This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.
In 1983 my grandmother took me on the summer trip of a lifetime.
It had become a family tradition for her to take each of her grandchildren on a special trip when they turned 13. She had traveled the world when she was younger, and she wanted to provide the same experience to her kids and grandkids.
The trip she chose for me was a four-week adventure to Greece and Italy—an amazing experience for a kid who had never been out of the country before.
At 75 years old she somehow had the energy of someone in their 20s, and I struggled to keep up with her. From the Parthenon in Athens to the Coliseum in Rome, we had a ball taking in the history, food, and scenery that different cultures had to offer.
But something I hadn’t known about my grandmother before we left was that she was a bit of a prankster. She kept me on my toes with antics like pretending she lost my passport at the airport in New York, “short sheeting” my bed in Capri, and convincing a waiter to “accidentally” spill a pitcher of water on my head—we had a great time.
But it was our last stop in Venice when she took her pranks just a little bit too far.
We were sitting in St. Mark’s Square feeding the pigeons. As an innocent joke, my fun (and sometime crazy) grandmother threw a handful of birdseed toward me, causing what seemed like several hundred birds to head my direction all at once.
In what felt like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film “The Birds,” I panicked as pigeons landed in my hair and pecked at my arms for a full minute (or perhaps only about three seconds, but it felt longer!) My grandmother couldn’t help but laugh a little, but ever since that one childhood event I have avoided birds like the plague.
So, when my kid decided to buy a pet bird last week, I wasn’t too thrilled.
He had asked for a pet bird several times over the years, but until now I had successfully stalled by recounting the trauma I’d suffered at the talons of those pigeons long ago. But as with many things with kids, I realized his joy was more important than my fear, and I caved.
Facing your fears is never an easy task. Whether it’s something as silly as a fear of birds or something more logical like a fear of heights, facing down and overcoming trepidations is something most of us avoid.
But perhaps the most challenging place to face your fears is at work.
In a work setting, fears abound. There are fears around everything from making a presentation to speaking up when you disagree with your boss. There’s the fear of rejection when you are trying to make a sale and the fear of being passed over for a promotion. There are fears around reputation and loss of prestige.
When it comes down to it, work can be a downright scary place.
So, what can we do to face our fears at work?
An informal survey of colleagues revealed some common strategies that we all use:
Embrace fear as a way to grow. When you view overcoming a fear as an opportunity, it motivates you to get past it.
Remind yourself of the worst-case scenario. It’s usually not as bad as it seems.
Call a friend. We all agreed it’s easier to face your fears when you can talk about them with a trusted friend.
Go for it. Obsessing about something you are afraid of at work makes it harder to overcome. It’s less emotional wear and tear to face your fears quickly without overthinking them
So, with these tips in mind, I decided it was time to face down my fear. After just a couple of days with our bird, I realized she’s cute, she loves my kid already, and she’s taught us all the value of nurturing another being (rather than nurturing an irrational fear). Now if only she could learn how to code.
JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba. A Nashville custom software development and IT support company. Visit www.atiba.com or www.atibanetworkservices.com for more info.