Writing the last post of the year is a challenging task. You want it to be powerful, life-changing and relevant. You don’t want it dry, predictable and just-like-everyone-else.
Every day as I interact with online teachers in a coaching environment or just via emails I hear them talk about fears. They may not openly discuss them, but they live them out.
- “I can’t blog just now…” (because I’m afraid to make mistakes or typos),
- “I can’t teach online just yet… ” (because I want to set up things so I don’t fail – because that’s scary);
- “I can’t build my list just yet… ” (because in the two days of promoting it nobody has signed up – and my fear is I will look like a fool);
- “I can’t ask people to buy from me …” (because I’m afraid I won’t be able to deliver up to their expectations).
Some time this year after I wrote “The Numbers Game in the Life of a Teacherpreneur” – a book that revealed a lot of my own fears – I received an email from one of my old-time subscribers, Suada, who shared her own story of overcoming one of her fears. So when I planned my blog posts for this month I knew who to ask for a contribution, and I’m glad I did.
If this doesn’t move you past your fears then you should seriously consider selling Mary Kay instead of teaching (OK, that’s a joke). Happy New 2017 – a year of overcoming fears! ~ Elena
I’m Suada from Bosnia and Herzegowina. I live in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and currently I am the head of a woman NGO in Sarajevo that is focused on empowering young women in different field of their lives. I also give English Conversation Classes at a local NGO.
Since I can remember I was highly passionate about foreign languages. A love and passion that later translated into choosing a language related profession. I studied German language and literature along with my native language Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian.
I have always been what is commonly known as a language nerd, more specifically a grammar nerd but surprisingly after finishing my studies, I drifted away from the teaching profession.
I couldn’t fathom to work in a boring traditional classroom setting and over time teaching languages became less and less in my focus. I did give private lessons and private courses but it was usually a side job not a full-time occupation.
Lessons I used to experiment with different teaching methods and to employ my creativity to the maximum. A small teaching laboratory.
Discovering Online Teaching
It wasn’t until I discovered online teaching that I started considering teaching languages as a possible main source of income. The reason I am here is because I have been following Elena’s blog and work for a while now inspired by her logical mind, discipline and constant improvement.
She was also one of the main people (if not THE person) who introduced my to the world of online teaching, niche finding, email marketing and product creation. Before that my idea about online teaching was that of a 1:1 lesson transferred into the online setting using Skype or some other application.
Since the discovery that online teaching means narrowing the focus on one specific problem and providing solutions for it, I have been dreaming of setting up an online teaching business of some kind for a while now.
I have taken several significant steps towards the realization of this dream though but until now it is remained just this: a dream. The question is: What has prevented me to give it a go so far? One has to dig a little bit into my past so let me start by sharing a little bit from my life first.
Haunted by Fears of the Past
I belong to the war generation of Bosnia. When someone mentions war, people automatically think of tragedy, death, starvation, refugees, demolished houses and fear. Because this is what a war is usually about: it is about loss and pain. It is about lives being changed forever.
We are seeing it in Aleppo and in many other areas in the world these days. This is also my story. The life of a pretty energetic, joyful and often reckless kid rapidly changed when a brutal war hit its country.
The bloodiest war in Europe since the World War II, a war that ended with the genocide in Srebrenica and more than 100,000 killed, tortured or raped people.
My family and me were lucky enough to escape this horror early enough, we left the country at the beginning of the conflict with the silly expectation that is only a matter of weeks that we would be home.
#Online #teachers: overcome your worst fears. Let no fear rule over your future. #motivationClick To Tweet
First it was my mother, my brother and me that went to Western Europe. My father joined us later after living in my occupied hometown for six months.
We managed to escape the physical effects of the war but nobody’s life stays untouched by it in some way of another. One of the images ingrained in my memory is the one of me on our way to the bus station to embark on a journey that would turn my whole small and carefree world upside down.
I am holding my mother’s hand and as we are walking I turn my head around to look for the last time at my old home, the building where I lived in, the green area I used to play on.
It was like saying goodbye, not only to a space filled with buildings and green areas. It was the definite parting of the innocence, the carefree joy and the security of my childhood.
As a refugee in Switzerland and later Germany I experienced loneliness, home sickness, nostalgia for something that could never be brought back. I was filled with all kind of fears, struggled with social anxiety and an obsessive need for certainty. Something that I have never got fully rid of.
The Big Things Small Teachers Can Do.
I must say that my school teachers played a huge role in my life as refugee back then. They are among the people I am most grateful for in my life. I strongly believe that all kind of teachers are an indispensable link in shaping people’s lives.
It may seem that we as language teacher are just fixing someone’s cases or tenses, but this is just the surface.
Teachers hold the power to define and change the direction of someone’s life, to be the source of encouragement and confidence for a refugee child for example in dire need for security or to provide support when others support systems fail.
And this is how I see myself as teacher: helping others be better, achieve their goals and realizing their potential.
'Teachers hold the power to define and change the direction of someone’s life, to be the source of encouragement and confidence for a refugee child in dire need for security.'Click To Tweet
Changing your reality is a lot about facing your fears. If you’re ready to charge more for your work, check out my new mini-course.
Crippling Fears Persist
In 1998 my family returned into a changed Bosnia, starting a new life in another town and my refugee status ended. But a lot of things stayed the same. Like my fears.
Be safe. No risks. Make everything as predictable as possible. The leitmotivs of my life for a long time. And the reason I still don’t have a blog or an online business.
However this year I experienced a significant breakthrough that helped me shake off the shackles of one disabling fear: the fear of public speaking.
When I was offered to be part of the organizing team of a yearly gathering for young women I didn’t hesitate to say yes as it was a sizable opportunity to use my skills in a way benefiting to the society. It was out of my comfort zone but not too much.
When then one of the scheduled speakers surprisingly had to cancel, I decided to take up her seat and deliver a speech myself. It was actually at her urging that made me give this thought a chance in the first place. She said: You should do it. You have so much to offer.
The mere idea of exposing myself to a larger public, in the presence of other, well-known and far more experienced speakers made my level of anxiety rise to the moon, actually to Pluto and back.
Its advice has to be ignored. It was time for new leitmotiv, and a story I heard it from one of my virtual coaches provided it for me.
“A person who knows no fear has no imagination” is a famous quote by a German writer. And if I had something in abundance, it was an over active imagination ready to provide me with the worst scenarios of what could go wrong at any time and place.
Secondly, although people perceived me as a skilled and eloquent person, I struggled with two main killers of any aspiration: perfectionism and fear of criticism.
Fear of making myself vulnerable to the judgement of others, a fear that had prevented me from using my talents fully in the past. The above mentioned need for certainty that stood in my way as well.
Would I allow this to happen this time again? The theme of the event was about creating a vision for your life, about overcoming fears and obstacles and I was filled with fear that I wouldn’t be able to deliver. I couldn’t rule out a possible black out or incohesive speech.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic I was reading at that time provided the perfect mental framework. It made me realize that fear is part of any creative process, it is like an overprotective good friend unwilling to let you enter new, uncharted territory.
Its excessive desire to keep us away from danger and failure often lets us give it the control of our journey, and we are left powerless.
The solution to my problem was not to ditch the fear. It was to allow it to exist as an inevitable companion of my journey but only as a mere observer not a decision-maker.
The solution to my problem was not to ditch the fear. It was to allow it to exist as an inevitable companion of my journey but only as a mere observer not a decision-maker.Click To Tweet
Do it Afraid!
The story goes like this:
A woman suffering from an extreme fear of height was captured in her office in a building that caught fire. Instead of heading straightaway to the fire escape, doing something that would confront her with her fear of height, she rather chose to hide under her desk.
Despite the horrifying situation, the immediate threat to her life, her fear was too paralyzing to allow her to take the necessary steps to save herself. After the fireman arrived and discovered her curled up in her hiding place, he lifted her up ready to carry her out of the building.
The woman though kept resisting and repeating over and over again: “But I am so afraid. I’m so afraid.” The reaction of her lifesaver couldn’t have been more surprising. He didn’t go for the standard response:
Don’t be afraid. You are safe. Everything is going to be fine. Nor did he try to comfort her with any other soothing phrases we tend to use in such situations.
No denial of the fear. Rather he chose to acknowledge it offering an alternative approach. He simply said: “It’s okay. Do it afraid!”
Do it afraid! This is what it’s all about it, isn’t? I didn’t want to wait for a fireman to save me and push me to do what is only reasonable thing to do: to share myself with the world.
I understood that hiding wasn’t an option anymore. I knew that I am done with focusing on the worst outcomes and willing to say YES to myself, to my talents and gifts.
It may not be perfect, but perfect is overrated anyway. Isn’t a life full of regret actually the worst thing that can happen? I asked myself this powerful question: What was the alternative to not showing up, to not speaking, to not sharing my knowledge?
1) the pain and regret of not having tried (what if…)
2) missing the opportunity to influence and inspire at least one person in the audience
3) succumbing to fear and never move forward in life
Once the realization that the alternative is the REAL worst case scenario hit me, I knew that I couldn’t allow fear to control me. The lecture I gave ended up being the most inspiring of the whole event.
As girls approached me to congratulate me and later as I read the evaluations for my speech, I knew that I reached a milestone in my life. I was holding back for so long.
What's in Store for 2017?
When I think now of my future, especially in terms of a possibly teaching business, I see it as a new milestone to be reached. Leaving the safe hiding place and entering possible unsafe territory. I trust that 2017 may be my year. And it will be in a do-it-afraid manner.
Yes, war is about destruction and loss. But it can be also about construction and gain. About constructing a deep awareness of what truly matters. About gaining an understanding of what can never be lost. We all can build and construct something that will outlive us.
Yes, war is about destruction and loss. But it can be also about construction and gain. About constructing a deep awareness of what truly matters. About gaining an understanding of what can never be lost. We all can build and construct something that will outlive us.Click To Tweet
We all can impact someone’s life and make it memorable. And we all have something to offer. We just need to find out what is so valuable to us that we are willing to take the risk of failing.
*** Do you know what that is in your life?
*** What is the alternative?
*** To which parts of yourself do you have to say YES and be confident about?
*** And most importantly when will you start doing it?
The post was updated in April, 2021.