Sara Davidson, CEO of Hello Fearless, was kind enough to answer our questions about how fear holds us back in our careers — and elsewhere. Here’s her awesome advice.
What are the five fears women need to overcome for a better career and life?
- Fear of success — that even if you get everything you want in your life — your dream career, relationship, the money, the success, everything — that it’s going to bear a bigger burden on your current life and family. People with this fear are scared of losing connection and time with their families, and that they will obtain less freedom and have more obligations than what they currently have, so they subconsciously plateau to avoid any potential pitfalls that success might bring.
- Fear of outshining — that by becoming more successful or upleveling our lives, we will make other people feel bad by stealing attention away from them, or will be perceived as selfish or “better than” others. So people with these fears will either play small, or they will turn down the volume of their enjoyment or celebration of what they’ve achieved.
- Fear of being fundamentally flawed — that they aren’t smart enough, creative enough, courageous enough, or whatever it is. They believe they don’t have what it takes or aren’t deserving of the career and life that they desire. This is usually one of the most pervasive fears that hold us back.
- Fear of failure — that the risk isn’t worth the reward, that you’ll potentially lose all your money, fall flat on your face and regret going for it because you’re scared of it not working out. This is a dream killer, as it completely hinders us for going after our dreams and paralyzes us from moving forward.
- Fear of judgment, disloyalty and abandonment – that going after your dreams will leave you ending up alone, abandoning people from your past (your friends and family). People with this fear are afraid of feeling guilty as they expand into greater amounts of success, so they tend to not live life on their own terms. Or that if they do, the people in their lives will judge them in some way.
How can we overcome each of the five fears?
It’s different for each of them, but here are some simple ways to overcome your fears:
First, you have to get to the root of them, the underlying limiting beliefs that we have that serve as hidden barriers holding us back. These tend to be stemmed from childhood experiences that you may not even be aware of, yet you’re likely to feel them at a deep and unconscious level.
Once you’ve identified the fear or belief pattern, you can do a few things:
- Rewrite the beliefs — one at a time — to more empowering beliefs (i.e. “there is no such thing as failure. In fact, all seemingly “bad” things are incredible learning opportunities that further our growth to achieve higher amounts of success, love and abundance.”)
- Practice these new beliefs as mantras – write them down somewhere where you can see them every day. Meditate with them.
- Reflect often — When you encounter a strong limiting belief you can transform it by reflecting repeatedly on experiences that support your new empowering belief and that dismiss your limiting belief.
My other favorite fear-crushing exercise is incredibly powerful, and was first introduced by Jonathan Fields. It’s a 3-part framework, where you write out specific scenarios and how they would play out — almost like a mini-movie where you can actually visualize the experience with all of your senses. Here are the three questions:
- What would happen if you “failed?” How would you walk yourself out of it? How would you get yourself back on your feet? What you’ll discover is almost always, EVERYTHING is recoverable. You won’t die, you won’t get kicked off the planet. And going through this will give you a sense of ease in making decisions knowing that at the end of the day, you’ll be alright.
- What would happen if you didn’t go after your dreams? Do you think you’d really be happier if you stayed in the exact same job or position in life? Or do you think you’d feel guilty, living your life in regret? Life doesn’t move sideways, it only moves up or down. So nine times out of ten, it is a huge motivator to look at your life 3-5-10 years from now if you didn’t listen to that inner voice inside of you telling you to go for it, and compare that to where your life could be if you did listen to that voice.
- What would happen if it ALL worked out? What would your life look like if you succeeded? So here, you write down all of the magical things that could happen if you actually got everything you wanted. What does your ideal house look like? How much money do you have, how do you feel every day in your dream job/position? What experiences will you have? Write down what it tastes like, looks like, smells like — everything. And then you hold that vision to motivate you to move past your fears.
What are the best ways to discover one’s strengths and weaknesses?
There are a lot of different ways. The first way we teach women in our programs is to identify their zone of genius. These are the things that come natural to us, that we can see as patterns throughout our life in our roles, previous relationships and more. Here are a few fun ways to discover your zone of genius:
- Write down your favorite movie and movie character. List out all of the attributes or character traits about this character. This is typically a direct reflection of who you are or what you are capable of.
- Email 5-10 friends/family members and ask them to reflect what they believe you are naturally gifted at. Are you a connector? Do you have a knack for motivating people? Hearing how people see you can be incredibly helpful to determining your genius.
- Then go through a series of self-reflection questions to determine more of your superpowers: What feels effortless to you? What type of work/play can you get lost in for hours on end? When are you at your best and when do you feel on fire?
- Notice the patterns. When you gather all of this information, you’ll start to realize where your sweet spot is. The key is to do work and create a life where you exist primarily in this zone, leveraging all of your natural gifts that make you the most fulfilled. That’s where limitless amounts of abundance, wealth and joy come from.
You can also take a lot of self-assessments that will give you greater levels of self-awareness. Some of my favorites are the Enneagram, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Myers-Briggs and others. They will shed some light on your unique personality and your natural strengths and weaknesses.
How do you define “having it all?”
“Having it all” means never settling and truly believing you can have everything you want in life — and then some. You can have an epic relationship, a completely fulfilling career or business, the money, the accolades, the family, the health, the experiences — but that only comes from stepping outside the status quo, diving into discovering more of who you are and fearlessly going after your dreams. It’s possible, not only have I experienced it but I know hundreds of people who have made it happen, too. That’s exactly why I’ve made it my life mission and purpose to help other women achieve it as well.
Do you have any advice on achieving work/life balance?
I don’t believe work/life balance exists since balance is never truly possible. Instead, I believe life is all about integration. Whenever any area of your life is suffering, it completely impacts another area of your life because they are all connected. So it’s crucial to look at your entire life holistically, and then commit every single day to the daily rituals, practices and small steps you take to get you in the right direction.
What struggles do you find are unique to female entrepreneurs and not to males? Why is that?
We’ve found that women tend to not build businesses beyond themselves, meaning they are the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. With 90% of women business owners being solopreneurs, they limit themselves in terms of their growth, impact and financial potential. This tends to stem from a fear that if they grow their businesses, they’ll actually have less freedom or time to spend with their families or on other things they love. Or that they’ll have to sacrifice being a good mom, partner or friend. But the reality is that it’s not feasible for us to be great at or even love doing every aspect with our business, and we need help from other people who can support us so we exist in more of a role we’re absolutely obsessed with.
Whether this is someone to help with bookkeeping or even to help clean the house, by delegating you open yourself up to more time to spend on the work & activities you love. Women need to stop bearing the burden of everything in their businesses and lives, need to ask for more help & support, and dream bigger.
The last thing is we as a society have minimized the importance of self-care and suppressed our abilities to tap into our own internal wisdom that comes with slowing down and prioritizing ourselves. YOU are the foundation of your business, so you must take care of yourself. Get great sleep, pamper yourself, have more fun, meditate and build a relationship with yourself. Because through that, through your intuition, that’s where your creative genius and full potential is unleashed.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Hands-down, to INVEST IN YOURSELF. You need to invest the time, money and energy to becoming your best self, to learn from others who will significantly decrease your learning curve, to surround yourself with other ambitious, heart-centered people who will hold you accountable to your dreams, and to do the hard work to crush your fears and learn to follow your heart. Through that, you can find work and a life where you wake up everyday feeling ALIVE. You don’t have to do it alone, and it is possible. Just take the leap, trust the process and enjoy the journey. Life is a beautiful experiment that will reward you generously when you invest in yourself and play full out.