I don’t think there can be many women who didn’t watch the Lionesses storm through the Euro 2022 tournament to their ultimate victory against Germany without a huge sense of elation and pride for womankind. A phenomenal triumph of hard work, strength, determination – and courage. And this is what has been so inspiring – if they felt fear, we didn’t see it. Just a solid and unwavering belief through each and every game that they could bring it home. All the more empowering for us because above everything, for men and women alike, we know that it’s the presence of fear that holds us back.
Susan Jeffers, psychologist and renowned author of self-help books, says: “the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.” It’s such a simple statement that seems ridiculously obvious. Of course we should. Yet for most of us, a statement so straightforward rarely enters our reasoning when we’re faced with a decision or choice that is far easier to ignore than face head on. If there’s even a shred of fear, it’s powerful and can take over – if we let it. So the question is – in the title words of my favourite Susan Jeffers book – how do we “feel the fear and do it anyway?”
For researchers and scientists, and the topic of so many studies and talks, it’s all about resilience. Tim Ferris, investor, author, lifestyle guru, podcaster and TED talk speaker of ‘Why you should define your fears instead of your goals’, refers to this as stoicism; the ability to keep going and hold fast when everything in your life is going wrong. How many of us have had to dig deep at some point in our life to find the strength within to pick ourselves up and start again? Of course, it’s never easy, but somehow we always do, and it’s in adversity that we find our strength.
Managing the negative chatter – that self-deprecating inner voice that tells us we’re not good enough – is so entwined with fear, it’s difficult to separate the two. We all have it – self-doubt – and we pay attention to it with a misguided belief that we could and should be better at everything we do rather than appreciating the positives of who we actually are. It’s a curse of modern womanhood that so many of us feel the need to hold ourselves to unattainably high standards, regardless of age.
But if we can replace the negative noise with a confident mindset and the knowledge that we are more significant now than we have ever been, then we can learn to value each other and ourselves by what we do over an extended period, not by how we appear at any given moment. Our value is the sum of our years. We have the wisdom of experience, a greater sense of our own worth, strength through hardship, determination and, finally, more freedom to realise the limitless possibilities we can explore now – if we choose to confront fear.
So for me, this is exactly the time in our life when we can finally let go of self-doubt. When you consider the average statistic for female life expectancy stands at 81 years, we still have so many years ahead of us – and for the first time in a long time it’s about us. Our ambition, passion, values and zest for life haven’t diminished just because some of our responsibility has. If anything, they are renewed by a sense of restlessness that this age seems to bring. Now is our time. We’d be foolish not to explore all of the possibilities that are out there for us, and that’s an exhilarating prospect. It motivates and energises us into achievements we couldn’t imagine possible. Except, of course – if we feel the fear and do it anyway – they are.