How My Career Humbled Me and Inspired Me to Challenge Fear

L. Alexander
3 min readDec 30, 2019

When it came to my education and career, I had always excelled. Then, real life hit. I began a role that was newly created so I had to define it as I did the work. I had no specific guidelines to tell me how, when, and why. I was responsible for figuring all of that out. Now, you may be thinking, that’s great, I would love that freedom. It sounds more fun than it is. I love my job, I really do, but I was challenged like never before.

What did I learn about myself?

I hate being wrong. I don’t like failing (I know, no one does). I’m an over thinker to the point where I get in my own way.

I hate being wrong so much that it resulted in me not making any decisions at all. If I made a decision I would stress myself out and become super anxious while overthinking every step. I really had to ask myself… who do you think you are that you feel like you can’t make mistakes? Is it pride? Are you worried about what others think of you? Where did this come from?

That’s when I realized that this was a new type of pressure for me. A large part of my success was because I was always very clear of what success looked like and how to achieve it. In college, I knew what classes I had to take and when, the syllabus outlined the work that needed to be completed, and I knew what grades I needed in order to graduate. I worked for my previous organization for over six years and I used policy and procedure to guide every decision I made. It was very clear what was expected of my performance.

My current role is very similar to entrepreneurship. I must identify problems, create solutions, be a critical thinker, and define what success looks like for my team. There is no procedural manual I can reference when I’m unsure. Not to mention that I’m not just responsible for my own performance, but that I’m managing change for the entire North America region. Granted, I have a smart, supportive manager, but who wants to run to their manager for every decision? I should be a critical thinker, take chances, and brainstorm ideas before I seek his help. Besides, when I explain a problem to him, his first response will always be “What do you think you should do?” or “What do you need from me?”

It’s not that I was incapable of doing any of this, it’s just that I simply never had to. It took me about 6 months to even identify what was holding me back. I can be prideful and I do care what people think of me. I am not as confident as I thought, and I battle with imposter syndrome. Admitting that is not easy. After finally realizing these things about myself it was time to do the work. I was honest with my manager about this so that he could challenge me and hold me accountable. I obtained a mentor within my organization, and an accountability partner. I now actively seek opportunities within my career and personal life that challenge me. It’s such scary feeling to intentionally challenge my fears, but as Will Smith says, “Danger is real, but fear is a choice.”

If you read this and it made you think about how you’ve played it in the safe zone for far too long, or made you realize you gravitate towards what’s familiar and comfortable… I challenge you to seek an opportunity that scares you. It’s how we become comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is where real growth happens. You’ll either win or you’ll learn. I’ve learned so much about myself while choosing to overcome things that scare me. I’m excited to see what this experience builds me up to become!

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L. Alexander

“I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.” -Lena Waithe