Developing Nerves of Steel: Choreographing the Butterflies in Your Stomach
By: Nicole Hudson, Career Mastered Magazine Contributor
We’ve all been there – the sweaty palms, the butterflies in your stomach, the fear of failure, the dread of the unknown. How do we overcome those feelings and use that nervous energy to our advantage? How do we as women develop nerves of steel?
Consider the source of your nerves. Is it a lack of understanding of the task, mastery of the topic, or a new setting? Or is it something else altogether? Are you a perfectionist? Or even a procrastinator, leaving yourself unprepared?
Conquering your nerves isn’t simply about faking it ‘til you make it, sometimes there is something more complex driving your feelings. Perhaps it is imposter syndrome. First described in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. Or perhaps you are an insecure overachiever, seeking external validation instead of looking inward at your accomplishments.
Ask yourself, is it fear of failure or fear of success causing those butterflies?
Some people pretend to be experts, diminishing their credibility, others prefer to fly solo lest they be discovered. And many of us default to the role of superwoman, without developing the nerves of steel needed to truly be one.
Where to Start
The first step in overcoming imposter syndrome or your tendency to be an insecure overachiever is to be brutally honest with yourself. Define the source of your discomfort. Take inventory and decide if it was luck or ability that landed you where you are today. (Hint, it’s not luck.)
If the source of your discomfort is a lack of knowledge or skills, get additional training, and choose opportunities that will afford you the experience you need to take that next step. Don’t discount the importance of mentors, not just for factual information, but also for intangible life skills. Research has found that these types of insecurities are even more pronounced in women and minorities and that the source of the insecurities is personal, not professional. Here’s yet another reason to cultivate personal and professional networks to help gain the confidence and reinforcement needed to help develop a steely reserve.
Every opportunity is a chance to set yourself up for success.
By taking the time to explore your strengths and weaknesses and build your confidence, your authentic understanding will shine through. Delving into the source of your insecurity and fear will allow you to overcome, develop those nerves of steel, corral the butterflies and turn that nervous energy into positive productivity.
Give Yourself Space, Allow Yourself Grace
Harnessing that nervous energy is a process that requires equal parts practice and patience. Consider this – conquest through competence, mastery through motivation. Congratulate yourself on your successes, no matter how great or small they may be. Give yourself permission to fail, sometimes we learn more from our losses than our wins.
Remember, none of us was born with nerves of steel. They are something born out of the experience, cultivated, and nurtured over time.