How one intern learnt to flourish despite her fears
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
– Nelson Mandela
As I started my internship at Leaderonomics, I was gripped with fear like never before. Being an intern was a whole new experience for me and I had no idea what was in store.
Coming to work one day, I had a huge shock when my supervisor entrusted me with a task that was absolutely terrifying – I was assigned to lead a focus group discussion.
Immediately, I began to struggle with the fear of inadequacy and being an introvert, this prospect soon turned into a nightmare.
The idea of leading a group of people that I hardly even knew took the breath out of me. As I led the discussion that day, I could literally hear my own heartbeat as I faced my colleagues.
With every word that came out from my mouth, I could feel a new bead of sweat forming.
Fortunately, my baptism of fire didn’t last forever – the discussion soon came to an end and I was free from my crippling emotions.
With an encouraging smile, my supervisor told me: “Good effort. Are you OK?”
Ouch! What a blow that was. The fear in me had been so obvious.
Springing into action
Despite my apprehension, I knew this would be a good starting point for me.
There were two pathways for my career at that point of time. I could either continue to allow my fear of feeling inadequate every time I was placed in an uncomfortable situation, or I could change.
The road to change is never easy. It is simpler and safer to stay in one’s comfort zone – a place where you are most confident in your strengths and where you feel the most ‘powerful’.
Yet, the outcome of change is growth. By leading a focus group discussion, I was tested in a situation where I felt that I had to prove myself, where my weaknesses were exposed and I had to quickly make a decision to ‘swim’ or ‘sink’.
Acknowledging the fear
As I reflected back on my leadership crisis during the group discussion, I was able to pinpoint my biggest hindrance: Fear.
It had such a tight grip on me that it affected my abilities as a leader.
From then on, I decided that the ultimate weapon to conquer this foe is to take that step of courage and change.
I started out slow, but gradually progressed. With a renewed mindset, a new drive, and countless ‘checkpoints’ with my supervisor, I slowly guided myself to change.
Over the subsequent weeks, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to continuously grow in this area, by what else – leading more group discussions!
“Do the thing you fear, and continue to do so. This is the quickest and surest way of all victory over fear.” – Dale Carnegie
Over time, I noticed a change in myself. I was starting to speak with more confidence, and I no longer broke out in cold sweat as I used to. I felt good about myself.
The slightest nod from the crowd assured me that what I spoke throughout the discussion was of relevance.
Even my supervisor saw the progress in me. That joy was beyond description.
It took a tough situation to help me realise my fears, but it took an even tougher decision to change myself. It was not an overnight thing, but it was a good journey of discovery.
Slowly but surely, like a butterfly coming out from its cocoon, soon I was learning and growing each day.
Although fear is generally viewed as a terrible crippling force, I believe if it’s used accordingly, it has the power to motivate one’s self.
A great man of history once said:
“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but rather to harness and master it.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.