“If you try to get rid of fear and anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.“
– Deepak Chopra
This ruling fear.
Usually, I start with only one quote that the blog posts are circling back to. But due to the topic today – fear – I found two quotes that were quite fitting. The one above talks more about ignoring your fears (and also anger) or rather avoiding them. The other one is from Karl Augustus Menninger and goes like “Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.“.
It is somewhat important to understand why fear – and especially the fear of going broke – is such an important trait of my personality. One that led me to bad decisions in the past and keeps me from reaching my goals. Or make me take an extra turn to reach them. It’s an example of subconscious thoughts and unhealthy mindsets that keep us from getting what we want. And also keep us up at night. At 3 am. While on vacation in Barcelona.
The tighter the grip the longer it lasts.
One thing I learned during the last two years is that once you are the anxious type of person you stay anxious. It’s not a bad thing, especially once you‘ve embraced and accepted it. Being afraid of something for example heights doesn’t keep me from walking up small stairways to get the best views. It just makes the ride a bit more uncomfortable.
But knowing that the feeling I get while climbing up the stairs is a byproduct of my anxiety gives me a tool to keep going and place the feeling in the right box. In this case labeled as „hey, I am afraid again. It’s irrational but I let’s continue what I am doing anyway. Nothing to worry about. Keep going.“
Circling back to the Menninger quote some fears turned out to be a part of my anxious personality (heights, narrow spaces, the open sea) while others (not being able to fit in or going broke) were rather installed.
Growing up in a very restrictive area in Germany with a Single mom with two kids wasn’t easy. For any of us. On the one hand, it was pretty hard for me to fit in. I never liked being like everyone else. I liked the spotlight and being outspoken. I cared for new stuff and strange music. And my goal wasn’t to settle and find a husband just to end up in the kitchen. Instead, I dived into the strange world of Japanese comic books, read a lot and listened to music to very bad electronic music.
It helped to get used to being different but I ended up working for a company full of blend in people. And me trying to blend in til my life and personality was so dull and boring I saw everything in shades of grey. So much for overcompensating my „hey, I am different“-teenage years.
Density. Fear. All while growing up.
Next to that, there was this constant fear of not having enough money around when I was younger. Which was understandable because having two kids on your own is hard. Even if you work full time and there is no one around to teach you the art of working smarter not harder. And you have a mindset of „only things you worked hard for or valuable“, „nothing in life comes for free“ and „don’t ask for help, do everything on your own“. A fatal combination of dogmas and behavior that led to a very bad attitude towards money.
Also with the fear of going broke came a lot of comparing. Like „look at what they can afford, that’s unfair“ or „look at what they are wearing“ etc. etc. Would it have been smarter to ask „Hey, how can they afford that and what can I do to get to the same place?“ Definitely. But in total it ended up as us never being one of the rich kids with the golden spoons. Or pumped up kicks. And overall it felt like we were being social outcasts.
The art of installing fear.
Have you ever looked at your fears and asked yourself how many of them really have a real incident or root that created them? Looking back on life, there wasn’t a time when I didn’t have a roof over my head or didn’t have enough money to buy food. Not as a kid, not as an adult. Whenever money problems arose, a solution did present itself to. After some time. Sometimes with hard work but it was there.
But when you grow up in an environment with the constant lingering fear of not having enough money. You really end up having just one big fear in life: Not making enough money. Like ever. And like every other self-fulfilling prophecy you work for it. Hard.
Get to know the meaning.
My fear of not making enough money crossed part with another fear of myself. Not being good enough. Combine both as an aspiring freelancer and you have a very lethal combination. Because without believing in yourself you don’t ask for the price that you are worth as an entrepreneur. You always try to justify why you charge what you charge.
And that makes people suspicious. If you don’t believe in your self or have the sincere and deep understanding that you offer a valuable service, why shoot they believe in you? So you enter the sphere of price bargaining. Bargaining about what you are worth. Which leads to another problem: You’re fueling your fear of being unworthy and by that reiterating and intensifying your dogmas.
Also without being charged fairly you don‘t make the money you need to escape the fear of not-making-enough-money. Then you attract the wrong kind of client and get into a hamster wheel of feeling undervalued and unworthy. Which could cause you to either asking for less money or quitting the game.
Back to square one.
When I read the quote from Deepak Chopra I asked myself two things. First, how can I get rid of my fear? Or rather how do I tend to push my fear away? And secondly, what does my fear want to tell me.
The answer to the first question came pretty easy for me: Going back to my old corporate life. Forgetting everything I learned. Pushing away my new thoughts, ideas and beliefs and once more trying to fit in. A relaxing thought for maybe half a second. Because deep inside me I know what this means for me and my life. How I would struggle again and how difficult and painful it would be.
So after half a second, my real self shone through and I started asking myself „What the heck? What have you been working for these past four years? Is that really how you want to spend your life?“
And especially the last question I can answer very quickly: No, I don’t. I don’t want to go back to square one. I don’t want to dress up every morning, walk into an office with fixed working hours, strict timetables and not much space for personal growth. Or much space for a different kind of personality. Because having rough edges would be interrupted to the system. So pushing my fear of going broke is not the way to go for me.
But WHAT does IT mean?
So even if I sit now wide awake at night writing these lines, with my fear of getting broke having a tight grip on me, I can say with some certainty: I don’t want to go back. But then why does my fear try to haunt me and what does it want to tell me?
At first, I had no clue. After sitting awake for an hour I started to get a feeling what the message was. But I started to see what the fear is doing with me and my train of thought. It was changing my focus or, if we stay with the train image, my destination. It was the big road sign or the big billboard at the side of the road pointing my unhealthy and un-smart attitude towards money out.
Simply by listening to it and noticing what my fear was ranting about, I started to get an understanding of what was going on. My fear made my thoughts change from „I can do that and there is room and need for my photography services“ to „oh my goooooood how will I ever pay back the KfW?“. From „I am worth every penny and I offer a valuable service“ to „yes but there are easier ways to have a fixed income“. From „I find a way to do photography and still have a future in Saxony“ (long story) to „the only way I could make a living there is by going back to my old employer“ (and probably getting fat, depressed and un-likable).
As a shapeshifter, it started to corrupt my positive mindset and tried to lure me to a different destination. The train of thought was leaving to a very dark destination. And I didn’t want to arrive there. So what can one do?
Keeping fear at bay.
Fear is a very mean beast. It sneaks up on you when you expect it the least. Like tonight. While I am on vacation in Barcelona and shouldn’t be worrying about money. Because I saved up for this trip in advance. And was sticking to a budget for such a long time that I could quit my day job to go work as a working student for an agency.
So one step is to make a fact check. Like in my case. Everything was fine. I even had a budget for unexpected expenses. And a backup plan. So there’s really no reason, from a rational standpoint, to get nervous.
But from an emotional standpoint, my bad behavior in the past makes me doubt my capability of doing well with money. Like I said, fear is a mean beast. And since I am in a transitional phase I am over-delicate.
Which is another indicator of things I need to work on. Remember the beginning when I wrote about attitudes towards money? I still need to work on my mindset. So I have started to not ask myself „What is the reasonable price for this service and how can I justify this price?“. Instead I ask myself: „What is my assessment of the value for this service?“ And then communicate this value. And standing by it. Which ends up with me and a totally different attitude: My services have a value. And this attitude makes working as a freelancer a lot easier.
Every once in a while this attitude gets a little blow from other people, life, comments or whatever happens around you. So luckily I found this really empowering podcast from Julie Solomon. It’s called „The Influencer Podcast“ and gives influencer great insights and has amazing guests. Although I don’t want to become an influencer or make money off my Instagram channel (way to much work) I really appreciate the positive attitude and real personal insights of Julie and her guest. It helps me to get back on track and focus on my journey instead of chasing other peoples (life-)goals. It’s my go-to spot whenever I start to doubt myself business-wise. You can find the podcast on iTunes or here.