Find the Courage to Take Your Next Step!

Recently a friend and colleague pointed out this quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

“Fear is at the root of so many barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.”

It spoke to her because of work she’s doing on the impact of fear on women’s advancement. I had this response (in black with quotes sprinkled throughout):

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”
Anaïs Nin

Thanks for sending along Sheryl's quote. I disagree slightly with it...fear isn't "at the root of so many barriers that women face." That makes it sound like fear is something outside of women that feeds barriers that spring up on our paths through life. That’s not how fear operates.
Fear is an inner feeling that a woman creates based on her unique response to a given circumstance.  I look at a climbing wall and, because of my fear of heights, am loathe to climb it. Another woman looks at it and is exhilarated by the challenge. I go horse camping in the backcountry of Yellowstone with grizzlies and wolves and travel by myself around the world - things other women might be too afraid to do.
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage...”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Instead of believing that fear feeds barriers that women face, I would say that "fear is at the root of so many excuses that women make." (I know it's harsh, but it's true.) A nicer way to say it is that "fear is at the root of so many ways women hold ourselves back." 

Thinking of fear this way is empowering. By believing that in the face of any given fear we actively decide whether to hold ourselves back (or not) we see that the solution lies within our control - it is to tap our courage.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

We all experience one or more of the fears that Sheryl cites. If we tap courage and act regardless of these fear we will be successful - not only in our careers, but also our lives. I call this "having the mindset of a winner." It doesn't mean being competitive, it means believing that one will prevail, that any obstacle can be overcome and that we have within ourselves the courage to act.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that 
something else is more important than fear.”
James Neil Hollingworth aka Ambrose Redmoon

It is important to acknowledge fear, not to give it power, but to seek what's more important that will compel us to tap our courage! That thing that is more important might be the next step on the career ladder, it might be resolve to not see a less worthy man get that opportunity, it might be the drive to fulfill the one's gifts, or the desire to be a better provider for her family. No matter what it is, a woman who wants to live a rich live has to intentionally place her fear on the back burner and do what might scare, but will fulfill, her.

You live life this way - it's one reason you're such a joy to work with! Let's keep helping other women do the same.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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