Take A Moment

Facing the Fear & Anxiety of Disappointment

Everyone is afraid of something and our safe bet it to try to avoid the things that scare or ask a lot from us - a major exam, a job interview, performing on stage or proposing a project. But most times than not, we cannot avoid our fears. They may be a part of our work or daily lives. What do we do? Some people go through their lives trying to avoid these uncomfortable situations or blame our fears when we fail. While others prepare to face these fears head on.

I always thought that being scared or nervous were weaknesses. I did a lot of avoiding uncomfortable interactions at the beginning of my solopreneur career as a designer. I did enough meetups to get projects and work. But I realized how shallow these relationships were. I want long-lasting and giving relationships - personally and professionally. This meant meeting more people, listening, learning and also being vulnerable.

I am sure a lot of us are afraid of giving away our time and effort for something or someone that results in disappointment or hurt. It makes us guarded and skeptical. There is no fault in thinking like this, I still do. But I realized that I was closing myself off to the opportunities I was too afraid to pursue. A project proposal to prepare and present may not always be selected or be put off for another time. A meeting with a new acquaintance may leave you deflated or annoyed. But this is part of the journey. You try something out and see if it works. You can be surprised to see how your misconceptions can be proven wrong.

You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.
— Maxwell Maltz

A breakthrough for myself was attending the Communo Summit 2018 in Calgary Alberta last week. I have mentioned in earlier posts that I have been a member for about 8 months now. I wanted a community, some work and learn about the sharing economy - an industry trend. I believed going to Calgary would be a window to what the future could hold for me. In short, I was not disappointed. What I think sets Communo apart is the giving attitude of the community. Everyone is a professional in their chose niche and market, yet we are all willing to grow together as an industry of professionals. Learning from each other’s experiences and knowledge while offering opportunities to work and succeed together.

I was surprised to meet so many people who have been in the business for years tell me that they are still learning and making mistakes. An overarching theme I got from the summit was to know yourself and your skills, know your audience and know what value you are offering to others. This is not a community where individuals compete for all they can get, rather sharing and leveraging the network to support your individual goals.

For example, a fear of mine was that I was not an all-round new media designer. I excel in graphic design and brand development. But when it comes to video, motion graphics or even web design and coding I am at a huge lost. What could I do if a client wanted not only a brand redesign, but also a social media campaign to go with it? With this community, I can focus on my skills and passion while having access to professionals (and soon to be friends) that I can be confident to work with.

Overtime, I am starting to see that, fears and anxieties can be useful. If it was not the anxiety of facing the industry alone or getting left behind by the industry, I would not have sought a community to belong in and grow with. Our fears are like internal alarms and sirens warning and notifying us to be on alert or to start preparing and working towards something better. In a situation of an upcoming test, to avoid failure, we learn and study to face the questions of the test. It can seem to simple, but I understand that when you are stressed it may not always be so clear.

 

Calculated Risk

What scares us will always be there. We are risking not only financial but also personal failure. So how are people able to manage these fears and pressures? In my opinion, entrepreneurs are not simply risk-takers, rather calculated risk-takers. And there is a huge difference. Since I am my biggest asset, all of my time and effort has to be calculated to make the most profit. What do I spend most of my time on, what skills should I develop more, what should I invest in more, business or design classes? These are the questions that I navigate through. So every decision demands efficient use of my time and work.

Therefore, the disappointments and setbacks can be full-on body blows when you see how much time you have wasted on a person or business venture that goes nowhere. It happens and you are not always prepared for it. All you can do is learn from it. Moreover, the more exposure you have with these experience, the disappointments and failures lessen in degree. Why? Because you learn how to deal with the problems. Instead of focusing on a mistake or failure, you begin to think of solutions and how you would have dealt in a situation better.

Don’t knock yourself down - life can do that for you. Be on your own side and calculate the risk. There is always something at risk if it is important to you. You want a better life, you want that dream job or dream client, make the necessary changes and move towards that goal. There will come a time when the risks become greater - you are spending more of your time and money meeting new people or talking with a particular client - but remember the returns on these investments are infinite. When you take risk out of the equation you lose the value that can be born from your efforts.

 

Vulnerability

It is hard not to get personal as a solopreneur. My skills and expertise are the products that I am offering to clients. In extension, that includes my experience and knowledge as a graphic and branding designer. To be an expert is to consistently produce a high standard to work in your field. As I develop, I am learning to balance and separate my achievements to the lessons I have learned along the way.

A virtue that I value is honesty. When you are honest with yourself, it shows, both good and bad. When we lie, we may feel embarrassed, nervous or anxious. When we tell the truth, it may be difficult at times, but there is a calm and serenity in that state. By being honest, you are being vulnerable. This has a negative connotation, as if you are naked on stage. But it can also be quite liberating. When we are vulnerable we are open to what can happen. We can plan and aim for goals, but life has a funny way of making the road long and winding.

To be honest, there are ups and downs. This past year as a freelancer, I have had great highs and deep lows. I have experienced loss and disappointment. But I have also been inspired, motivated, tested, and challenged to become my ideal. What other work or path pushed you to this point? Yes, there are times when I want to give up. But I also double-down on the thought, because I know that I am capable, I have the skills and work ethic and I am willing to change and give.

A small change that has a big impact to me daily routine is meditating. I never thought that there was time or value in it until I tried it. There are morning when I wake up scared and stressed. There are weeks and months when it has been this way. I realized that the time I spent worrying could be channeled into focusing my day (and breathing) into something positive. At first, it felt silly, sitting upright on the floor, breathing in and out my morning breath. Yet in reality, these are the first breaths of a new day. I am alive and I have a chance to make a difference in my life and the lives of the people around me. However way you may choose to look at it, there is nothing to be afraid of when you can always take another breath.

 

Not for the Faint of Heart

You decide how you want to live your life. There are conflicting ideas and opinions. But you can only know what you truly need and want out of life. I am learning more about myself on this path as a solopreneur. I see the benefits outweighing the risks and disappointments that have and may come along. It is not a glamorous life as a freelancer. To be put simply: More freedom = More responsibility.

Jet-setting around the world as a digital nomad has its perks of working on the beach, sipping on margaritas in 25 degree weather in Mexico. But the reality is that you are constantly building your relationships and skills to an obscenely intense manner. Your time and body is stretched and pushed beyond what you thought possible. You can go months without work. And with a family that can be alarming. This path will have you test and reexamine your relationships with family, friends, partners, team members and clients. You will be meeting many people, but not everyone will be along for the whole ride.

There will be conflict, disagreements, humbling and victorious moments. Everyone will not like you and that is okay. You do not need everyone to like you, remember, you have a target market. This path is overwhelming. My advice is to let it consume you. Take every moment and make the most of it and do it with a smile. Whatever you give will come back to you multiplied. Hold onto that hope and make it work. This work is not for the faint of heart, but to those you rise and overcome the fears and disappointments, struggles and failures there is greatness to be achieved. ■

Patricia Atienza