Why you should write an intimidation list

Actually giving my all to something. Sandwiches stacked so thick with veggies I don’t know how to take a bite. Being vulnerable. Money talk. People who can strut better in stilettos than I can in sneakers.

These are a few of the items on my intimidation list. Others include calling the doctor’s office to schedule an appointment and telling any service person that they made my order incorrectly.

When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself, “What intimidates me?” Beyond that, when was the last time you sat down to do some self-reflection? Ew, I know. I know.

But hear me out. It’s super important to reflect on yourself, your ambitions, your fears, your experiences—all of it. If you don’t understand why you are where you are, who you are—how are you supposed to get where you’re trying to go? Have you ever been stressed, and you can’t really pinpoint why—until you pay your phone bill and simultaneously release your clenched jaw—realizing that was it the whole time?

In making time for our work, our friends, our pets, our families, our side hustles—we forget to make time for us. We’ve taught ourselves that it’s more important—a quick fix—to deal with the what (take ibuprofen because my jaw hurts), without giving any thought at all to the why (why am I clenching my jaw?). Fixing the symptoms in the short run works. It’s easier. But in the long-run, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

That’s where the intimidation list comes in. We’re all intimidated by something. We were inspired by an article on Man Repeller (we love them)—it got us thinking about what we’re intimidated by. And why.

The process

I recommend a simple two-stepper. Get comfy, put on some Stevie Nicks (or whoever), and grab your pen. (Yes, I know, we have computers. Bear with me—I think this works better on real paper.) Actually, on that note—also chuck your phone and computer far far away from you. No distractions. You’re going to work through two questions.

What am I intimidated by?

Why am I intimidated by that?

Soooo easy, right? Take a few minutes to sit there and write. Give yourself time—they’re not all going to come to you at once. If you really feel gung-ho about this, take a week to stay cognizant to your intimidations as you come across them, noting them when you do. I did, and I was surprised at how often I push away thoughts of “aghhhhh” throughout the week—some things I’ve made habitually intimidating.

What intimidates me

I encourage you to try to go a bit deeper than the surface level intimidations that you’ll think of. “Taking risks”, “failing”, “confident people” are all intimidating—I get it. But what else? What specific things, people, experiences, intimidate you? Do you encounter something day in day out that gets you, every time?

Do you usually avoid doing something, avoid seeing someone, or talking about a certain topic? Is it because you’re intimidated?

When I tried to pick my coworkers’ brains about their intimidations, answers included, “creative ruts”, “making a fool of myself”, “loud men in meetings”, “new coworkers” (which we all were, at some point, meaning that Kit was intimidated by her subordinates), “client silences”, and “good looking people (people with geometric faces).”

It doesn’t have to be a big reveal—you probably subconsciously know what belongs on this list.

Work through it

I read somewhere recently—and now I can’t find it, of course—that people aren’t really afraid of failure. Most of us aren’t petrified by the idea that we won’t succeed at something. We’re actually afraid that it will work. We’re afraid of being great. We’re afraid of reaching our potential. Because what then?

Once you’ve figured out what you’re intimidated by, it’s time to take it a step further, and ruminate on the why.

I’m intimidated by the idea of actually giving my all to something. I’m scared to reach my full potential. But when I asked myself why, I realized that it’s because if I give my all, and I still am not where I want to be, I’ll feel inadequate. I would rather be able to say, “Yeah, I didn’t succeed, but I didn’t really try my hardest.” It makes risks easier to take, and failure easier to swallow, if I can use the excuse that at least I didn’t give it my all—so it’s not a dead end. I also realized, that on some level, I know exactly what I need to let go of in order to get to where I want to be. I need to let go of this fear of not being enough, even if I completely try my hardest. I’ll work on it.

Yeah, but what’s the point?

What’s the point of this, you mean? Other than being fun (woo!), this is also a great exercise to help you identify your fears—which is the first step in challenging them.

If you spend time just to make a list about what you’re fearful of, what you’re impressed by, great. Great start. If you take a few minutes more to question why those things intimidate you—even better. Maybe you’ll find common themes. Maybe you’ll learn that you’re not actually afraid of what you thought you were. Maybe you’ll find that what you think you’re afraid of, you’re really one step away from conquering. And that’s where self-growth starts.

So dig deep this week. Reflect. What intimidates you?

This article was originally published on CareerContessa.