A few months back, my coach Regina Lewis told her VA 101 Mastermind group that she was reading the book Do It Scared® by Ruth Soukup. Not being in the mood to spend money on anything other than rent and food at that time, I looked the book up and found there was a podcast to go along with it. I subscribed to it and listened to all the old episodes. Ruth spends a considerable amount of time promoting the book, her business and the Do It Scared Fear Assessment™. After 80 podcast episodes of this “encouragement,” I went ahead and did the assessment.

There is a free version of the assessment, and a premium version that costs $15. I got the premium, and highly recommend you do as well.

You complete a questionnaire. You will see a statement that you mark with your level of agreement. There are 5 options between totally disagree to totally agree, with the middle (3rd) option being neutral. It takes less than 10 minutes to fill out. Once completed, you see your Fear Archetype™. There are 7 of them – Excuse Maker, People Pleaser, Pessimist, Procrastinator, Outcast, Rule Follower, and Self-doubter.

If you choose the free version, you will be told what your top 2 archetypes are. If you buy the premium report, you will get a 12-page document that goes into considerable detail of your top 3 archetypes, how the 3 of them interact and affect your thoughts and behavior, and a chart showing how you scored with every archetype. In the interest of full disclosure, see below for my chart:

It’s eerie how accurate this is. As I mentioned during the series of posts about Imposter Syndrome, I am very much a perfectionist and a self-doubter. I’m such a perfectionist that I probably need a 24-step program, and I’ve always questioned my own intelligence and abilities. Predicting these 2 archetypes to be high-impact is like predicting there will be a white Christmas above the Arctic Circle. The same holds true for the bottom of the list. I really couldn’t care less what other people think of me outside of my very closest family and friends, so People Pleaser being my lowest score was predictable. I was mildly surprised to see Excuse Maker in the same neighborhood, especially because I’m getting ready to make one.

I know the exact starting point for each of my top 2 archetypes. For self-doubter, the starting point was my birth. I’ve been doubting myself since 1970, although as an infant I probably wasn’t very aware of it. With a physical appearance that is so different from everyone else, it was easy to be self-conscious, and even easier when surrounded by peers who didn’t react to such differences very favorably (and most kids don’t react favorably to others that are significantly different). I tried to mask this massive insecurity by being a very loud and obnoxious kid, especially in the teen years. Few people wanted anything to do with me, and I don’t blame them a bit. I was terribly hard to get along with. This subsided a great deal as I moved though my adult years and had to make life decisions that were of much higher impact than what I looked like or how others perceived me.

The starting point for my perfectionism is March 12, 2007. That was my first day as the Executive Assistant to a high-ranking, high-performance VP at Duke Energy. This guy moved 1,000 miles an hour, 24/7. Hardly anyone could keep up with him. I started out really enjoying the fast pace and learning something new every single day, and the high expectations. I wanted to excel, help the VP and the department reach their goals.

The problem is, when you change gears that fast, you will inevitably make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes and has to recover and/or make amends. But this particular VP was of the mind that the way to ensure no mistake is made a second time is to issue punishment for the mistake. He was one of five VPs that reported to the business unit President, and he was the only one who dealt with mistakes in this way. He was also the only one that went through assistants like most people go through socks – I was one in a fairly long line of people that were his EA over the years. But he thought it worked for him, and his department always blew their goals out of the water and brought in lots of revenue for the company. When you produce, you can get away with a lot, even if it’s unhealthy or downright abusive. Money talks in a Fortune 500 company.

So despite my best efforts, I began making mistakes. Some were in complex situations, but some were fundamental in nature that an experienced admin like me shouldn’t make. And of course, the iron hammer came down on me whenever  I made one. Because our department made so much money for the company, there was no limit to the amount of time I could spend at work. So I piled up a good number of overtime hours because I started to obsess over the correctness of my work, reviewing it over and over, wanting very much to avoid that hammer for making a mistake. It did help me develop a nose for correctness and quality, and all the overtime enabled my wife and me to buy a home. But it really wrecked me emotionally. And it eventually caught up to me. After a terrible annual performance review, I was ordered into the Employee Assistance Program, where I would meet with a counselor to see if there was any underlying issue that needed dealing with, and coaching to help improve my work performance. After a year and a half, I was told by the VP that he was going to replace me, and he would work with HR to find me another, lower-ranking position in the company. That part happened pretty quickly. A department that had a handful of people I worked with in my first job with the company needed an admin, and I slid into that spot.

There were good and bad things to come out of that experience. Being sent into the EAP enabled me to discover that I had genuine, medical depression that needed medicine and therapy. Lord only knows if that would have ever been diagnosed if I wasn’t in such hot water on the job. And as I said, I developed an eye for high-quality work that I can use now as I’m building my business. On the down side, the depression – which both a therapist and psychiatrist said likely started when my parents separated when I was 8 years old – got significantly worse during this time. Also, the “eye for high-quality work” morphed into the Perfectionist archetype that dogs me to this day. And that’s where the excuse comes in. I’ve allowed what happened to me in 2007-08 to hinder what I’ve done since then. Ugh.

So what do I do now? The report challenges me to set hard deadlines, utilize an accountability partner, and change my thinking. Instead of thinking “I can’t move ahead until _____,” say “I’ll take an educated guess and seek feedback later.”

I encourage you to visit the site, take the assessment, and buy the premium report. It will either open your eyes wide open or confirm what you’ve always known. Either way, you’ll be equipped to move forward.

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