Overcoming #fearface

Surprised woman #fearface

I can feel it coming….the dread bubbling up inside and all of a sudden, I know it is showing up in the most public way possible. On my face. I call it #fearface, which is an acute version of impostor syndrome.

For me, #fearface has a habit of showing up in two situations.

The first is, without fail, when I go through a customs & immigration checkpoint. I worry that I will flub answers to ‘where were you born’ and ‘how long are you staying’. At the window, I have a moment of panic, my mind goes to the worst-case scenario: they won’t let me into the country and will take away my identification documents and put me in customs jail FOREVER. And then, #fearface.

Granted, I have never actually done anything to warrant this treatment, but my compulsive watching of the show “Locked Up Abroad” did not help matters. Luckily my face has yet to prevent me from successfully traveling, and likely provides some laughs for whoever monitors the video footage.

The second (and more reasonable) instance is when I’m about to do something that I’m not quite sure I can, or want to do. ‘Past Katie’ often signs ‘Future Katie’ up for things without evaluating where they will fall in her comfort zone. Great for learning and growth, not so great for avoiding potential embarrassment.

A recent example:

I was asked to moderate a panel at a launch party for a new office location. The panel participants (architects, design experts and business leaders) and I would discuss workspace in front of an audience of several hundred people, and possibly a few media outlets.

Past Katie: “I’m flattered that they asked, this sounds exciting! Go for it, you’ve never
moderated a panel before!”

Present Katie: “You’ve never moderated a panel before….remind me why you thought
this was such a good idea? Well, I guess we’re committed so let’s make the most of it.”


So, how did I prevent the #fearface from happening in front of my audience?

  • Prepare just enough – drafting what I wanted to say, and some questions. I reviewed it a few times, but not to the point of being scripted
  • Do something relaxing – making jokes in the greenroom with my panel put me and the rest of the group in a good mood
  • Breathe, then smile – right before starting to speak, I took a deep breath or two, and then smiled. You can’t have #fearface and smile at the same time – it just doesn’t work
  • Roll with the punches – about 30 seconds into the panel, our lapel mics stopped working (it was a new location, after all), so I made a joke about it and started talking louder until we got a handheld microphone to share

The result of all this:

I made it through, and performed well enough to be invited back the next time they held a panel on workspace. And, more importantly, I have another example to think about when I’m signing ‘Future Katie’ up for new adventures. In fact, maybe I will book her a trip to South America to test these tactics against the immigrations #fearface!


And now for the obligatory powerpoint:

Prevent an Appearance of #fearface

3 Replies to “Overcoming #fearface”

  1. Great post! I was surprised with an upcoming presentation to 300+ managers in my company. By far the largest audience I have ever had. Perhaps I should open with a joke.

    1. Alissa Montbriand says:

      You’ve got this!

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