When scary opportunities come along, do you resist the urge to run away?

I have a tendency to talk myself out of things that frighten me. Quitting a course training to be a conference interpreter in my 20s, I decided to give up the nail-biting challenge rather than fight my way up from the bottom of the class. Over the years I’ve avoided applying for jobs that I may be a good fit for, fearing rejection – or getting the job but not being good enough. I once actually turned down a job in New York (if you please!) because the thought of not being up to it terrified me. When the familiarity of the comfort zone beckons, sometimes it can be too hard to resist. And in my case, I’ll often avoid facing a challenge for fear of failure, and the impact that failure would have on my confidence.

So when I was asked to try out for a part-time role on a newspaper – an unfamiliar environment, involving a different mindset, quick thinking and new skills – my immediate thought was “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail?” Every time I thought of it, previous career glitches flashed through my mind, confirming the belief that I’m better off doing my own thing, master of my own destiny rather than working on a team. And – I’m ashamed to admit – there was also the fear that I’m too old for such a move. Would I fit in? Am I too set in my ways? Would I struggle with the tech systems and processes and show myself up? Would I cope with being around people all day? And how would I get through the day without my afternoon nap? Terrified and full of negativity and apprehension, I almost talked myself out of it.

I’ve now been in the role for three months and it’s been quite a journey. Stressful, overwhelming, exhausting, frustrating – but also exciting. Yes, learning new systems was a nightmare for the first few weeks, but with lots of trial and error I managed it. Of course I’ve made the odd mistake, but also had the satisfaction of learning something new and feeling the buzz of achievement. And being old? There are loads of people older than me there and it’s the kind of office where wisdom and experience are actually respected. No two days are the same and the mental challenge keeps me fired up (no time for naps).

While some opportunities genuinely may not be good for us, I think what I’ve learnt is to take each one on its merits. Don’t just default to ‘That’s not for me, I’m not good at that’ because you might be walking away from something that could really suit you. I almost did.

Words: Marina Gask

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