Don’t let your fear of being seen hold you back says Em Stroud

The fear of being seen can be attached to many things, many deeply held beliefs about who we are, what we can do and where we see ourselves in the world. The work I’ve done with my clients has shown me that fear of being seen is based on any of these concerns:

Fear of failure – If I try something new, or if I change, then of course it will be a huge failure. It won’t work, so why try. We all know this one, don’t we?

Fear of success – I’m comfortable where I’m at. We are so comfortable where we’re at that the idea of succeeding is scarier than the fear of both failure and staying the same.

Fear of being “too out there” – I don’t want to be too much for people. I know this one so well. It can feel too intimidating to be fully us and we worry about judgement, yes from others, but mainly from ourselves. When I launched my podcast Clowning Around I was worried that the idea of me being a Clown would be “too much” for people. I didn’t think people would get it. Turns out they do get it and they like it. So, you gotta love the inaccuracy of our internal monologue, right? When have you made assumptions and they turned out wrong? Are you doing that right now?

Fear of not being “out there” enough – I don’t have anything significant to share. Converse to the fear above, when I am working with people and they’re telling their stories, those that have had a “normal” life always worry that their past isn’t “out there” enough to warrant telling their story. They’re afraid that no one will care about their experiences and history. This is just not true. Each of us has a story. You have had moments in your life that make you uniquely you. That uniqueness could help someone else change their life.

Fear of always being a failure in your own mind – I’ll just ended up screwing it up. If you come from a background that was tricky like mine was, sadly we can be left with the feeling we will never be enough. In its simplest terms that is the legacy of trauma. If that is your truth, get professional help, I have had therapy for years now and without that support there is no way you would be reading this.

I wonder: Which of the fears above feels like yours?
Maybe this is a good time to get a notebook out. It’s that time for you to do some thinking, (whoop de whoop) and start to write down what it is that stops you from being seen, from being fully you in the world in front of everyone. What are your behaviours like at home versus work? Do you ever wish that your work colleagues knew you have a brilliant sense of humour or that your partner realised you have a very serious side (or the other way round?) Do you wish that your parents knew who you are now so that you didn’t have to revert back to being your teenaged self for them?

I have some ideas on how you can get over your fear and move past whatever is holding you back.
First, you must know deeply what is holding you back from being all of you. This is the start of not being scared by your own brilliance anymore. If as you read brilliance you baulked, because you don’t think that you are brilliant … trust me, you are. We all are. It does not mean we all have to be famous, have huge social media followings, or in fact do anything other than allow ourselves to be all of ourselves. Knowing that you deserve to be you and be brilliant in all of you, that’s your work.

We live in a world where the desire to be seen, to be visible, to be out there, is all consuming. Through social media, the pressure for how we are seen has only grown and will continue to unless we realise that as individuals, we have a choice, and we can be seen on our terms. We can take charge of who we really are. By allowing ourselves to be seen fully when we are happy with who we are, causes the fear to go. We mask up for approval when the pressure to be who we think we should be is ruling our freedom to be fully us.

We are so quick to judge and compare. The most damaging thing is that we do it to ourselves in the harshest and cruellest ways. It is always easier to look at others than to look at ourselves.

Abridged extract from Lessons From A Clown: How to find courage and show up for yourself and laugh every day, by Em Stroud and Orange.

Em Stroud is a performer, emcee, entrepreneur, coach, TedX speaker and host of the To 30 podcast Clowning Around. She is also a clown.

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