The first time I performed in front of a large audience, I was three years old. I did my poetry recital for a packed auditorium, loud and proud, not scared at all.
For the next twenty years, I was in various performances, from solo singing to choral performances to theater plays. It was clear to me that the older I grew, the more scared I became.
Call it what you want—imposter syndrome, fraud, self-doubt, inner critic, my own exceptionally high expectations led to my inability to lose myself in performances.
You freeze up when you’re scared.
The more time you spend contemplating your own inadequacy, the harder it is for you to take action.
Here are the three simple steps to take control of fear when you’re scared:
1. Focus on your purpose, not on yourself.
Remind yourself why you wanted to do this thing in the first place.
When I first started novel writing, I didn’t have any formal literary training except years of reading and writing for myself. It was simply a way of self-expression and therapy. It took over four years to finish that first novel.
Every time I got stuck, I thought about quitting. I felt vulnerable, letting others read and criticize my work. When my agent gave me feedback to revise the manuscript, I felt inadequate as a writer. With each round of challenges, I became keenly aware of my limitations.
It was at those times I reminded myself why I wrote. I want to bring rich, complex Asian female characters to life in my novels. The desire stems from the disappointment in finding relatable Asian women in stories. In fiction, Asian women don’t make it to the center stage often enough to be considered a trope. Those women who do, tend to be stereotypically submissive, exotic, or manipulative.
Asian women have far more depth and emotions than what this country has seen in words and on screens. A growing community of writers are changing the perspectives on Asian women in contemporary literature. I want to add my voice to the movement.
2. Set a tiny goal as the first step.
Your ultimate goal is intimidating; otherwise, it wouldn’t be worthy of your aspiration.
Most people daydream without doing anything toward their goal because they’re too afraid to take action. Break that ultimate goal into bite-size micro-goals. This will shorten the distance between you and your next goal, thus making it easier to achieve.
Breaking down your ultimate goal also makes it easier for you to shift strategies to accommodate unforeseen changes. For example, if you’re planning to start a home studio for your own YouTube channel. Instead of rushing to buy cameras, screens, microphones, lighting, begin with the tools you already have and see what you can come up with. Find a good topic or hook, film a twenty-second video, post it, and gauge its engagement.
If your original idea didn’t work, you can experiment with another one until you find your niche. As you become more experienced, you can then upgrade to better equipment.
Start small and build up your tolerance and flexibility. Remember, one bite at a time, and one day at a time.
3. Learn from others.
Chances are others have done what you’re scared of. Look for people who have lived through the same situation and learn from their experiences. Put yourself in their shoes and listened to what advice they may have.
Join groups where like-minded people hang out. Pay attention to what kinds of obstacles they encountered on their journeys. How did they overcome fear when things went wrong? What should you prepare for similar situations? As you gather strategies and action plans for various challenges, you’ll feel more in control. You no longer fear the big unknown because you already have the answers to the challenges ahead.
Think about the dream you have and all the reasons you tell yourself you can’t succeed. Make the next 12 months your year of action. Make things happen because you deserve it.
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