Self-Improvement Is Exciting AND Scary: What are you afraid of?

Photo credit: Copyright Dr. Seuss “What Was I Scared Of?”


Some of my clients at MBT More Business Today inspire me with their fearlessness. They seem to crave feedback. They expect feedback to be brutal and approach it with a “bring it on” attitude. After digging deeper, they realize self-criticism shows up as a motivator to improve themselves. They have already told themselves the worst things they could imagine, so hearing criticism from others is actually easier to handle.

Other clients have the opposite reaction. They go silent. Rather than continuing to dive into our sessions, they disappear. Apologizing for disappearing follows and, usually very quickly, they follow through by canceling appointments or attempting to push off their coaching sessions until “things calm down” a bit.

In a previous blog, we talked about how to “Eat the Frog” every morning. Grabbing the one thing you do not want to do and executing that action item first, before addressing anything else, every day. The reason that practice works is because you finish the abhorred chore before anxiety, and ample time for worrying, makes it even harder to approach.

In this blog, we examine why you are afraid. Let’s discover what is beneath the attempt to take on the pain of criticism as noted in the first example or run away entirely as the second example suggests. Fight or flight are both defense mechanisms. They are natural and primal ways that human beings protect themselves. In the old, old days of primitive man, using a fight or flight strategy properly was essential to survival. In our world today, both our personal lives and the business world, these strategies may have served us well and helped us survive socially and in our careers.

One of my favorite stories as a child, and now as an adult, was Dr. Seuss’ “What Was I Scared Of?” I used to call it “Those awful green pants with nobody inside them story,” as a kid. I was afraid most of the time as a child. So, I was fascinated by the idea that those pale green pants were just as afraid of the narrator in the story as the narrator was of them! And, I was inspired by the fact that they became friends at the end. In the end, the narrator comforts the one who caused all that fear. To me, it is a picture of self-soothing and self-love. If you have not read it, pick up a copy.

Now, as an adult, think about how you respond to change? How do you respond to self-improvement? Is it scary to learn what others may think of you? Does the idea that you may not be perfect cause fear and anxiety? Do you avoid working to grow and change for the better? Or do you beat yourself up with negative thoughts about yourself so much, that you do not flinch when receiving negative criticism.

As usual, my first suggestion for clients, and for all of you reading this, is to pull out your favorite notebook and pen so that you can write a few things down. Once you are settled into a comfortable safe spot, think about your answers to the prompts below.

  1. What is your reaction to change and self-improvement? Fight or flight? Are you comfortable with change?
  2. Think about times you experienced intense personal growth. It could be when you were promoted to a position where you started managing people for the first time. Or it could be when you took on personal responsibilities in your home. Write down how you progressed from where you were to where the journey ended.
  3. What was the best thing about the journey? What was the hardest thing? How did you feel when it ended?
  4. What were the benefits of the journey?
  5. Now, what do you want to change today?

Give yourself some time to think about it, and have a great day!

Contact Mary Balistreri at for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Published by Mary Balistreri

Mary Balistreri offers a variety of coaching and professional development services to individuals and organizations focused on harnessing strengths to develop more business. Mary’s approach is goal driven, focusing on measurable results and developing actionable plans to move past obstacles that hold individuals, teams, and organizations back from executing on the plan. Mary offers expertise in business development, team building, and leadership development coupled with strategies to improve conversational and emotional intelligence to support clients moving toward their goals and aspirations.

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