Is Fear Keeping You From Speaking Up and Stepping Up?


We women tend to underestimate ourselves. As a result, we are more likely to shrink from possibilities, second-guess ourselves, and settle for less than what’s possible.

“… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b (NIV)

I cringe when I think about just how deep my insecurities must have been that day.

I was in my last semester of grad school studying journalism, and I had an internship with a minor league hockey team in Tallahassee, Florida.

One day, I was sitting in the team office when the head coach came bounding through the office saying, “Rosa Parks is somewhere in the building! She’s in town to speak or something. I’m going to go try to meet her,” he added, looking at the few of us sitting at our desks.

My mind raced. It would be amazing to meet Rosa Parks. But Terry was the head coach, and I was just an intern. Yet, as he reached the door to head to the civic center, he looked directly at me and said, “You should come.”

Now, to most, this might seem like a no-brainer. But in the few seconds between his statement and my response, a flurry of negative, self-sabotaging thoughts overwhelmed me. Even years later, I remember the panicked thoughts that hit me:

Who am I to bother Ms. Parks? She’s probably here on business, and I’ll be interrupting her.

What if she doesn’t want to speak to me? I’m just an intern.

What will I say if we get her attention?

With those thoughts, I quietly told Terry, “No. I better stay here and finish my work.” And although it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I sat at my desk and continued to work.

Terry returned 45 minutes later with a big smile on his face. “I met her!” he said, his eyes filled with excitement. “I got a picture, too.” Then he turned to me, “You should have come.”

My heart sank. I felt sick. Or rather, I felt small. I’d shrunk from what I really wanted. Why didn’t I speak up and say yes when he’d invited me?

Ever been there? Maybe it wasn’t the opportunity to shake hands with a legend, but the chance to give your opinion, negotiate a better deal or simply speak your truth. But when the moment came, the words and courage left you.

My reaction that day reflected a deeper issue affecting my career and personal life. My anxiety about rejection meant I hesitated to share ideas even when my idea was truly a great one. When it came to saving money, it meant I’d pay more for something even though I knew I could get a better price.

It seems I’m not alone. Research shows that we women tend to underestimate ourselves. As a result, we are more likely to shrink from possibilities, second-guess ourselves and settle for less than what’s possible.

We are also more likely to be perfectionists, so we’ll spend more time thinking about the perfect approach to a conversation or problem but become paralyzed to speak up — fearing that failure is too great a risk.

But here’s what we must remember: We have God with us. God’s Word says, “… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b).

It wasn’t until I connected my fear with my faith that I truly had a breakthrough. James 2:17b says, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (NIV). In other words, your actions must line up with your faith. This means showing up as though you belong. Speaking up when He prompts your heart’s desire. And seizing opportunities when God places them before you.

Lord, give me courage to step up and speak up rather than allow fear to paralyze me. Grant me wisdom to know what to say when I get flustered. Help me see myself as You see me, rather than through the lens of any insecurities or doubts I may have. Free me from fear that masquerades as perfectionism and gives me an excuse to put off important conversations for another day. Help me become the wise, bold, courageous woman I know You’ve called me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NASB)

In what way(s) do you shrink from conversations or opportunities you actually desire? What is God saying to you right now about stepping up in a bolder way?

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