Sunday, 5 January 2014

Maxted, A., "What would you do if you weren't so afraid?", Marie Claire (2013)

... [F]or many women, the fear of failing is so overwhelming that it leads to paralysis and we do nothing at all. ... Nowhere is this more apparent than on the blog "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" (ifuwerentafraid.tumblr.com), which features photos of women holding signs filled with dreams, citing what they'd do if they weren't frozen by fear. Their hopes and aspirations are unique, yet sweetly ordinary; the dreams of many millions of 20- and 30-something women: to launch their own company, demand the salary they deserve, explore the world alone ...

The blog is hosted by Lean In, the campaign run by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to offer women the inspiration to achieve their goals. ... [S]tudies show that young women are less ambitious than men, avoid leadership roles and are too afraid to speak up. The mouthy Apprentice-style contestant, with her brutish instinct for survival but scant humanity, may be prevalent on reality television, but a more widespread reality is the nuanced, thoughtful woman who won't raise a hand in class because she's frightened of being laughed at. ... [T]here is such a thing as having too much self-awareness ...

Last year, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women's Report found that "in nearly every economy, there are fewer female than male entrepreneurs". ... When I was growing up, girls were conditioned to be good, compliant, safe - while boys were more likely to have been urged to be brave and bold. Society is changing, but these outdated attitudes haven't worn off. ...

In my opinion, we women who doubt ourselves aren't coy, needy, or silly; there's often a moral aspect to our fear. A friend once took busloads of tourists around Siena in Italy, as well as Prague and Amsterdam, having never set foot in those cities before. I admired her courage. "Or is that cheating people?" asked my husband - a man who, physically, is unafraid, who challenges the bully berating the waitress, who sees injustice and steps in. And yet, years ago, invited to lunch by an emeritus professor of philosophy at Cambridge University in the UK, feared he wasn't good enough and didn't go. We fear cheating people, but end up cheating ourselves.

... "What is the worst that could happen?" isn't always a futile question. ... A friend invested in a restaurant business that failed and financial problems ensued. Not all fears are baseless - particularly in these lean times. ... You hope for these fearful women with their placards, you will them to succeed, and in wishing for them, you wish for yourself. Courage is to fear, but try regardless to blunder on, speak up, embrace the red face, feel foolish, squash it. So what if fear lies beneath? Fear is part of a full life, as is loss and risk. ... 

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