3 Steps to Take When Fear Holds You Back from Asking for What You Deserve


If you're reading this, I bet you're someone who brings a unique blend of strengths, skills and talents to the table. 

Your uniqueness generates value for your company or clients. A whole lot of it. 

Maybe you're a rockstar of your niche. A unicorn in your field. 

But when it comes to advocating for the value you bring and bravely asking for what you KNOW you deserve, you still feel the fear of being judged as bossy, bitchy, greedy, aggressive, inappropriate...whatever. 

Okay, so maybe you're not afraid, but maybe you find yourself postponing important but difficult conversations. 

"I should just be grateful and keep a low profile," you might say.. 

Whatever is holding you back from braving a negotiation, it's holding you back. 

Because, as has been said endless times and is worth repeating again -- if you don't ask, you don't get. 

So how do you work around the fear, so you can ask and get what you want? 

I suggest a three-step approach. 

1. First acknowledge the fear. Have some compassion for it. 

Think about it. For about seventeen of your most formative years (give or take, if you started with kindergarten and attended four years of college), you've been trained to seek external validation.

Your value, you were taught as a wee little thing, is to be appraised and awarded by external authority figures, usually the grownup standing behind a lectern who kept a watchful eye on you.

This message was then reinforced by just about everyone in your social group, starting with your parents, your classmates, and then later in your life by your employers, teammates and sometimes even your romantic partners. 

It's considered a kind of virtue to keep your head down, do good work and to be praised by others. In negotiation, it's called the Tiara Syndrome. 

Have you heard of the Tiara Syndrome? 

I had the Tiara Syndrome some years back, when I devised a plan to add a hundred thousand dollars to the bottom line for my employer. I presented my work in front of all the senior managers and CEO. I felt important. 

Then seduced by the myth of "keeping my head down" and wanting to appear humble, I shut up. 

I didn't ask for what I thought was coming my way -- a big shot promotion and raise. 

Did I get that promotion and raise? Nope. 

Tiara Syndrome is endemic, because so many of us are trained from an early age to seek validation of our value from outside of us.

You probably haven't been trained to trust your own guts and intuition on the value of your contributions and your limitless future potential. 

So of course it feels unnatural and awkward to say things like, "My work here is tremendously valuable, and I'd like to be compensated at about 20% north of the going market rate."

When you start seeking validation from within, your brain may go berserk. Berserk as in the form of doubt that has you second guessing everything and fear that has you in the grips of inaction and procrastination. 

If you feel discomfort this way, acknowledge it and don't let it stop you. 

2. Once you've acknowledged the fear, doubt or discomfort holding you back, the second step is to do a mental cleanse. 

To paraphrase master coach instructor Brooke Castillo, thoughts generate feelings, and feelings drive your actions. Because actions drive your results, it's important to get to the root of your feelings, your thoughts. 

If you're having negative feelings about negotiating, you have options.

The first option, of course, is to do it anyways. You can white-knuckle the conversation while experiencing doubt, fear and discomfort. Sometimes it's the only option, to act as if you had the confidence. Sometimes this works. 

The second option is to take a pause to generate new thoughts. Do a mental cleanup, so to speak. 

Can you close your eyes and imagine for a quick second that you were feeling fully calm, powerful and confident? 

Remember that feeling inside and see what thoughts naturally arise in that feeling state. 

Take for example, what if you owned your value 100%? What would you think as you approached the negotiation table? 

Let me guess...

Might you have the thought that the best way for you to demonstrate your worth would be to simply ask for what you're worth? It's only logical. 

Might you think it's no big deal, or no threat to your ego, for you to ask to be paid according to the value you bring? 

Might you see that the value you bring is not simply about getting things done, but about the end benefit of your contributions? You feel proud. You sit up taller. 

Might you think it's no problem to hear no or even to have one door close, since you've demonstrated you can contribute tremendous value? After all, if you can do it once, you can do it again elsewhere. 

Here's another thought: You so got this. 

4. The final step, after doing mental cleanup, is to build a business case for your ask. 

To be most effective, you'd want to put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker, the hiring manager or key client with whom you'd be negotiating. 

What do they most want? What motivates, inspires and scares them? What influences their decision making? 

Find out, so that you can empathize.

From their perspective, state the barriers in the way of achieving their missions and goals. 

From their perspective, articulate possible solutions to their problems. They have business needs and you have business solutions. 

From their perspective, frame for the benefit they'd get from having you contribute solutions. 

Then tie your promotion and raise as a part of the solution you're offering. 

In a word, pitch. 

This three-step approach will fuel your growth as a person and as a professional.

  • You'll develop self compassion, resilience and the confidence to advocate for yourself.
  • Fear of judgement or rejection won't be obstacles, but a nudge that helps you seek your own validation from within.
  • You'll have your own back, and when you do, you'll have authentic power that emanates inside out, not outside in. 
  • And when you make smart asks that delight your employers and clients, you'll become unstoppable.