10 Female Leaders Share Their Biggest Fears and How They Overcame Them
I recently met a woman who is smart, beautiful and has accomplished more in her mid-twenties than almost anyone I know. Yet I saw her breakdown in front of me because she feels like a failure. She is afraid that at any minute she is going to lose it all, sabotage her life and everyone will see she’s not meant for success. Not one of her hundreds of thousands of followers saw her cry, but the tears were real and her pain was agonizing.
It broke my heart and it got me thinking. How many other brilliant, powerful, kind, remarkable woman feel deep fear like this too? How much do we go through each day and yet never talk about? And what would happen if we broke down in front of each other more often and were honest about what we fear? We are all told to be strong and that as women we have to fight even harder to succeed, but this does not build the kind of support system we need to reach our goals.
So, I decided to turn to 10 incredible women I know to find out what they fear most and how they overcame it. They were brave enough to share their thoughts here. My challenge to you is to share your fear too. There is nothing that can’t be overcome when we have each other, and the more we hide what we go through each day the more alone in life we are.
Read on for some inspiration and remember: When we share who we really, are we create the opportunity to be stronger than what holds us back.
1. Tracy Nour, Founder, She Just Knows
The Fear: Leaving a great job to become an entrepreneur.
Overcoming It: “Leaving a reliable, senior position at a multi-billion dollar company to start something on my own with no real concrete plan was terrifying. I knew I could really set myself back in my career while disappointing myself and those I love. Even though I was afraid, I did everything I possibly could to make sure it would work out. I listened to what people needed from me, I hustled daily, I treated people well and I delivered great work. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I am a better person because of it.”
2. Debi Nova, Recording Artist/Songwriter
The Fear: Stage fright.
Overcoming It: “I used to get very nervous when having to play live and couldn’t enjoy the experience. What helped me the most to overcome it was to create a ritual before walking on stage. I warm up my voice and hands for 20 min and I meditate for 10 minutes focusing on my breath and grounding my energy and on being grateful for the opportunity to share my art.
I also remind myself the beautiful message from Marianne Williamson: ‘… as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give permission for others to do the same.’”
3. Genevieve Fish, Founder, The Know
The Fear: Being open about my own experiences with depression.
Overcoming It: “I started small, telling a few friends about my experiences with depression. Then I shared with 14 women at our first dinner. Then I continued to share as our programming expanded. I found that every time I led with vulnerability and was open about the highs and the lows of life, I formed incredible connections with almost every woman I met.
Vulnerability, it turns out, is a gateway to meaningful connection. It’s the core ingredient in building a de-stigmatized, empathetic, informative conversation around mental health. It’s still scary to tell people I’ve never met, why I started The Know, but every time I face that fear and open up, I never regret it. I’ve come to view vulnerability as strength.”
4. Danielle Gano, Founder/CEO, elle Comm
The Fear: Saying no.
Overcoming It: “Learning to say no is a process I’m still working through, but it’s started to become easier as a result of better considering my motivations for agreeing to things. Thinking carefully about my intentions for why I would say yes or no to a request has given me a better model for evaluating when I should learn to say no, and also reduced my fears about disappointing others or missing out on opportunities.”
5. Cait Fraser, Co-Founder, Wanderwell
The Fear: Asking for help.
Overcoming It: “I wanted to be able to ‘Do it all,’ but this just lead to more anxiety, burnout and loss of self esteem.
I overcame this fear when I was on a retreat and each person had to ask for something that they need help with. This was an incredible ‘aha’ moment. I saw that I was not alone and that every successful entrepreneur gets to where they are because they ask for help.”
6. Laura Anne Walker, CEO, AG Capital
The Fear: Reaching out to others I admire.
Overcoming It: “Of all the responsibilities I have as a CEO, the one that can be intimidating is reaching out to creatives and luminaries that I admire, which is essential to the growth of my business. I overcame this fear by adopting the mantra, ‘Courage is fear hanging on for a minute longer,’ which is a quote by General George S. Patton that was first taught to me by my father who was in the Navy. This simple but powerful phrase has always helped me convert nervousness into action, and those actions have helped me reach my goals throughout my career.”
7. Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD, Author, Founder, ShiraRD
The Fear: Being a public figure.
Overcoming It: “At my core I’m exceptionally private, so putting myself out there on social media for my career was a major fear of mine. I overcame it by figuring out what I was actually afraid of: misrepresenting myself. The truth is as long as we show up, as ourselves the world will generally respond positively and we can achieve even more than we thought possible. The more authentic we can be – the better. I have to remind myself that I worked long and hard to get where I am today, and I shouldn’t be afraid to share my knowledge and skills with others!”
8. Maimah Karmo, President/CEO, Tigerlily Foundation
The Fear: Swimming.
Overcoming It: “Believe it or not I was struck by lightening as a child and suffered a broken eardrum because of it. The pain was excruciating and it made me terrified of swimming — for more than 30 years. I knew it was time to shed the fear that was holding me back and no longer serving me and while jumping in water for the first time after my injury was so hard for me, it was also cathartic and the experience changed me forever. Now, I know I can scale the next mountain!”
9. Vitina Blumenthal, Founder, WanderfulSoul
The Fear: The big “F.” Failure.
Overcoming It: “Failing does not have to be something we are terrified of, but for years I have let negative thoughts eat away at me. For me, learning to catch my mind when self-sabotaging thoughts come up has been the best skill I’ve learned to date. It doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘negative’ thoughts don’t come up. It just makes it easier to get through low periods quicker, while still staying productive and moving forward.
10. Maggie Neilson, CEO, Global Philanthropy Group
The Fear: Not being liked.
Overcoming It: “Especially early on in my career, I wanted to be liked by everyone. Now I’ve realized that there has to be a hard line between the personal and the professional. It is my job – and in everyone’s best interests – for me to deliver hard news at times ranging from performance feedback to even employment termination. I see now that reasonable minds can disagree, and I’m never going to be able to convince everyone of my perspective, nor are they going to have access to all of the factors at play and that is ok.”