Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Fear of being Singled Out! Are you afraid of success?

This is the first time I am speaking at the Grace Hopper Conference, and I am very much excited at the opportunity. The topic of my session is "The Fear of being Singled Out!" (which I understand is a topic that has been/ can be discussed for days together). My goal for the session is NOT to give a "speech" about what women fear, but rather spread awareness about the different types of fears (or obstacles) women (and men too!) face in the path of being successful, and discuss some tips to overcome them. This is my small attempt to create a community of smart, independent girls and women who will help each other understand, accept and fight our fears. 

I prepared a handout that summarizes the gist of my talk. The following is the content from the handout. 


Think Big”er than your fears”, Drive Forward - is the secret recipe for success in today's world. Fear of being singled out, being successful, is quite common in career oriented women at all levels. This fear can cause us to lose out on a variety of opportunities in life. Most times, we're unable to reach out for support because to do so would mean facing another fear, disapproval. Through this session, we would like to bring about an awareness about the signs and causes of the fear that hinders our progress in life, and discuss options to overcome it.

The Signs, Causes and Tips to overcome our fears

Some very wise words from a very wise (fictional) person, Albus Dumbledore, “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery”. We need to ask ourselves, what is it really that stops women from owning their success and standing out in a crowd? It is only by acknowledging these fears that we will collectively be empowered to fight them. Let’s talk about 5 such fears and how to overcome them.
#1: Have you received compliments like you should have been born a man because you understand technology or excel in sports? Or you are pretty smart for a girl? Or you feel you shouldn’t venture into a space because it is dominated by men?
Many women are afraid of fighting everyday sexism [1]! Instead of choosing to bury our experiences and accepting them as part of daily life, help the other person understand that he/she is being a sexist (if they are doing it unknowingly). If they are infact doing it consciously, report this behavior to higher authorities. Help create a cultural shift to let girls and women know that they do have the right to say no to gender inequality.
#2: Do you find yourself waiting for someone else to voice your opinion? Do you look for other’s approval everytime you speak up? Do you feel insecure about your opinion that you consider it not worth sharing?
Many women are afraid of speaking up [1]! Don’t give yourself an excuse for not speaking up. Start leading without worrying about what others might think, and don’t preface your ideas with ‘maybe’ or ‘I don’t know, but…’ which show signs of weaknesses. Stand up for what you believe in, and tell yourself that it is ok to be wrong at times. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
#3: Have you been criticized for your action or lifestyle choice? Do you think twice before posting a picture just because it isn’t cool enough? Or getting that tattoo because others might judge you? Do you try to create an image of someone you are not? Do you not do something you like just because someone else is better than you?
Many women are afraid of being judged [1]! Trust yourself and the choices you make and stop worrying about what others might think. Stick to a confident posture, assertive tone and keep a smile on your face and you will find people judging you positively. Sometimes, you might even miss out a potential opportunity (like an employer) just because you pretend to be someone else due to your fear. Realize that there are infact very few people in this world whose approval you should be after.
#4: Do you feel failure is not acceptable but rather shameful? Do you associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy? Do you withdraw from the game altogether because it’s more comfortable to stay in the current familiar situation, than exposing yourself to new pressures and demands?   
Many women are afraid of being successful [1]! Remind yourself that you are not alone. Remind yourself of all the extra resources success will bring you- a boost to your confidence, a more powerful network, a dream job, and a growing reputation that opens new doors. Think for a second- what have you been meaning to say or do? Can you make a tiny shift in your perception that will make it easier to step beyond your fear?
#5: Do you receive a compliment and immediately follow it by a self-deprecating response? Do you attribute your success to luck, timing, or as a result of someone else’s help? Do you feel you suffer from the imposter syndrome?
Many women are afraid of claiming their success [1]! Be proud of your accomplishments and build confidence to acknowledge compliments with an open heart and mind. Accept yourself as being healthy, happy, successful, prosperous, and accomplished. Visualize your life when you are successful and walk towards that path. Let us, as a community of smart, independent women, help each other understand, accept and fight our fears.


[1] Based on the results from Lean In’s social media campaign

I hope you are now inspired enough to understand, accept, fight, and recover from your fears and take that next big step towards being successful. Feel free to comment and/or continue the discussion on Twitter. My twitter handle is @vidya1288 and make sure you use #GHC13 while tweeting. 

Happy Reading!


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