Overcoming Your Fears

“Thanks for helping to organize Devfest.Asia!” Someone said to me as the largest community-organized web developer festival in South-east Asia draws to a close. “I really enjoyed it!”.

I should be happy when I hear things like this. Right? Well, I thought so too. But I didn’t feel it.

Deep down inside, instead of happiness, I feel a stab of pain whenever someone thanked me for organizing Devfest.Asia.

Strange, isn’t it? I couldn’t explain this feeling for a long time.

Now, I finally understood what has happened, and how it affects my life. I’d like to share this story since it might affect yours positively too.

Note: This would be an interesting read if you are someone who constantly feels you’re not good enough, or you haven’t done enough. For the rest, you can stop reading here now.

The Backstory

Devfest.Asia was a ten-day festival that contains over 20 developer related workshops and meetups. It also contained two major web conferences – CSSConf.Asia and JSConf.Asia.

Four people organized this entire thing – Thomas, Jacin, Moritz and me.

The Pain

As I was saying, I felt a pain whenever someone thanked me for organizing Devfest.Asia. Upon further inspection, I found out that this pain turned out to be guilt for accepting the thanks.

The guilt came from my perverse interpretation of the word – organizing.

Organizing, to me, means doing a shit-load of things. It means putting the events together, curating the content, getting speakers, getting organizers, vendors, setting up the venue, making sure the events run smoothly …

Bulk of the tasks mentioned here fell on Thomas’s and Jacin’s shoulders.

Throughout Devfest.Asia, all I helped with was the following:

  1. Created the Devfest.Asia Website
  2. Helped with registration
  3. Create CSSConf.Asia and JSConf.Asia animations
  4. Give a talk at CSSConf.Asia
  5. Help with setup and teardown of venues

So, to me, I helped out at Devfest.Asia. I didn’t organize it, and hence didn’t feel that I deserved to be thanked for organizing it. This explains the perverse guilt I felt whenever someone thanked me.

Welcome to the world of someone who always thinks he’s not good enough! :)

Why am I sharing this?

I want to share this with you because I want to help you realize that emotions can sometimes be ridiculous. There is no logical ground for them to stand on. Yet, emotions, especially negative ones, eat us up like no tomorrow.

Fear is another emotion that runs rampant in all of us. We’re afraid that we’re not good enough. Not smart enough. Not fast enough.

We feel that our opinions don’t matter. We don’t want to be laughed at. We don’t want to be exposed for being a fraud.

These fears are excruciatingly real in our heads. Yet, they rarely, almost never, manifest in real life situations.

In reality, contrary to our fears, most people feel opinions matter. We’re good enough, and they appreciate our work.

The next time you catch yourself saying that you’re not good enough, take a step back and look at your fear. Are you really not good enough? Or are you allowing your fears to run rampant?

Fear usually crumbles right before your eyes once you understand why they’re screaming at you. Once you do, you can find an answer to curb the fear, and you’ll be able to push through it.

Want to write a book? Be a speaker? Start a blog? Please, go right ahead. We’re waiting for you to do it.

Just to help you (and me) out, here are some ammunitions you can use against the irrational fear of not being good enough.

Ammunitions

Note: These are things I found to help me battle my “not good enough-ness”. They may or may not work for you.

Speaking / Teaching

Fears: I only have less than 3 years of coding experience. What right do I have to speak to developers with way more qualifications than I do at a conference or talk?

Possible ammo(s):

  1. Not everyone has the same experience as you do. They may have 10 years of backend experience, but maybe lesser than one year of actual frontend experience! If you do frontend, there’s a high chance you know something that they don’t!

  2. Speakers don’t need to have a solid 10,000 hours under their belt. Some awesome speakers, like Jennifer Wong and Mariko Kosaka, have given over 5 talks (each) even though they only have 2-3 years of experience under their belt.

  3. Do you have at least one person who wants to learn the things you know? Start by teaching them if you’re super afraid of everything else. See how they react.

Organizing Events / Meetups

Fears: My events won’t be good enough. Nobody would want to come. I don’t know anyone in the industry / area.

Possible ammo(s):

  1. Nobody said you have to run an event. How about volunteering yourself to help at one? Organizers always need help, and that’s how I ended up helping at Devfest.Asia anyway :)

Writing / Blogging

Fears:

  1. My opinions don’t matter. Nobody would read what I would write
  2. English isn’t my main language

Possible ammo(s)

  1. Read number (3) at the speaker section. Try answering one question someone asked you through your blog. Send that blog post to them and see how they react.
  2. You a web developer. You’re not an english teacher. You don’t need perfect english to write a blog post (although it’s an excellent asset to have). Try using multiple short sentences. Just like how I’m writing in this paragraph. Does it makes sense? Good. Now, try it.
  3. If you’re still super uncomfortable with english, try writing in your native language. Russian, Chinese, Norwegian, whatever it is. People would appreciate you for doing so.

Wrapping Up

It’s a hard battle to fight your fears. I know. I’m still constantly fighting mine. I won some battles. I have lost some as well.

I don’t think it’s possible to ever feel fearless. Fear always comes back to bite you no matter your level of achievement. The only way to overcome it, then, is to pick up your courage, look at fear straight in the eyes, and move on even though you’re afraid.

And that’s what I have done by publishing this weird, morbid article that begins with an irrational pain.

Now, I’m waiting for your turn. If this article inspires you, I hope to see you write something and link it to the comments below. (You can tell me how turned off you are :))

PS: Also apply to be a speaker at next year’s JSConf.Asia and CSSConf.Asia. It’s going to be a blast :)

/rant /weird-encouragement

Thanks for reading. Did this article help you out? If it did, I hope you consider sharing it. You might help someone else out. Thanks so much!

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