I’m Not Fearless

My team likes to call me their fearless leader. Every time they say it or write it, the voice in my head goes, “No, I’m not.”

And yes, I’ve written about being risk inviting. I am risk inviting, but does that mean I can’t experience fear about my business? Of course not. Otherwise, we’re all breaking some kind of rule just by being human.

So, then the voice asks, “Does it matter if they say that? Isn’t it better that everyone assumes you’re fearless?” I don’t think so. I think it’s actually pretty harmful, not for my reputation or image, but for the possible damage done to others by dismissing reality.

I’ll give another example:

“If I can do it, anyone can.”

No, anyone can’t. What on earth kind of complex are you trying to put on anyone that fails? First of all, in almost every situation where I’ve read or heard that statement, there were extremely helpful extenuating circumstances that lead to the individual in question succeeding. To act like an “average” person that stumbled onto an opportunity is waving away the truth, but also minimizing your own effort or assistance. Let’s also not forget that no one is “average.” There are so many facets to ourselves and our minds that there is no “average” situation or person for this “if I, then anyone,” business.

Now that we have a term for imposter syndrome, I believe this very use of phrases to be a culprit. If I tell everyone I’m fearless, the implied message is you should be too. But I’m not and you shouldn’t be. If I can do something and anyone can, what’s wrong with you when you can’t?

But Keisha, you’re being a bad capitalist. In order for your business to succeed, you need to exude confidence at all times. Well, I never said I was a good capitalist. I find something unnerving about people who can’t show vulnerability. In fact, Brené Brown has an entire TED Talk on trust coming from being vulnerable. In a time where we talk so much about remembering our humanity, developing relationships, and connecting with each other, I think this is the perfect time for CEOs to admit their fears. Because, in all honesty, none of my fears paralyze me. They keep me problem solving and open to input. They make me adaptable and learning. If I were always sure of myself, I think I would’ve gotten stuck in a trench of my own digging.

So, I’m telling you that I am not fearless. I don’t want to be called fearless. I don’t think anyone can do anything just because someone else did, and I hope we all release each other from that idea. We might get more done without the pressure of measuring up to a line of empty facades.

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