Interpersonal Skills

How To Stress Less In Your Retail Job

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I discovered that imagining myself in my Karate uniform, a technique I call the “Avatar Technique,” could help me channel confidence in stressful situations. By visualizing myself as a powerful version of me, I learned to handle challenging interactions and eventually became the confident person I once pretended to be.

Picture this.

Nine-year-old me, at the bottom of a flight of stairs, begging my dad to take me home. I wanted desperately to hide under my covers and not have to face the atrocities that were sure to devastate me if I stayed.
I was scared.
In my mind, the unimaginable horrors that waited for me that afternoon after school were just too much to bear. My skin crawled at the thought of taking those steps, I would surely die… I was a bit dramatic back then.

Anyway, after my first Karate class was over I felt a lot better (Yeh, that was it…).
But that didn’t stop me from being terrified every subsequent afternoon when that squeaky door would open and the smell of stale sweat, wafted up my nostrils. I had anxiety when I was a kid and it was almost debilitating. I felt nervous before doing anything, even mundane, day to day tasks would give me butterflies.

Ironically, it was that very Karate class that taught me how to not only cope in the real world, but to have the confidence to willingly put myself out there and exceed in the career that I’ve chosen. Luxury Retail. Nine year old me would be shocked to hear that I talk to people for a living.
I went to Karate classes for the next 18 years, and in that time I competed internationally, taught students in Australia and India and grew into a confident man. I learnt that I could handle tough situations and come out ok. I could answer the phone confidently and even give people bad news without worrying about the consequences. I want to be clear here that this was a learnt skill, not something that was buried deep inside me that I somehow learned to access. I was terrefied of intereacting with the world, and then I wasn’t.
What changed?

The Problem With Personal And Professional Development Advice.

Its common when trying to improve your life that people will tell you to put yourself in challenging situations to stimulate growth. This is great, valid advice, however, it’s terribly vague and doesn’t give you any real tools to cope in the real world.
‘Just do it’ is a great brand slogan, but shit advice for someone with social anxiety.
All I can picture is someone white knuckling their way through addiction, or just trying to be ‘happy’ when they have depression. The destination is clear, but the tools you need to get there, aren’t.
Willing yourself to do something without practical tools is almost impossible.

However, I’m here to tell you that there is something you can do that will instantly make you feel more confident, less anxious and happier in your professional and personal lives.
Here’s how you can talk to anyone in a Luxury Retail Setting.

Get Someone Else To Do Your Dirty Work For You

Ok, I’m not saying that I have dirty work to do, nothing I can write about on here anyway, but it sounds good, so I’m going for it.
Stick with me.
In karate, you wear a suit called a Dogi. It’s white and looks a bit like pyjamas. Over the top you wear your Obi or belt and depending on what rank you are, it can be different colours.
Fun fact, in feudal Japan, the reason that the higher ranking Karateka (Karate Students) had black belts was because they got so dirty over the years they eventually turned black. This is also why it’s tradition to not wash your belt today, you want to avoid washing all of that wisdom/dirt out!

What does this have to do with social anxiety?

When I wrap my Obi around my waist I feel powerful, calm, in control and ready. There’s nothing I can’t do.
The simple act of changing my clothes was enough to lift me out of my anxious rut and give me the confidence I lacked my whole life.
It made an incredible difference.
Problem was, when I went back out into the ‘real’ world, I would take my gear off, and it would be business as usual. Back to feeling like a small, anxious mess again.
I used to think to myself. ”Why can’t I feel like this all the time, not just in the Dojo?”It would look a bit silly wearing my full outfit in the boutique, so that’s out. But could I conjure up that person I was in the Dojo like some kind of black belt Harry Potter and call on those feelings whenever I needed to?
Turns out I could.

Ok, So How Can I Feel Less Anxious At Work?

Let’s cut to the chase.
Whenever I feel myself getting anxious. Either from a difficult situation I’m in (a shitty customer), or there is something I have to do that scares me (talk to a shitty customer), I picture myself putting on my karate uniform, take a breath and then all of a sudden, I’m transformed into the powerful person I am in the Dojo. That guy can do anything.

I call this the Avatar Technique. Let’s break it down.

  1. Think of the version of yourself that would be comfortable in the situation that scares you. In my case, it’s me in my Karate uniform. If that’s a little difficult, you can picture someone else, someone that you think will handle that situation well. It might also help to give your new ‘Avatar’ a name. Mine was Jack (long story).
  2. Then I want you to take a deep breath and take one big step forward, imagining you are stepping in to your new ‘Avatar’ like you’re Tony Start stepping into his Iron Man suit. Dope.
  3. Something helpful is having a trigger to help you get in the right mindset, mine was imagining I’m putting on my Karate outfit. Yours can be a song you listen to or a piece of jewellery or even your work uniform.
  4. Let your ‘Avatar’ take over and go about your business like a boss. No one can stop you now.

Do I Have To Pretend I’m Someone Else My Whole Life?

Although sadly many people do, It doesn’t have to be that way.
The more you practice, the easier it will get, until eventually you will start to feel more confident in yourself and no longer have to call upon your Avatar. After a few months, I was able to face situations that I had never dreamed of before. I became the person I was calling upon.

Although my anxiety may never go away, I’ve taken back control of my life and moved closer to the person I aspire to be.
If only that little boy could see me now…

Give it a try next time you have to face an uncomfortable situation at work. You may be surprised by the person you become.

Cya In the next one x

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