Overcoming the Fear of Being Seen - Christine Kane

When I was in 5th grade, I learned how to play “Scarlet Ribbons” on the piano. It was one of my dad’s favorite songs, and I wanted to surprise him, not only by playing it at my end-of-the-year piano recital, but by singing it too.

At the rehearsal for our big recital, I shared my idea with my piano teacher who shouted up at the stage crew to “toss a standing mic up next to the piano!” when I got up for my turn.

In front of an auditorium of students, I took my first ever stab at singing and playing piano at the same time.

I leaned way over to the standing microphone and hesitantly opened my mouth. My tooth bumped into the silver mesh, and an impossibly loud noise boomed over the speakers. The auditorium erupted with laughter and applause. I gave up instantly and fumbled through the rest of the song without singing.

A group of boys laughed uproariously at me as I made my way back to my seat.

It sucks that something like this happens to a 9-year-old kid. But we all had some version of this happen to us. Some of us had many.

By the time we’re adults, “Who Do You Think You Are?” shouts so loudly at us that we stop giving ourselves a chance even to have the idea to sing “Scarlet Ribbons.” We protect ourselves from the slightest likelihood of being seen as flawed, ugly, imperfect, stupid, you name it.

The problem is this:

As a business owner, you are seen. In fact, you must be seen. Business – yes, even online business – is public. Many people will witness your ideas, your videos, your talks, your writing, your coaching, your successes. And they will also witness your failures, your anxieties, your shaky voice, your bad ideas, your bad hair. (And in my case on stage recently… your Spanx.)

Well, yeah. That comes with the territory. But hiding yourself in the corner gives more power to the fear. And that’s all this is. It’s just fear. So here’s what I did, still do, and teach my clients to do.

First, take steps.

Break down your big dreams and ideas into do-able steps. Then do them.

Taking steps won’t make the fear go away. In fact, the voices of fear will probably fight harder at first. But when you get through the first small step, all you need to know is that it’s time for the next small step.

Big a-ha for me: Fear can’t fight steps. Fear mostly just fights your big ideas and dreams.

Second, take refuge.

Get a buddy or coach who holds you accountable to do what you say you’re going to do, and then cheers you on for the steps you take.   Do not, under any circumstances, allow toxic people to give you opinions on your progress. Surround yourself only with extreme encouragers. This is non-negotiable.

Third, take time. (Be WITH this fear.)

In addition to having their own Strategy coach, my clients in Uplevel Academy each get to work with their own Energy Coach. Their energy coach helps with mindsets, focus and fear. They don’t try to fix anything. Trying to FIX the fear often leads to shame and repression. Instead, they methodically help the client bring presence to the fear and clear it from the inside.

Presence means being in relationship with fear, or whatever obstacle is coming up. When we get upset by our fears, we actually lock them in place with our resistance. But when we stop resisting, the fear has a chance to loosen its hold. This is the power of our attention. Fear doesn’t vanish because we kill it. It dissipates because of the power of our presence. I call this “Managing Your Power.”

Managing Your Power means staying in relationship with your idea or your dream. Too often, one small glitch means we abandon our dream. A glitch is actually your opportunity to discover what you’re being called to learn as a business owner, who you’re being called to become. If you bolt or flee, you lose the lesson. You gradually live into the lessons around being seen if you stay present to your ideas and your imperfection.

Lastly, keep going.

One of the greatest things about becoming strong as a business owner is that you begin to see all those opinions and thoughts as just that: opinions and thoughts. In the end, it’s not about being seen at all. It’s about being able to see yourself clearly and simply stand in the power of that.

  • Alauddin

    Thank you, Christine, for this post. Very Amazing topic. My cherish desired to sing a song on a big platform but unfortunately, that could not happen. I am learning lots of tips from you. I become nervous even in a small thing. How can I dare to be a confident person that the way you have told. Never loss anything without any cost

  • James Elliot

    Thank you Christine for this great article with very valuable tips! Too often I see too many people give up on big dreams because of fear. It can be terrifying to face your fears, which is why people resist, but I love the work you do to help people become aware and face their fears and learn from set backs. A great blog post read for any entrepreneur!

  • Elisabeth

    I appreciate you so much, Christine! My biggest fear is to cause harm by saying or doing the wrong thing. I also see bragging about my qualifications as potentially harmful as I am on a spiritual path where humility is prized highly.

    Loving your emails as always. The Scarlet Ribbons story is so relatable!!! Reminds me of when I was misunderstood at the spelling bee by a ateacher who was a family friend and did not want to give me the benefit of the doubt for fear of nepotism allegations… I did not even get the CHANCE to spell the word correctly before I was sent offstage. HUmiliating.

  • Marya

    The power of ‘Presence’ and staying in relationship with your dreams, makes me think of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. All she wanted was to go home. Her continual relationship with that dream expressed itself through her ‘presence’ of her heart. To everyone she met she voiced her dream: “I just want to go home” and she related to all these people on her path from her heart- the essence of Dorothy’s ‘presence’.
    She never wavered from that place of the heart even when she was scared or scolding someone for scaring her or misrepresenting themselves (the Wizard).

  • Gile Beaudoin

    There are a gazillion coaches out there, but Christine you have a “way”, at least for me, like no other. I Upleveled my Life with you a few yrs back and took away so much that continues to resonate (and that I have paid forward) and that I “refresh” time and again. You have hit the nail again with this msg on fear. Have always loved your tales of vulnerability that have led you to your strength today (and that you continue in glorious imperfection, yet joyful & powerful, nonetheless). Thank you for being you; shedding light on the things that hold us back and helping us to deal with them in a constructive, productive way. You have a gift (and I loved Scarlet Ribbons, too). xo

  • Elizabeth Witherspoon

    Thank you for this post, Christine. I like the term “Extreme Encouragers.” Thankfully, I have a few of those. It will be fun letting them know they have such an esteemed title.

  • Kate

    Ciao from Sorrento, Italy!

    Have to admit – the subject line made me laugh and made me click. ‘Nobody puts baby in a corner’ is sorta my motto.

    I just got back to Sorrento after an all day excursion to Amalfi coast. On my own. On a Vespa.

    Have to say – the steps above aren’t just for business! I was terrified – not only of driving a scooter – but even walking into the rental studio was intimidating. I walked into the first one and they declined, after all – the amount of my experience is ZIP.

    Long story short I secured a scooter on my second attempt.

    And I followed the steps you list above Christine.

    I went slow – I am smart enough to know I could kill myself or worse, someone else. In fact, I almost returned it in the first fifteen minutes. Thinking ‘this is crazy.’ My legs shook when I got off after I drove (lurched) away. But I’d also spent the past 8 days in Italy (Rome & Sorrento) and thought, if they can learn, so can I!

    I took a break. Said good things to myself. Returned to the bike (had to have someone help me with the kickstand! Was embarrassed to ask, but otherwise, the bike would still be sitting there.) I avoided traffic. Took back roads. Breathed. Went slow. Stopped when I needed to. But KEPT GOING.

    And today had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Driving along the roads between the mountain and the sea. I know what I did is not for everyone; I also know what I’m capable of. I continued to go slow – or at least not as fast as the experts – I pulled off to let faster traffic pass. I took refuge in many a seaside oasis (sp?).

    I also, of course, spent the whole time crafting the experience into a metaphor for a keynote I’m giving in November.

    For me: It’s important that these lessons echo not only through my business, but also through my life. Sometimes the hardest thing is to take your own medicine. But I think of my clients, who I talk to all the time about risk, mindset, power and confidence – and that holds me accountable. Walk the walk.. And nobody will put baby in a corner!

  • kendra

    My fear of being seen is an old friend that I discovered around the age of 5. I just always have felt different and like I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, didn’t have the right guy, house, enough money… It changes as I get older but it’s still right there on my shoulder whispering sweet little nothings in my ear. Now I hear myself question my abilities, validity and sometimes my character. Reading your email today was meant to be. I need to address this and stop hiding behind my fears and burst out… I DO know what the hell I’m talking about… I’m F#@#$(ing amazing and a power house! (my new mantra)

    Thanks Christine.

  • Nicole

    Thanks for writing about this topic. Definitely one of my biggest fears…not because I’m scared of making mistakes and being embarrassed…but rather because I feel like there is a target on my back when “evil” people notice me. They have destroyed me repeatedly in the past (because they didn’t like my morals And values – my honesty. They saw me as a threat to be hated). You can’t be noticed by good people without evil people seeing you too. So not sure how to overcome this since this fear doesn’t seem completely irrational given my past experiences.

  • Tara

    Very insightful article! Thank you for sharing. Do you have anything written about how to accept compliments from within the workplace? I know I work hard, but I was recently praised by my boss and while that was happening I heard the words, but they didn’t really sink in. I felt confused by his appreciation.

  • Brogan

    This is so PERFECT!

    It’s so so easy to build things up into a massive drama in our heads and never move forward. I always try to remind myself: feel the fear and do it anyway.

    It helps (a bit) knowing that fear is something we ALL feel, no matter how “big” or “successful” we are.

    Thanks Christine!

  • Laura

    This article hit the nail on the head for me. Fear holds me back in so many ways. I see the picture of where I want to be, but can’t see the little steps to get there. And when I do try to take the little steps, I realize I have to make myself be seen and I stop. It terrifies me, even though I am very comfortable getting up in front of a class to teach them something. I’m not afraid to perform, but I’m afraid of approaching people to get the opportunities to perform. It’s a vicious cycle.

  • Debra

    I know that last year (2015), I released resistance, this action was before your blog post. But it’s only now I recognise what I actually did. My power stepped forward and my resistance took a back seat. Almost like a surreal movie and because it was like a movie, I unintentionally removed the power my fears had over me. You can’t interfere with a movie, it is not tangible, you can only watch and accept what is being seen. Thank you for your blog post, it has heightened my awareness of what I have done, simply by following my dreams and essentially telling the fear to ‘get lost’ (I say politely-Lol)

  • Gwynna whiteowl

    Very timely for me. I have this very big Master Plan which I have developed over the past 15 years. It basically requires me to carve a new path of care for people bereaved by suicide which I have personal experience of. It also by nature of the subject encompass’ those suffering mental unwell ness who I believe may be helped not to eventually end their life and I think that is my fear. Who am to think I know anything about helping these people ? I am however being seriously pushed by spirit to just get on with it. Recently I have been asked to travel to another province to speak with and play my Reverie Harp, the tool of my choice (guided by spirit) to people needing heart and soul healing, so right now I am overcoming my procrastination and taking a giant leap of faith I will be supported and guided on every level. Another fear is, I intend to do some personal things in my presentation such as sing songs very personal to me which confirm the story I will be telling. I guess I am feeling very isolated and ‘alone’ in what I now know is my life purpose but also knowing this is not my journey alone. I know I must find like minded souls to join me and I guess that is where having a mentor or coach would be so helpful.
    I have signed up for your offer and trust I will find useful support doing this. I hit the ‘send’ button in the morning to send a story to local newspaper in that province promoting my two day visit / gathering and have to keep faith the people who need to be there will find their way there.
    Namaste Christine.

  • Corinne Meharg

    Great blog Christine. I read it all the way through and nodded my head in agreement. Then I went back and clicked on the extreme encouragers link and read that one through too. I am one of them! Thank you for the label, it’s one that I will gladly wear.

  • Matt

    I didn’t want to post here because I think someone will see it and think less of me, but here I go anyway…

    I have a similar, but in some ways opposite fear: the fear of success. It took me a long time to realize this, but I really don’t think about fear of failure at all. With failure comes education and insight. Those things have value. This fear of success may come back in part to my very real fear of public speaking and of having all eyes on me. I like one-on-one conversations with people very much, but when things grow to to even 10 or so people all focused on me and what I have to say I sortof start to freak out. As in a very real physical panic mind crushing way.
    So I prefer these high paying jobs where I write software, work from home, never really have to speak at a meeting, etc. Keeps me from panicking, which I guess makes me feel safe.

    So bleh, there it is.

    • Christine Kane

      I don’t think you are alone, Matt. And thank you for your willingness to be seen here! I don’t think that everyone has to step up on stage or be in front of groups. If you are gifted at writing software and giving something that level of focus, it may be that you simply need to be able to celebrate that about yourself. It’s a rare quality!

    • Elizabeth Witherspoon

      I don’t think less of you, Matt, for speaking the truth. Also, it really doesn’t matter what I think. It matters whether you feel better having spoken the truth.

  • Karen Furneaux

    So.. Here’s me being seen. For 20 years I got to compete for Canada as an Olympic kayaker. I loved my sport career. For as long as I can recall, I typically let people speak for me. This shows up for me as not standing up for myself, not wanting to displease anyone, etc. I started I Promise Performance, Inc. 5 years ago and it has been built largely on letting others speak for me. I tend to believe sometimes that I’m not smart and what I have to offer is of little value. Little by little, I am realizing the massive misconception of that. When I meet and mentor my clients 1:1, we have real conversations. They describe real challenges and goals to me and we come up with really good game plans for their success! It feels good! When I stand on the stage or a podium and address a room full of so many people, I thrive and feel fully alive! It is the most similar feeling to me as competing… So, why oh why do I still resist giving information sessions and stay in the shadows of my other work team mates who present on various health topics. I think it comes down to that fear of being seen. I am comfortable in the athletic realm and with performance. I’m not so comfortable with random talks (learn and go) to our clients. But I LOVE giving conference talks and in-depth learning modules! I’ve figured out that above all else, it is not so much in what you actually say, but in how you make someone feel and more importantly, how I choose to feel. If I can give presence to myself and to my clients and feel love for them, connect with them, my talk always goes amazingly well!
    So- my commitment: Greet my fear when she comes up like an old friend… It is there for me to grow through and expand into some brand new morph of me…!

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks so much for sharing this Karen! And I am holding the space for your commitment! 🙂

    • janet

      As a retired dentist, hypnotist, author, loving family and expert tree reader I have many outside accomplishments to be very proud. However, my feelings of being not good enough are still playing loudly in my head. I can so relate to your words. My fear of success and being seen as not enough is even stronger. I am trying to rewrite my old beliefs and replace them with more realistic assessments. As I start to allow my true self to be seen not only my accomplishments.

  • Lytingale

    Well said, Christine! This is the kind of issue that our students in Sing for Joy voice class work on. The first time you do anything is often scary. But when a toddler is learning to walk, she persists! Learning any new skill means you fall down, get up, try again, fall down, get up, try again… until you can’t remember why it felt so hard. The emotional baggage makes it harder to get up. But life is too short to sit there on the floor. Sing the song you were born to sing!

  • Kim Bultsma

    My fear is failure…before I even start. It’s so strange–by doing this, I ensure failure by not starting at all and just beat myself up about it. So this is why I joined UplevelYou. I’m tired of putting things off or not doing them at all. I need to just DO IT. 🙂

  • Mary Beth Huwe

    Truth. Thanks for the thoughtful article. I think, too, that modern technology plays a strong role in fears of being seen. Our footprints and experiments are more permanent than ever. Plus, there are trolls that travel in packs and indulge in negative collusion. The backbone needs fortifying, for sure, and some elf-care and encouragers are crucial components of a regiment. Thankful that your writing is part of my regiment of receiving!