Childhood Fears Hurting Your Career

2 Childhood Fears Now Hurting Your Career

Go back to your days as a happy, snotty, sneezy, little kid, running all around the house, introducing your forehead to every sharp corner you can find. Do you remember those times? While they may seem like memories of a time long ago, many of us still hold onto our childhood fears. Those same fears have now turned into actual monsters that eat away at our professional potential, preventing us from truly growing up. Let’s talk about two of them.

The Dark

Can you recall your fearful fascination with things in the dark? Boogeymen, ghosts, monsters: You'd rather eat all your “vegeterribles" than sleep with the lights out.

I find it really interesting that, even as adults, our reaction to the dark remains the same. The darkness obviously takes on a different form, but we do everything we can, directly and indirectly, to avoid it. Think about how you handle failures and setbacks, how you approach confrontations and problems, or even what you do with the confusion and anxiety surrounding your professional future. Do you avoid these topics and the feelings they create? Or do you jump straight into the proverbial closet -- the darkness -- to see what’s crawling around in there?

You must begin looking through your fear. Learn from these experiences by reviewing the specifics of what actually happened and then asking yourself some tough and uncomfortable questions. In what ways did you create this problem? How could you have responded differently? Where do you still need to grow? This is how you gain true self-awareness. The only monster in the closet is you. Develop the habit of embracing and engaging those parts of yourself, and all your challenges will transform into huge reservoirs of power and confidence.


Words like unconscious bias and prejudice are undoubtedly familiar to you. What if the divisiveness they produce was born from your fear of animals and insects -- or, more broadly speaking, from your fear of anything different from you? Your reaction to little creepy crawlers and big scary sharks could be the reason you now separate things/people/experiences you deem uncomfortably different, put them in boxes and never truly "see" them again.

How can diversity ever work if this is your underlying mindset? What chance does inclusion, management or teamwork have if, at your core, you still see everyone as an "other"? Steps to correcting this are very simple, but they require courage.

Just like your fear of the dark, begin by asking questions. The primary reason you’re afraid of a centipede on the wall is that you don’t know anything about it. The same is true of your colleagues, managers, counterparts, etc. You are at the center of your ineffective relationships when all you need do is learn about them and connect to them as people. They’re not bugs, they’re people -- right? Build some genuine understanding of what motivates and inspires them, and the distance of difference will soon disappear.

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Even though these two fears may be the biggest, we’re only scratching the surface. Thunderstorms, strangers, masks, water, doctors, being alone, etc., are all ripe for exploration. It’s your responsibility to draw parallels, find patterns and ask questions. Avoiding the dark won't help you or your career. Going into and through the darkness is how you create clarity, confidence and, ultimately, success. Have fun meeting your boogeyman.

Derrick Bass