “Where’s all this self-doubt coming from? You worked hard for this promotion and you deserve it more than anybody! There must be something deeper going on.”
Her reaction tells me that she doesn’t understand the nature of my fear, because I DO know I deserve this position! I also know I’m going to kick butt in this new job and will exceed even my own expectations, which are already high.
Now I’m disappointed (and a little angry) at my friend for not understanding my fear -- or for understanding me. I know better than anybody how hard I worked for this promotion. I suppose I just want permission to feel a healthy fear about this next step in my life without having somebody try to tie it to self-doubt or assuming that my fear is based on “something deeper going on.” What ever happened to fear being fear simply for fear’s sake? -- FEARFUL AND PROUD
First off, you’ve got to understand that your friend is not a mind-reader, and it’s unfair for you to expect her to be. If she’s off on her assessment of your fear, then just tell her so! But try not to sound defensive or snarky; remember that she’s sharing her reaction to your fear from a place of love.
Also, stop asking people for feedback if you’re not willing to receive it. You asked your friend for her reaction, and she gave it. Don’t carp about it once you get it. Nobody knows the depth and texture of your emotions better than you do; understand that her reaction is neither right nor wrong. It’s simply her reaction. It might not be what you wanted to hear, but you’ve got to work that part out yourself.
I agree with you, though, that a certain amount of fear is healthy as we approach a major life change. Fear -- as long as it’s not paralyzing and toxic -- can become an energizer, if we treat it with the respect it deserves. You must tamp down this fear when it grows too great, or transform it to something else entirely -- transform it into positive energy that propels you forward and strengthens your confidence.
You say you know that you’re up to the task required for this big new job. Hold on to that confidence. Lean in to it and let it work for you. It doesn’t sound like you’re doubting your capabilities but, rather, like you’re nervous about the newness, which is completely natural.
Give your friend a break and remind yourself that her mother didn’t give birth to a mind-reader. Your friend is only trying to calm you. Receive her loving efforts with gratitude.
Walk into your new office with the grace and the confidence that I know you have.
Go, girl, go.