Risky Women by Megan Ragsdale – purchase now on Amazon

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The 3 Most Common Fears Women Have When It Comes To Their Careers

When afraid, we begin to conflate and confuse the 3 Ps: probability, possibility, and potential. We think therefore it is. We think the fear has a high probability, or likelihood of being realized, versus the possibility that there is potential for multiple outcomes, including a positive one. Fear can change our relationship with risk, because we often estimate that the risk of failure is greater than it really is because our fear is so palpable. The amount of fear we have is not equal to the possible outcomes of the risk in most cases.

I’ve noticed a pattern in many of my clients, and the top three fears I encounter most frequently when coaching women are fear of failure, fear of humiliation, and fear of not being good enough.


One positive outcome of our collective obsession with entrepreneurs is the concept of embracing failure. Even from an investment perspective, entrepreneurs who have already tried and failed at one business can earn more trust and funding in their second venture. Seasoned VCs like to see that the person has already built some experience and grit and learned lessons they can take into the second venture. As is typical in American culture, we went from abject fear of failure to borderline romanticizing it, so let’s try to bring it back to center for a moment.


Sometimes the fear of embarrassing ourselves keeps us stuck; I have held this fear closely since childhood. We’ve all experienced those moments that feel unrecoverable and threaten to vanquish our entire being right where we stand. Early experiences with humiliation can keep us resorting to our defense mechanisms, but sometimes embarrassing ourselves is simply unavoidable.


For women, this fear is particularly insidious, because it keeps us small. In my experiences with my clients and even other peer leaders, it is usually cloaked in something that looks like anger, blame, or inaction. Most of us have never considered that feeling unworthy is at the root of our fears. And we are inundated with messaging every day that tells us we actually aren’t good enough; the paltry representation of women in all spheres of power, as lead actors, headlining comedians, politicians, and of course CEOs, makes succeeding at the highest levels feel unattainable.

The completely unrealistic images of beauty, diet culture, the billion dollar self-help industry—all of them squarely targeted at women—don’t help either. We keep iterating different versions of ourselves, thinking we are one mantra or thirty-day cleanse away from attaining happiness, confidence, and success. But we self-development junkies are just chasing self-acceptance. And because we can’t accept ourselves, it hurts even more when others don’t accept us for who we are and what we bring to the table. That kind of rejection leaves us wondering if we really are as good as we thought we were.

All of us have some kind of story etched into our subconscious that keeps us from taking chances. This last most common fear requires thorough and radical personal inquiry into our beliefs about ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you’re good enough. You have to be your best champion. Regardless of your particular fear, the way you think about, assess, and overcome your fears is the same.

For practical and applicable exercises to work through the fear to the results you want, read the book!

This is an excerpt from my new book Risky Women: How to Reach the Top Levels of Leadership or Know When It’s Time to Get The Hell Out. Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Porchlight.


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You can start making big moves today.  While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, download this workbook and learn how to use the framework to move through fear and into action.