An Open Letter to Women in the Workplace About Their Fear

Close your eyes and think of a famous CEO.

You probably thought of Mark Zuckerburg from Facebook or maybe even Jeff Bezos from Amazon. Both men. And, it’s not that they aren’t great innovators and leaders, but it does raise the question: Why didn’t a woman come to mind first? The answer is that Zuckerberg and Bezos had an idea, and ran fearlessly and confidently with it until they saw success, and that women typically struggle with self-confidence and fear.

At least, I know I have, especially when it comes to the workplace.

But, if confidence in the workplace is so essential to a successful career, then why is it that we women often live behind this mask of a fear to speak up, share opinions or initiate projects? Sheryl Sandberg, in her book “Lean In,” addresses one of the prominent bases of workplace fear. Sandberg, while referencing psychologists’ study of power dynamics, states that those who serve in low-power positions are less likely to share their opinions, and more likely to monitor what they say when they do. “This helps explain why for many women, speaking honestly in a professional environment carries an additional set of fears. Fear of not being considered a team player. Fear of seeming negative or nagging. Fear that constructive criticism will come across as just plain old criticism.”

Fear causes us to stand in the background of the workplace and justify the silence we have grown accustomed to. Fear is the validation of our imaginary, decreased value on the corporate ladder. If we remove fear, then we decrease what holds us back from professional success and find the personal validation that only confidence can provide.

Of course, this is easier said than done. To alter the way we think — by including a healthy portion of confidence — changes the way we look at everything, from the way we walk into a meeting to the way we approach small talk with a higher-up. But, imagine if it we eliminated unhealthy fear and identified and removed ourselves as the obstacle holding us back from limitless professional success. Have you ever met a CEO who cowers in the corner?

Rosa Parks said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Although she didn’t go down in history for running a multi-billion dollar company, she went down in history for being fearless, for standing up for herself and for knowing her worth.

Imagine if we all did that; think of where we could be.

Has fear held you back from being the kind of woman you want to be? 

An original version of this article appeared on Darling. Written by: Katy Horst 

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