There was hardly anything that didn’t intimidate me when I was young. Sleeping alone in the dark, taking classes outside of my comfort zone, telling people I loved that I loved them, doing a back handspring during cheerleading competitions — all of these things caused me immense stress, to the point where I just avoided them. I slept in my sister’s room, loaded up on classes I knew I’d do well in and never performed a back handspring without a spotter.
Now I’m fairly comfortable with all of the above (well, except back handsprings), and there aren’t a ton of things I avoid out of intimidation alone. But I do, often, reflect on the times I’ve let intimidation get the better of me, whether that was not participating in a class, sport, conversation, relationship or something else because I felt I couldn’t stack up.
As Mariah Adcox writes for Man Repeller and Jacqueline McElhone covered for Career Contessa, it can be healthy to take stock of the things that intimidate you—and why. Is it dealing with your finances, or pushing back against an irritating boss? Is it having a certain conversation with a loved one, or admitting that you don’t know as much as you thought you did? Consider what intimidates you, and write it down.
Write your intimidation list
As with most things, the more specific you can get with your list, the better. McElhone recommends taking a week to really think through your day to day, and consider why you do or do not certain things.
I encourage you to try to go a bit deeper than the surface level intimidations that you’ll think of. “Taking risks,” “failing,” “confident people” are all intimidating—I get it. But what else? What specific things, people, experiences, intimidate you? Do you encounter something day in day out that gets you, every time?
Do you usually avoid doing something, avoid seeing someone, or talking about a certain topic? Is it because you’re intimidated?
Then think through why this person or that situation intimidates you. What are you afraid of? When you’ve figured that out, you can take the necessary steps to fix the situation, should you so choose.
Mine might look like:
Introducing myself to authors after readings/events: I might ask the wrong question and make a fool of myself to someone I admire.
Writing fiction/in a genre I haven’t attempted before: I could discover that I can’t actually do it, and all of worst fears about myself will be confirmed (I’m not creative, smart, talented, etc.).
Packing up and moving to another state: What happens when I don’t have a built-in community of friends and coworkers?
Public speaking: Please don’t make me do it.
Finally, I’ll add that intimidation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a handful of writers and creators that I’m intimidated by, but it’s because the seeming breadth and depth of their knowledge and/or artistry is so vast. In that way, they’re inspiring.
As McElhone writes, this practice can help you find common themes in your life and actions you weren’t aware of. “Maybe you’ll learn that you’re not actually afraid of what you thought you were,” she writes. “Maybe you’ll find that what you think you’re afraid of, you’re really one step away from conquering. And that’s where self-growth starts.”