We’re all afraid of something.
For some of us our fears are very real.
Fears with a capital F: climate change, the cost of living, cancer for f**k sake.
Others are scared of the little things in life: spiders, insects, or buttons — a condition known as koumpounophobia apparently.
Some of us are scared of life itself. Or more precisely, the stories of our life.
I believe in the transformative power of personal stories, specifically our Origin Stories.
The problem is many of us are scared of sharing our stories.
How do I know this? Two reasons.
- I work with entrepreneurs, founders, owners and business leaders to help them find, write and share their Origin Stories with the world. Almost everyone I’ve worked with is terrified of what people will think if they put a little bit of themselves out there.
- Because I’m terrified myself.
Table of contents
The critic in your head
I’ve been helping people tell their stories for over 20 years but for as long as I can remember I’ve been afraid of stepping into my own story. For years, I struggled to figure out what character I was supposed to play.
I jumped from job to job hoping to find myself in the process. Even after I carved out a career as a freelance writer in my early 30’s I still had this nagging doubt that I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live. Or could be living.
I wasn’t living up to my potential.
I could do more.
The silent (but noisy) critic in my head became more and more persistent when I started my own business and started sharing personal stories to promote it.
After all, if I’m a storytelling consultant I’ve got to practise what I preach, right? I’ve got to share my own stories.
But I was terrified. And I didn’t know why
Après-Post Panic Attack
I’ve written on LinkedIn before about the fear that most people feel when it comes to posting personal stories.
Some of us are terrified about what other people will think about us.
I know I am.
I’ve worked as a journalist for 20 years but writing about other people is easy compared to putting yourself out there. Tim Grahl is a book marketing guru with multiple clients on the New York Times bestseller list. In his book ‘Running Down a Dream’ he writes about the fear of writing and sharing your work:
“It’s one thing to be afraid of getting in a car crash, a rabid dog attacking you or a mugger coming out of a dark alley…But what was I afraid of here? There was no physical danger in pursuing my writing. Nobody was going to hurt me because they read an article I wrote. And yet, I was terrified. I was so afraid to put something I wrote out into the world.”
I’ve been sharing stories on LinkedIn for four years and I still feel anxious every time I put a little piece of myself out into the world. So much so that I came up with a name for it.
Après-Post Panic Attack or APPA is that feeling you get a few minutes after you’ve pressed the big blue Post button on LinkedIn and shared your thoughts with the world.
APPA hit me hard when I started sharing my stories a couple of years ago. The good news is it gets easier as you build up your writing and posting muscles.
Flying with a baby
It’s like flying with a baby. The first time you do it, you’re on edge the whole flight wondering what the people around you must think as your child screams their lungs out. You soon learn that once the plane takes off what happens next is largely out of your control.
Your only job is to look after your child as best you can, not to worry what the people around you think. That doesn’t mean you let them run riot. If they spew, or swing off the headrest of the seat in front of you, or run up and down the aisle, obviously you do your best to control them, BUT you cannot control what other people feel or think about you.
When we post our thoughts and ideas to a public platform, we’re afraid of being judged, of what people might think or say about us behind our backs. Some people worry that if they reveal too much of their personality they’ll put people off. ****But that’s okay too. You’re better off targeting your kind of people rather than trying to be all things to everyone.
Some people wish they lived in a time when they didn’t have to feed the social media machine to get attention for their work. But as obvious as it sounds, if you want your work to be seen, you have to put it out there. That’s always been the case.
Susan Cain, the author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, tells a great story about Charles Darwin that should reassure anyone who beats themselves up because they’re afraid of sharing their story.
“People have always had to put themselves out there. We tend to think that in the good old days, no one had to self-promote the way we do today. True—but if they wanted to share, or lead, or create, they had to go public with their thoughts too. And this has always been scary. Darwin waited 34 years to publish his idea that humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. Scholars call this ‘Darwin’s Delay.'”
Whatever you post is unlikely to be as controversial, ground-breaking or important as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, so why wait 34 years before publishing what’s on your mind.
Nobody really gives a shit
I work with business leaders, entrepreneurs and consultants to help them figure out their Origin Story and share it with the world. Over the last two years, pretty much everyone I’ve worked with has two things in common.
- They all have a story to tell.
- They’re all scared of sharing that story.
That fear is a story in itself. It’s a story that a lot of us tell ourselves over the years to avoid standing out from the crowd.
I’m not a shrink.
I’m not an expert on mindset.
And I’m not a fearless storyteller myself.
Does that make me a fraud? I don’t think so. It’s just part of being human.
Steven Pressfield in his book ‘Turning Pro’ calls this fear we all feel, Resistance.
“If we are suddenly overwhelmed by fear, self-sabotage, the desire to procrastinate, to distract ourselves, we’re onto something. We’ve struck gold and if we feel this huge Resistance to it, it’s a good sign because now all we have to do is confront that project and do the work.”
Matt Church, the founder of Thought Leaders says that anyone who is in business for themselves, anyone who has to market or sell anything, has to get their head around this paradox:
“What I do is really, really important and I must do it to the best of my ability.But at the same time, nobody really gives a shit.”
I love that idea of essentially letting go of what happens when you share your story and put yourself out there. If nobody really gives a shit, then what have you got to lose?
What’s your story?
When I first posted on LinkedIn I was worried about what my old schoolmates would think. I’m 49 so I haven’t seen most of my old school mates for over 30 years. And yet I was scared of what they might think about something I was writing on the other side of the world. Ridiculous, right?
Stop worrying about what people will think or say. If you want to overcome APPA, taking action is the only way to overcome your fear of sharing your stories.
Start small by engaging with other people’s content.
Comment on what they’ve posted but add something to the conversation. Agree or disagree with what they’ve posted and back up your point with a story or quote of your own.
Learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t.
And build from there.
For years, the story I told myself was that I was terrified of sharing my stories. But good things started to happen when I got over myself.
When I overcame my fears.
It’s never too late to change the stories you tell yourself. What’s your story and what’s stopping you from sharing it?