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Some women suffer from fear of success – the irrational belief that if “they achieve their wildest dreams” something ill-fated might occur. As a result, they feel the need to hide their accomplishments in case the unexpected happens. If we live in a culture where achievement is lauded, why then would they hide the very thing that’s rewarded?

Society has unilateral expectations, in that women are still perceived as suspect if they pursue the brass ring. The following excerpt (though written in 1856) might still ring true today:

“There is no form of human excellence before which we bow with profounder deference than that which appears in a delicate woman…and there is no deformity in human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetful of her nature, and clamorous for the vocation and rights of men” (Bledsoe, 1856, p. 224).

Due to this double standard, women may hold back from either a sense of false modesty, or from a fear that someone might dislike them. What if they made the daring step of announcing themselves on the open market – in other words, using social media to (1) let people know what they’ve envisioned; (2) interject their opinion on a topic, or (3) clue others in to what they’ve accomplished? Some fear that coworkers will think they’re too proud, or that they’re wrongfully boasting. Sadly, these negative views are in some cases held by both sexes.

If you feel you’re holding back, you may want to try some baby steps at self-promotion:

  • If you’re not already a member, Linkedin is a terrific tool for creating a business presence. In addition to letting people know what you’re doing, it provides an avenue to linkup with like persons, rekindle old friendships, and craft potentially beneficial connections. In addition, the groups feature allows you to join similar cohorts within a specific genre.
  • Send your recent achievements to the alumni magazine at your alma maters. In some cases, the online versions allow self-posting.
  • Attend your class reunions. Instead of being afraid that you don’t measure up (or conversely) that you may intimidate someone with your vita, why not show up and simply be yourself? Don’t let fear deprive other people of a beautiful person.

Related article: Why successful women terrify us


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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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