Stepping up through fear

Terri Connellan is a Sydney-based Certified Life Coach, Teacher, Writer and Psychological Type practitioner accredited in the Majors Personality Type Inventory™ and Majors PT-Elements™. A speaker on psychological type and transition, with a successful 30-year career in adult education, she works globally through her creative business, Quiet Writing, encouraging deeper self-understanding of body of work and psychological type for more wholehearted lives. You can connect with Terri at and on social media as @writingquietly.

Terri talk us though the implications that fear plays in our lives, how to recognize it and, most importantly, step up. Fear presents itself in multiples ways and is something that I am continuously learning and working through. I believe this is such an important and interesting topic, take a read.

Stepping up through fear

Life presents us with a series of opportunities and chances to step up. Times of transition such as career change, promotion, redundancy and establishing our own business mean we are required to step up in some way. Sometimes this is through our own choice. Other times it is through circumstances thrust upon us. 

In our transition to new careers or businesses, we are required to create ourselves anew, embracing skills like speaking, writing, blogging, podcasting, marketing, selling, networking and packaging ourselves up in new ways.

A common feeling that emerges in times of transition and stepping up is fear. But it doesn’t always look like fear. It can masquerade as resistance, procrastination, waiting to be asked or that thing we never quite get around to. Sometimes we recognise it as more full-blown fear that stops us in our tracks.

I have learned to step up through fear in a number ofways. Through my reading, I’ve found inspiring thoughts to help me reframe, understand and navigate times of stepping up. I share my experiences and learning from reading to inspire your own stepping up through fear.

Knowing yourself and your body of work

Knowing myself, including my personality type and preferences, has been a powerful ally. I know that when preparing to speak and present as an introvert with INTJ preferences, it helps me to work from my strengths of envisioning, working intuitively, writing, being organized and synthesizing information. It takes time but it’s worth the investment. If I am well-prepared, I’m more confident to speak from the heart. And that preparation is never wasted time, resulting in work I can reshape for other purposes and circumstances.

My body of work over time is a strong bulwark against fear. Linking and drawing on the skills and strengths I’ve developed over time gives me a toehold to step into new circumstances with confidence. I can connect new contexts with familiar ones and find a way to move into them. Pamela Slim’s book, Body of Work is a valuable read to help connect the various threads and ingredients in your story over time.

Recognising the two kinds of fear

Knowing that fear itself has a number of dimensions can help immensely too. Tara Mohr in Playing Big explains that there are two different words for fear in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing on the work of Rabbi Alan Lew, she explains these two different words and kinds of fear:

pachad - an over-reactive, irrational kind of fear where we imagine the worst of what might happen, often via the voice of our inner critic

yirah - a word for fear with three different, more expansive dimensions: “It is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to. It is the feeling we experience when we suddenly come into possession of considerably more energy than we had before. It is what we feel in the presence of the divine.” (From Tara Mohr, Playing Big)

Often these two types of fear get intermingled. I’ve found it helpful to be able to recognise the type of fear I feel when stepping up to hold a larger space and engage with more energy. We need to work out how to notice and embrace the fear that connects us with playing on a bigger stage or showing up in a deeper way in the world.

As a personal example, I’ve recently stepped up into speaking in my career as a life coach specializing in personality and psychological type. I submitted to speak on type and transition at an international conference on psychological type in the UK. I’m a trained teacher and often spoke to groups as a leader in my previous career in adult education; but this was different. I was claiming a space to speak to other international practitioners as an expert in type. I knew it was something I could do but it would take work and stepping up through fear.

Knowing myself and my strengths helped. Recognising that a large dimension of the fear I felt was about moving forward in line with my calling, with being seen and speaking my truth, helped me to say yes to this opportunity and claim it. I did and I eventually spoke comfortably and successfully to a room of experienced international type practitioners, receiving positive feedback about my shared learning and practice frameworks. And I’ve since been accepted for another similar opportunity!

 Recognising ‘The Upper Limit Problem’

The other powerful knowledge about stepping up throughfear that has guided me is from Gay Hendricks’ book, The Big Leap. Hendricks helped me to recognise and call out the ‘Upper Limit Problem’.

We experience the Upper Limit Problem when we are pushing into new space beyond that which we have set for ourselves as comfortable based on past experience: 

“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.”  

from Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap

By being able to call out this Upper Limit Problem, we can recognise the power of stepping up through it into new space and what Hendricks calls our ‘Zone of Genius.”

You might find that the Upper Limit feelings strike when you are doing exactly what feels right and in alignment for you. It’s like we know just how to trip our own switch and shift into self-sabotage mode. Hendricks encourages us to learn how to recognise that tendency and give the positive, more expansive feelings fuller attention.

The power of language

Having the language to talk about “playing big”, feeling “yirah”, experiencing “an upper limit problem” and stepping into our “zone of genius” is helpful too. In a Mastermind group I am part of, I have been able to share my experiences and use this language. I could call out and name the fear as I stepped up into speaking in a new waywith all the feelings that came along with this.

Both Mohr and Hendricks make the distinction between fear that keeps us small, limited and ego-focused and fear that is a hallmark of stepping up and playing to our full potential. As Hendricks shares: 

I found that my biggest resistance was the fear of owning my full potential.”

from Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap.

Embracing our potential 

Are you feeling fear about stepping up? If so, how much ofyour fear is an indicator of owning your full potential andcalling, being seen and being heard? 

Understanding fear is a common, real and persistent feeling as we step up in our work in the world helps us move through it. Stepping up means moving through fear. But it doesn’t have to be fearful. We can move through with wisdom, knowledge, discernment and a sense of owning our journey.

When we get to the other side of a phase of fear and stop for a moment, we can often feel that sense of owning our “zone of genius”. It is that work that only we can do in the world with all of our unique influences and skill. And every experience of fear that we step through gives us more skill and courage to keep moving through into that zone of genius and share it more fully with the world.

References/further reading:

Hendricks PhD, Gay. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Mohr, Tara. Playing Big: Find your voice, your vision and make things happen. Random House. Kindle Edition.

Slim, Pamela. Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Author: Terri Connellan, website: email: