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Now that I recognize where my self-doubt comes from, I don’t let it control my actions. I have the power to take action despite my fear.
I have become less dependent on what other people say and instead look for validation internally. It’s like I have become my own best friend.
I received these comments from professional women after a year-long coaching relationship. At the end of the coaching program, rolled out as a part of the company’s commitment to achieving a gender-balanced workforce, the participants were asked to identify the areas where coaching had been most beneficial. The top three of those areas were:
These three areas might look like they have nothing in common. But what contributed to the improvement in all three areas was each client’s work on identifying the source of self-doubt.
Despite the structural and cultural challenges women face in the workplace, women have significant power to build personal strategies for self-empowerment and how to step into their professional and personal vision. Learning to manage your fear is the starting point.
Fear can be useful – the rational kind keeps us from a chasing lion; fear based in survival. But that fear is different from irrational fear, which is fed by doubt. This kind of fear blocks our growth, prevents us from stepping up in our professional and overall vision of our lives.
If you or your client expect to be free from fear, you will be disappointed. In my experience, fear will hardly ever go away. It’s part of being human. But you can act despite fear. This is what I call courage.
Courage can be developed with three steps:
When clients reflect on the stories they tell themselves, they can see the difference between the facts and illusion. Naming a fear and recognizing it takes away some of its power. By doing so, fear stops being treated as truth and is seen for the illusion it is.
The most common types of fear I’ve seen clients recognize through coaching conversations are:
The list of possible fears is much longer: fear of being exposed as an “imposter”, fear of saying the wrong thing, making the wrong decision or fear of growing responsibilities.
Resisting fear can only strengthen it. When clients find their strategies to befriend their fear, it becomes a source of valuable insight.
After helping a client recognize their fear, the next questions you may ask are:
This exploration helps clients to understand their fear, sit with it and embrace “growth fear” instead of becoming paralyzed by it.
Coaching helps women take the steps needed to embrace their inner power.
The experiences and circumstances that push women through their fears lead them to discover unimagined internal strength. In my experience, they’ll start to:
When clients develop strategies to act despite fear, they become courageous and open to limitless possibilities. As they push through discomfort, they become more resilient on their journey to professional and personal fulfillment.
One last, personal note – ironically, the biggest fear I personally encounter in coaching conversations (and one of my greatest fears) is the fear of not leaving your mark on the world. Coaching can help everyone, not only women, handle self-doubt and grow into a courageous leader who pushes through fear and makes a significant positive difference.