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Courage is not the absence of fear.


Raised fist with symbol for women on forearm.


I’ve decided to focus today’s newsletter on the concept of courage. I’m applying an International Women’s Day angle to this but, rest assured, today’s message will resonate with all my readers, so please read on!

 

Consider these facts:

 

  • Women make up 50% of the population but hold only about 30% of senior management roles, globally.

  • Men tend to apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, while women will often apply to jobs only when they meet 100% of the qualifications.

  • Men negotiate their salaries more often than women do.

 

Women, especially, need to hear what I have to say about courage because, while there are indeed serious and persistent systemic issues, the above data demonstrates that we also hold ourselves back far too often.

 

You are braver than you think.

 

There are likely public figures or people in your life who have done things that scare you to bits: applying for a big promotion, training to run a marathon, standing up to a bully, running for office, leaving a successful corporate career to focus full-time on the relative uncertainty of a start-up business (*clears throat*). Perhaps you look up to these people and even think to yourself, “Wow! I wish I could do something like that! I’d be too afraid to do that. They have it all figured out.”

 

I’ll let you in on a secret. They don’t. They don’t have it all figured out. And, odds are, they are afraid – very afraid – too. But, as you may have previously heard, “Courage is not the absence of fear.”

 

When I say “fear”, I mean fear in the broadest sense possible: anxiety, dread, terror, nervousness, guilt, worry, insecurity, shame, doubt, uncertainty, etc.

 

Just because you are afraid of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for that thing either.

It certainly doesn't mean you're going to fail.

 

The presence of fear just means that you’re about to learn and grow. I’d argue that the presence of fear is also telling you that it’s actually TIME to do exactly that: grow.

 

I’m not saying you should be reckless. By all means, consider an opportunity or a situation from all angles but be objective and be realistic. If you decide that you shouldn’t go for it, really question why. Often, we aren’t truly viewing situations from a variety of perspectives. We tend to focus on the most pessimistic ones, thanks to our innate negativity bias that would have us believe that the most negative possible outcomes are the only ones we should pay attention to. That’s not true. The most negative possible outcomes are just a few possibilities among many.

 

I want to let you in on another secret: Those people who have done the things that scare you and that you only dream of doing? They aren’t only afraid when they are trying to decide if they should do those things. Fear sticks around for the whole journey.

 

The fear doesn’t go away.

 

In my own example, I was terrified – T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D – of leaving my career to focus on the much riskier option of running my own business. I agonized for a loooong time over whether I should take the leap or not. (“Agonized” is a very apt description of the process. It was indeed agony.)

 

Then, when I finally definitively made up my mind, I was filled with dread when I told my people manager, I was filled with fear and sadness when I told my team, I was filled with anxiety when I told my family.

 

I gave my prior employer two months’ notice and, as I worked towards my last day, I second-guessed my decision a thousand times. I’d say to my husband, “I’m going to call my boss and tell him I changed my mind.” Even though I was excited and hopeful about the future, I wore fear like a uniform.

 

And yet, I kept going. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is compassionately forging ahead despite the fear... even when you don't feel particularly brave.

 

Then, when I was done with my corporate job and sitting in front of my laptop wondering what to do next in this new adventure, I thought, “What the hell have I done?” I was filled with fear again. Rather, I was filled with fear STILL.

 

Most people have that reaction when they do something new or something that scares them: “I’ve made a terrible mistake!” That’s just your ego rebelling. It wants to be cozy, doing the same old stuff you always do. It hates change and growth. Again, when those people you admire do the things that you dream of doing, they also have those moments of “WTF. This is hard! What have I done?!”  Those thoughts are there. Those people just keep going anyway.

 

You might get to a certain level of comfort in your new endeavour and then it will be time to learn a new aspect of it and the fear will rear its head again.

 

Courage is not the absence of fear.

 

Fear is a constant companion in us all. It may take different forms but it’s always there.

 

The goal is not to eradicate fear.

 

The goal is to acknowledge that experiencing fear is part of being human.

 

It is about having compassion for ourselves as we process our fear and learn to interact with it more consciously.

 

Most of all, the goal is to do the damn thing that scares us anyway.

 

You can do it.

 

You are braver than you think.


With gratitude,

Stephanie 


LORA Concepts Inc.

workplace effectiveness & engagement




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p.s. The information, insight, and advice I share through my work is meant to exist alongside whatever else you may be doing to bolster your mental health, manage stress, or improve your well-being. Nothing I share is meant to replace directives or treatment plans provided by your doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional.

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