At some point or another, every woman has wondered if they are on the right track and if the work they are pouring their time and energy into is actually going to work out how they hope.
The reality is that these fears and doubts are just part of rising up in leadership. As a woman, there will be times when you’re not sure that things will work out. It is in these moments that you need to be able to take a step back and look at the situation, and your thoughts, in a different way.
Temporary setbacks and the usual challenges that life throws at you can be daunting. The majority of ‘would-be’ leaders will throw in the towel and quit the moment the going gets tough. They falsely believe that they don’t have what it takes to succeed or the journey is just too tough for them. They fear the trials that must be endured in order to see success. They quit out of fear.
At the end of the day, when it comes to fear, you really only have two choices:
Forget Everything And Run
Face Everything And Rise
The choice is quite obvious. While the first one will be easy, it will leave you stranded in mediocrity. Your dreams and goals will die from strangulation by fear. Choose the second option, and you’ll push past your fear with grim determination.
When you come out on the other side, you’ll be emotionally stronger, mentally tougher, and you’ll taste the fruits of success. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
In my circle, the women I know rise and I’m sharing five of the most common fears that plagued these women and how they rose above them to achieve the life and leader they were created to be!
1. Fear of the Unknown
This is probably one of the biggest fears that women face. Many of my friends and coaching clients tell me that when starting their leadership journeys, they had a certain degree of uncertainty. That’s just the way it is. One of them said, “you must always remember that you can’t discover new lands if you’re afraid to lose sight of the shore.”
You have to push through and go with your heart, even if it’s beating uncontrollably fast. When talking about fear, a coaching client shared about an older movie called “3 Kings”. My George Clooney fans will know this movie. In one scene, a young soldier who was feeling afraid approached Sergeant Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) with a question, and he replied, “The way this works is… you do the thing you’re scared sh*tless of, and you get the courage after you do it. Not before you do it.”
This statement rang very true for my client. If you’re worried that you may not have the skills to be a successful leader, go ahead and do it anyway. Then learn as you go along. You must have the faith to take the first step even when you can’t see the whole picture. The best way to put an end to your fear of the unknown is to have faith.
You must believe in yourself and who you’re trying to become.
Every day, countless women are hoping to land a leadership position. Some of them fail and quit. The road to success is paved with the crushed dreams of the many who have tried and quit. They quit because they didn’t believe in themselves, and they let fear take over.
The next time you have doubts and fears, ask yourself why you’re feeling them. Maybe you’re like my friend who became an expert in her role and she worried about letting her expertise go because of the security it provided. Eventually she went after the leadership role. She said that by asking herself why she had this fear, she understood that what she really feared is that she might not have all the answers anymore when she started her leadership journey.
Once you know this concern, you can make a plan of action to overcome this concern, such as investing in a coach to help you become successful in your new role. If you do not analyze your fears and let them control you and hold you back, your career will become stagnant. The only way to progress is to keep moving forward no matter what setbacks you encounter along the way.
2. The Fear of Failure
This is another major fear that paralyzes many women from acting on their goals and dreams. The fear of failure has stopped more people in their tracks than any other fear. Usually, this fear is disguised in many different ways. If you’re worried that all your efforts will go to waste and you will not be a successful leader, that’s a fear of failure. Most people say they just ‘don’t want to waste their time on something that won’t work.’
The hard truth is that you’ll never know unless you try. It may take you three years to feel confident as a leader. Guess what? If the fear of failure keeps you from trying in the first place, you will never know what could have been.
The three years will go by, and chances are your career will probably be the same. Whereas if you had moved forward with your goals, you just might be in the running for a c-suite position. Many people fear failure because they are scared they will look foolish in front of their friends and family or are worried about criticism from their peers.
In all reality, what others think of you should be the least of your concerns. You may notice that when you try to better yourself and do things that others don’t do, your friends may actually be your loudest supporters. If they aren’t, then it’s time to find new friends.
The best way to deal with the fear of failure is to ask yourself what could possibly go wrong. Now plan out what countermeasures you can take to prevent your endeavors from failing. Spend time visualizing yourself pushing past obstacles and succeeding. Repeat this visualization process daily and even a couple of times a day. This will give you faith and belief in yourself to keep going forward.
3. The Fear That You Are Not Good Enough
This fear usually arises when you have experienced a tough failure at a previous time in your life. Many people do not do well academically while in school because they had no natural affinity or interest in the subjects they were learning. The girl who was gifted at art and writing may have failed at math and science and she believed she couldn’t go further than high school. This failure may make her feel like she can’t succeed at anything in life even though she has all the potential to be extremely successful.
One friend told me that she had to remind herself to never give up on herself. When you land your first leadership position, there will be a learning curve that you’ll have to go through. This is inevitable. You will make mistakes. You will hire the wrong person. You will waste time on a project that goes nowhere. This is just part of the process and can’t be avoided. However, if you quit while at this stage because you feel like you’re not good enough, you’ll NEVER get better.
You only get better as you keep learning and progressing. Many beginners look at super-famous leaders and feel intimidated. They believe that the other leaders are smarter and better than them. Do not compare yourself with others. This is a huge mistake and will always leave you feeling discontented. You may be comparing your beginning with someone else’s finish. It’s not fair to you and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. All you need to do is focus on being the best that you can be.
Here’s the truth. Everybody started off as a beginner. You do not become successful overnight. There is a journey that you have to go through, and go through it you must. Fearing that you’ll never amount to much will mean that you have given up before you even started. You must have confidence. Chalk up every little failure that you encounter along the way as a learning experience. You can’t extrapolate from incomplete data. The more you learn, the better you’ll get.
The more mistakes you make, the better. Failure is not the opposite of success. It is a part of success. You are good enough just as you are. You just need to believe it.
4. The Fear That You're Late or Too Old
This is another big one. You may have heard things like ‘The good ol’ days are over’ or ‘You’re too old to start your leadership journey’… But are these statements even true? Of course not. Being a leader is here to stay, and every single day there are people, just like you, who are succeeding. It’s never too late to start, and now is as good a time as any.
You’re also never too old to set new goals or dream new dreams. Julie Aigner Clark founded Baby Einstein Company at 56. Ina Garten published a cookbook at 50. Actress Youn Yuh-jung was nominated for an Oscar at 73. As you can see, women have succeeded in life at all ages. You’re never too old. So cast this fear aside and pursue your dreams today.
5. Limiting Beliefs
The fifth and final fear is actually not a “fear” at all but an incorrect belief pattern. There are many women who have been held back from success because of their own beliefs about what they are and are not capable of. This is because while growing up, we formed our beliefs based on what we saw, what we heard, and what we were told.
We need look no further than the lack of women in leadership roles. Many of us didn’t group up with grandmas, moms or aunts in leadership positions, so we formed a story that we couldn’t be leaders, either. Because of this, all we knew about leadership was what they saw and heard and the prevailing narrative was (and still is for the most part) that leadership is for men. Getting into a leadership role requires us to overcome our limited thinking and believe that we are actually capable of achieving this.
Overcoming our limited self-beliefs is a Herculean task, and it can be done. You will need to be alert to the way you think and proactive in correcting yourself. Once you realize that your only limit is you, your life will change, and you’ll be able to conquer this obstacle. You are worthy of success.
I had a client recently tell me that the way she overcomes this belief is by finding a man who has swagger, is similar in age, and lower on the totem pole than she is. Every time she thinks she can’t do something, she asks, “what would swagger do?” and then she does that, because she knows that the best way to conquer fear is through action. Analyzing why she feels the way she does is helpful, but nothing beats action when it comes to dispelling fear. Do what you fear most, and the fear will vanish.
Never let your fear decide your future. Make a good plan, have contingencies in place, and work your plan till you succeed. Even during the darkest hours, when everything around you may feel like it’s all about to collapse and all your fears are telling you that you’re about to fail, dig your heels in and keep pushing forward.
It’s always darkest before the dawn. Keep going. You’ve got this!