The Fear Factor for Women in Business

by Surina Piyadasa

We recently asked Surina Piyadasa, Executive Presentation Coach, a few questions related to women and fears they face in business, and how best to handle them.

1. What are the most common fears or self-doubt issues that women face in business?

If you’ve faced fear or self-doubt issues at some point in your business career, you’re not alone. This is the confession of thousands of successful executives I’ve come to know in my leadership communications practice.  Face it, we’re all imperfect people managing career ups and downs the best way we can.   How then, do you slay dragons of fear and self-doubt before they become menacing giants – shattering confidence, eroding self-esteem and inflicting emotional distress?  The best strategy is to keep these emotions in check before they can overwhelm.  These dragons gain power each time negative mental chatter is allowed to rule thoughts and feelings:

“What if I’m not hired?” (fear of not being good enough)

“What if management ignores my great idea?” (fear of rejection)

“What if I don’t get the promotion I’ve worked so hard for? (fear of failure)

“What if I’m not paid what I’m really worth?” (fear of financial insecurity)

A “healthy” dose of fear can motivate.  It can be the catalyst to help you breakthrough your comfort zone to achieve new heights of success.  Take bold, decisive action that propels you forward.  Face your dragons and slay them.

2. What three pieces of advice would you give to women dealing with fears or self-doubt issues?

If you’re a women battling with fear and self-doubt, consider these three pearls to help you overcome:

#1: It starts in your head.  The human brain is remarkable.  It can’t hold both a positive and negative thought at the same time.  Jump start your morning by reciting these positive personal affirmations aloud (for at least two full minutes):

“I am loved and accepted at all times.”

“With each breath, I inhale love, joy and confidence.”

“I have much to offer the world.”

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself swinging a sword to slay your dragons.  With each forceful swing, recite these words aloud with conviction, Fear and doubt, you no longer have power over me.  With each inhale, breathe in courage, love and acceptance.  With each exhale, let go of any negative emotion that’s been holding you back from achieving your full potential.

#2 Fear only has power if you give it life.  Choose to focus your thoughts and energy on achieving a winning outcome so fear can’t gain a foothold.  Each time you focus on the greatness of achieving success, fear gets smaller.

#3 Build a strong support system.  This can be a small circle of trusted friends, prayer group or mentor to lean on for encouragement and support to keep fear from stealing your joy.

3. What separates successful business women from non-successful?

Perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt said it best with these words, “A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

“Courage under fire” is what’s required if a women is determined to succeed in business.  The opposite of fear is courage.  Women who push through crushing set-backs and heart-breaking disappointments inspire me.  They’re like the Energizer Bunny.  They refuse to give up.  I’ve been fortunate to meet inspiring women leaders who’ve overcome big business challenges  — even in the face of divorce, family illness and financial stress.  If they happen to fail, they’re quick to learn from their mistakes and rebound.  They refuse to let failure define who they are.  Character is revealed through adversity.

4. Lastly, do you have a personal story to share related to the topic that changed your professional life for the better?

As a professional actor, I’ve learned to embrace stage fright.  It wasn’t always that way.  I’ll never forget how my heart nearly jumped out of my chest while filming my first television commercial for a national bank.  There were twenty cast and production crew members on the set that day.  The Director yelled, “Action!” and I was frozen with fear.  My mind could only focus on the twenty pair of eyes watching my every move.  It took ten tries for me to deliver one line to camera.  My voice quivered.  I could barely recall my name, let alone speak clearly.  The Director had empathy for my anxiety.  He walked over to me and gently whispered, “Now, act as if you’ve been promoted to CEO of the Bank and deliver your line.”  I tried it and it worked like a charm.  Stage fright instantly left.  In its place was a confident me who sounded and acted like a credible CEO!  Since then, those pearls of wisdom spoken by that Director echo in my mind when butterflies start to flutter in my stomach.  I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously, look fear in the eye and take that bold step forward.

About the Author

Surina Piyadasa

As CEO and Founder of Dynamically Speaking, Surina is passionate about helping leaders and teams prepare for high stakes presentations.  Since 2004, more than 3,000 business leaders across diverse industries have trusted Surina’s coaching for tangible business results. A former tech investment banker, Surina is fluent in the languages of business, technology and capital markets. She holds an MBA in Finance from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Surina draws on two decades of media training and television exposure to help clients engage target audiences with authenticity.  As an on-camera spokesperson, Surina has represented respected Fortune 500 brands in television commercial and industrial film projects.

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