Recently,I was reading through my roommate’s Cosmo (not everyone’s favorite magazine, I know), and I came across a little piece about Sheryl Sandberg and her company LeanIn. I’m still not quite sure what her company is because I was too lazy to read the article, but I AM really intrigued by their “Not Afraid” Campaign.
Featured on http://ifuwerentafraid.tumblr.com is their definition (excerpt shown here) and an introductory video:
Women, in particular, hold themselves back by fear of the unknown: fear of failure, fear of speaking up, fear of being judged.
Why do we harbor so much fear? Why, as we enter the workforce in droves, as we graduate with higher GPAs, as we flourish in so many parts of our lives, are we so afraid?
Part of leaning in is about overcoming our fears to pursue our ambitions — whatever those may be. This blog is about putting those fears out there. It’s about saying them out loud and sharing them with others. It’s about holding them up on a sign — and then challenging ourselves to overcome them.
We hope the women on this blog will inspire you to ask yourself, ‘What would I do if I weren’t afraid?’ And then to go and do it.
Some women’s posts fall into the career category:
“I want to be able to stay focused enough to accomplish my goals no matter how challenging they may be or how long they will take to reach. I want to be able to feel like I am worthy enough to choose a profession like Clinical Pharmacy and not let the voices of my past belittle my ambitions.”
Or letting their personality show:
Tiffany: “If I weren’t afraid, I would ask more questions and speak up.”
Or work towards crossing those things off their bucket list:
Jessica, : “I would travel the world.”
After scrolling through many of the pictures, I feel inspired. Not only are these women defining (and publishing) their fears, they are on their way to defeating them! However, the question that rises to my mind is:
Who and what am I afraid of? What are we women battling against?
I have come up with three groups: society, our peers and ourselves. As mentioned in the video, gender differences start early. Young male boys are named “leaders,” while young females are considered “bossy” when completing the same behaviors. Society defines our gender roles and the limits of each sex. The beauty of this initiative is that women are defying these limits. Society may say women are inferior, but I am going to start my own business or I am going to ask for equal pay. They can lead the way for other women to follow.
However, other women portray a different aspect of the equation, their greatest fear being themselves. One woman writes about her decision to finally return to her natural, unprocessed hair. Now that she has faced herself and the realities of her identity, she explains that she has come to love it! That fear of failure or change can stem from deep within; these women have come to confront it, they are no longer dominated by their own self limitations or doubts!
The last component is our peers. We are often afraid of other people’s perceptions of us. Did Tiffany (mentioned above) avoid speaking up because she was afraid other people would think she was bossy or too aggressive? Did another blogger hide her successes because she was afraid of her friend’s jealousy? I think an important take-away message from the blog is not only to embrace yourself, defy silly societal rules, but also to give a big thumbs up to that girl you see facing her fears! Instead of judging Tiffany for speaking up about mismanagement, give her a high five! Tell the woman with her “new,” all-natural hair that she is rockin’ it!
One woman in the video said this about facing her fears, “ Its scary, but I think I am going to be okay.”
Imagine how “okay” it will be when you are #notafraid and all your friends are there supporting you too.