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Make the most of your fear

At The Alternative Board recently, fellow York blogger Ed Reid took a straw poll of members to discover what is in their small business room 101 – the place where their very worst nightmares live.

Most of the answers revolved around fear – fear of the work drying up, fear of letting people down, fear of not realising our potential. 

My answer was the fear of making a bad decision, of getting it wrong – and plenty of people had similar fears. We spend a lot of time trying to talk ourself out of these fears in small business – but is that really necessary?

Not only is it natural to feel anxious when you’ve gone so far out of your comfort zone as to start your own business – but maybe that fear can be made useful.


Actors and public speakers don’t do away with their nerves – they learn to use them, to turn them into energy that fires a powerful stage presence. To take another example, a tight deadline can bring the best out of you – it’s a different kind of fear, but it just goes to show how sometimes, feeling slightly pressured can be turned into a good thing.

We need to learn to strike the balance between ‘good fear’, which makes you generate energy and perform at your best, and ‘bad fear’, which paralyses you and makes your work suffer. I think there is also another extreme where you have no fear at all – being so relaxed and calm you don’t particularly care any more!

A week in the life of a self-employed person probably covers all these extremes – your confidence certainly runs in peaks and troughs, and that’s ok, and it’s normal. The trick is to learn from what’s going on inside you, understand your emotions and figure out how to work with them so you can be at your best all the time. But realise, as long as you're out of your comfort zone - you are growing, and it is going to be scarey. 

Also, supportive relationships with other business owners can help. In his blog, Ed says about my fear: “Hopefully, discussing your big decisions round the TAB table can help guard against that one.” And I’m hoping he’s right, as this is one of the main reasons why I joined.

It’s not easy to learn about yourself, to be honest with yourself and accept where you could be coping better. But it is the key to managing your fears – and making good use of them.