Recognizing and Addressing My Fear Changed Everything

One of the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome in the workplace was my own belief that I had to wear a mask at work to succeed. Earlier in my career, I questioned whether I could actually bring my whole self to work. I’ve often felt that if I was my true self, it wouldn’t work out for me. And I’m sure many women feel the same. Oftentimes, for people of color, we feel that we have to assimilate in order to fit into the culture at work. We should challenge this fixed mindset, re-define success on our own terms, and be focused on showing up and contributing as our authentic self.

My “aha” moment came in 2008. I remember it like it was yesterday. I went to a professional development seminar about achieving breakthrough results in life. I soon realized what was holding me back was me. It was my own belief about who I was, how I showed up at work, what I said, etc. I had to redesign my belief system, because what I had been holding onto wasn’t serving me anymore.

I had to learn to take risks, many of which I wasn’t willing to take before. I also had to become comfortable with sharing my point of view. Previously, I would package my thoughts and tie them up with a neat little bow, so people wouldn’t be offended by my opinions or perspectives. You have to be crystal clear about who you are and how you can contribute; doing so will allow you to bring your authentic self to work and succeed.

A key to overcoming fear is to examine your beliefs and understand the root of what triggers fear for you. For me, it was my own perception about what it meant to be a black female who grew up in Kansas, trying to make it in Silicon Valley. As a result, I doubted if my colleagues and employers would even really consider my perspectives.

My tactic for shifting my relationship with fear was to give it a different name. Fear for me is “false evidence appearing real.” So I challenged myself to figure out where this stress and anxiety was coming from and address it. Wearing the mask didn’t serve me, but bringing my whole self to the work has shifted my career trajectory and the impact I have had on the teams and leaders I support.