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In my line of work, I often meet people who tell me they’re afraid. They’re afraid to put themselves out there. They’re afraid to be judged, or seen for who they are—the biggest fear lurking is that they’re a fraud, and now they’ve been caught.

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These people are often talented, wise, and have an important skill or message to share. I’ve heard this from web-coders who I’ve seen create incredible websites for themselves and friends yet are too afraid to put their services up for sale because they think they’re not good enough.

I’ve seen this in yoga teachers who really want to teach but are too intimidated—often because they feel all around them are senior teachers with decades of experience over them, and they wonder, “What can I possibly offer in this climate of saturated yoga teachers?”

I’ve seen masterful cooks and holistic chefs perfect the art of the cupcake, but when it comes to selling it they’re “just not ready yet.”

Does any of this sound familiar? Can you relate?

The fear is that your work is inadequate, and that that would translate to YOU being inadequate.

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I’d like to bust that fear right now:

You are not your work.

As emotionally involved as we can become in our work, we are messengers of our work; we are conduits of our work, but we are not our work.

Sadly we live in a culture that over-esteems our work and judges who we are based on it. I had a friend recently come out of surgery and even the surgeon asked her, “What do you do?” When she replied she enjoys long walks and exercise he responded, “No, what do you do for work?”

As if who we are is personified by our work, instead of the colorful multifaceted lives we live.

This is why it makes sense to be fearful that if your work is judged as inadequate that it means you are inadequate.

It makes sense to be afraid that you’ll get up in front of a class of students, stutter your words, or blow the class and have a student complain about you. If that’s your biggest fear—it can happen.

It makes sense to fear that you’ll take on a catering gig, and instead of luscious reviews you’ll get a complaint that the cupcake was too dry, too sweet, or not sweet enough.

We fear what we fear because it can be true.

Every time you put yourself out there you run the risk of being judged. And at one point you will be.

I’ve been judged countless times, from online to in the classroom.

But for every negative review, I’ve had 100 more thank you notes, happy customers, and grateful students.

As humans we are psychologically primed and wired to hold onto the negative. It’s normal to focus on that one negative review even if you get 20 more positive reviews that thank you for changing their lives.

How do you deal with this?

  1. Recognize it’s a normal neurological response to immediately grasp the negative. Notice your immediate reactive response, then take a deep breath.
  2. Re-focus your mind and heart on all the positive influence you’ve had. Think about the people you did help, the lives you did uplift. If you hadn’t put yourself out there, you never would have been able to help that one person who you helped beyond your intention. You never know when your words will change everything for one person. This is reason enough to put yourself out there.
  3. Create a practice around aligning with your inner core: your heart and soul—the place inside that knows what to do and dares to act despite fear. The place inside that will use the energy of fear to propel you forward with the courage to take action. By creating a daily practice of stillness you can tap into this place of inner alignment.

This is why taking action on your creative projects and inner calling is the greatest self-development journey you can embark upon. It’s confronting, it will challenge you, but it’s the way to becoming the fullness of who you are.

You can read 25 self-help books, and 2500 self-help articles—but until you put yourself on the line, all that education and information means nothing. I was on a retreat last year where one of the participants was a lively 77 year old named Bob who put it perfectly: “Acquiring knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing. Growing happens when what you know changes how you live.”

This is why if you have a creative soulful endeavor inside that you want to share—the only way to grow is to go out there and share it.

Tova Payne is a writer, teacher, and consultant to soulful entrepreneurs and creatives. Her latest book, Soulful Entrepreneurship, will be released later this year. Stay in touch with Tova and snag a free meditation audio recording and E-Guide on the 5 Keys to Start and Finish your Projects by clicking here.

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