There was a time when women feared they might be eaten by large animals or die of starvation - external dangers. Nowadays, women experience many fears that are more internally-focused:
- fear of failure
- fear of rejection
- fear of not following “the rules”
- fear of not “measuring up”
In my coaching sessions with clients and during our Women Rainmaker Forum program, I worked with many highly accomplished women who struggled to overcome some sort of fear in addition to whatever anxiety they already experience in connection with their lives and careers.
Dispel the Fears for Good
Miraculously, we bring into our life the lessons we need to learn, usually at exactly the right time. Through each of these fears, there are likely life lessons hiding inside. Once learned, you may be empowered to ease your fears and your daily stress. When you take the steps to address your inner fears, you grow and become stronger -- a fearless, strong woman capable of anything her heart desires.
Below are three most common fears I observe in our women clients, as well as useful strategies to overcome them:
1. The Fear of Not Being Liked
This fear stems from how we are socialized as girls. The games little girls play often stress cooperation and connectedness, not competition. Girls play "house”, while boys play "war”. There is no "winner" in "house”. As a result, girls develop a desire to be liked more so than to win.
Realize, though, that it's more important to like yourself rather than to focus on whether others like you. In fact, if you know and like yourself, you will find that it doesn't matter who else likes you. Additionally, you're never going to please everyone. Having someone not like you is simply part of life. Learn to grow past it.
There have been plenty of times in my own life that I was the outlier, the last one chosen for the gym activity. Boy, did that shake my self-esteem. Yet, I know (now) that as long as I like me then everyone is a bonus.
The question, then, is, "How do you begin to love yourself?" Here's a thought: Identify someone you really like or admire. It could be a friend, relative or someone whom you've never even met. Consider the attributes that you view as a strength in that individual. When we like someone, it's often a projection of ourselves. Therefore, it may be a similar strength in this individual that you want to model.
2. The Fear of Sacrificing Family for Work
Many women today constantly ask themselves, "Are my career and children in conflict with one another?" Women (in numbers) now dominate the workplace, and at the same time, they want their children to flourish. That tension creates guilt and doubt. Women wonder, "Is my success at work torpedoing my children's development?"
The key to overcome this fear is to stop multitasking and to focus on the present. In other words, when you're with your children, really be with them. Make it quality time and be present for them. Turn off the cell phone, computer and television so that you can devote all your attention to your children, even if it's just for a short time before bed. Read to your children, listen to them and always tell them how much you love them. Do whatever you can to build memories with them.
If you're traveling for business, make a calendar and for the two weeks leading up to the trip, mark off the days together. This will help young children understand how days begin and end so that your time away won't seem so long. Older children will experience less anxiety while you're away because they'll have had adequate preparation for the separation. Then, while you're away, set a time each day to FaceTime with your children.
If you don't travel but must work long hours, having a daily FaceTime with your children is a great way to build connection during the day. Ultimately, the more love and connection children feel, the better they can handle being separated from you for periods of time.
3. Fear of a Relationship Ending
So many women wonder, "Will my relationship last?" Women long for commitment because commitment leads to emotional fulfillment. Women want deep bonds and yearn for forever. As a result, women worry, "Is my partner satisfied? Am I enough? Are we the couple I think we are?" Women want Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. So, they wonder whether they've found the partner they can love for a lifetime.
The fear of a relationship ending is really the fear of abandonment, of not being good enough, and of being betrayed. Female celebrities, in particular, fear being betrayed. After all, they share secrets, photos and many intimate details with their partners. If they break up, the other party could use the information he knows about the woman to ruin her reputation. That can be a frightening hurdle to overcome.
In order to rise above this fear, you need to build confidence, be comfortable in the moment and with yourself. In a way, it goes back to the first fear about being liked. When you have confidence and a sense of "what I have and who I am are good”, those inner feelings project outward and contribute to a better relationship.
Equally important is to stop worrying about the future. It’s not healthy nor fair to place that kind of pressure on yourself. The present is all that matters. Stay grounded in today rather than wrapped in worry about tomorrow and you'll do better in all areas of life.
Finally, realize that sometimes a relationship is meant to be a journey. When it's over, it's over, and so be it. While you are committed to your partner, your life would not end if the relationship did, in whatever manner. Instead, think of the positives you've derived from the relationship, the lessons you've learned, and the person you've become as a result. Cherish the good moments, but have the commitment to yourself and inner confidence to move on when it is time.
What does this ultimately mean?
Over the years, I have found that the more comfortable I am in my own skin, understanding and standing confident in my own worth, the opinions of others mean less to me. Recognizing this fact has felt like chains being lifted off my shoulders. I am not at all attached to what others think of me. That is extremely liberating.
Further, when I reflect on the challenges I’ve experienced, which have included being laid off three times in my career, surviving three very close brushes with death and multiple childhood traumas, I have developed a level of resilience and mental strength that I know no one can “hurt” me…I’m still here in my servant leadership, living out my purpose.
Reflect on your life, write down your accomplishments, challenges and ways you want to show up more courageously in your life. Chances are you are selling yourself short for our fearless behavior. Acknowledge your “wins”; create visual reminders (perhaps post pictures) of how you have conquered fear. Then, appreciate that you to move forward. I’m cheering you on!