Next Level Fearless: How to Be Fearless When You Don’t Know You’re Fearless

by Jenn DiMaria

posted on 07-19-2019

Last year, my friend and peer, Joe Reitz, submitted me for the Fearless 50 program and I spent a lot of time wondering why anyone would do that. Sure, I work hard and know things, but would I classify myself as “fearless?”

At the time, my answer was a solid “no.” Joe, on the other hand, disagreed: despite my paralyzing fear of public speaking, I (along with two of my peers) presented “Fake It ‘Til You Make It” at the 2017 Marketing Nation Summit. I faced my fear, spoke in front of 100 people, then decided to further torture myself by submitting to speak again in 2018.

When I look back at how terrified I was, I think Joe had a point. I could have rushed through the presentation, thanked my lucky stars it was over, and then disappeared into the ether with my tail between my legs. Instead, I’ve presented at every Summit since 2017 and now find myself also speaking at roadshows, user group meetings, and on webinars. I never thought I’d turn public speaking into a major part of my job, but here we are – and I don’t hate it.

Now that I’m a year into the Fearless 50 program, I now know the reason why I doubted my abilities and wanted to address that for others who feel the same way.

Defined by Psychology Today as “a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud,” imposter syndrome is very real. It predominantly affects women and is something I’ve battled my entire life. I’m only now realizing the negative impact it had on my early career, largely in part because a Fearless 50 nomination made me consider myself a smart and reputable human being.

Part of that realization came about thanks to the people I’ve met in the Marketing Nation community. It wasn’t a network I consciously built. It started out of necessity: in 2015, I was traveling to Marketing Nation Summit alone and didn’t want to be a wallflower. Luckily, there was an app for the conference that allowed me to communicate with other attendees and plan to meet up. It worked out beautifully – that’s how I met Joe, as well as other MOPs geniuses I still engage with every day. Year over year, that network has grown. We all became Champions together. Half of us became Marketo Engage consultants, whether for an agency or starting our own businesses. A number of us were selected for Fearless 50. We speak at events regularly and on webinars and are considered thought leaders. It’s kind of bananas.

My network is the most important thing to happen to my career – and I love these people outside of work, too; they’re amazing friends. Whenever I accomplish something, they’re my cheerleaders. Whenever I doubt myself, they assure me I’m smart enough (and strong enough) to handle whatever is happening. And whenever I have questions or need advice, I know they will have an answer that’s better than anything I could have designed myself.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a solid support system, but it’s important to realize mine didn’t happen magically. I made it happen – altI identified gaps in my professional life and filled them with people who motivate me to do more and inspire me to be better at what I do.

If your story sounds like mine and you’re wondering if you qualify for Fearless 50, I have some advice:

Do stuff you enjoy

There will always be a part of our jobs that we don’t love because that’s the nature of work, even if your job is a dream. For example, combing through spreadsheets isn’t my favorite way to start the day but is often required. The question is: how can I stop combing through spreadsheets? I can think of at least three scenarios where spreadsheets exhausted me, and I used what I knew about Marketo Engage to alleviate those struggles. In turn, I’ve shared that information with other people and built trust in my knowledge and abilities. It didn’t feel like work to me – it was fun – but the intangible success of being viewed as an expert happened naturally because doing the work was something I wanted to do. Focus on what you enjoy and how it can solve problems and see how that changes the perceptions of others and your own.

Weigh your opportunity costs

When it came to public speaking, I wanted the name recognition and thought leadership association more than I feared standing up in front of a crowd. I could have let feeling uncomfortable get in the way of what I wanted in the long run but I didn’t. It wasn’t easy but it helped to focus on the good feelings achieving my goal gave me instead of my insecurities about public speaking. At the time, I didn’t realize that was a fearless move but now, I’ve learned to throw myself at the opportunity to work on projects or goals that make me uncomfortable. You get used to it after a few times and the fear starts to lessen.

Engage with smarter people

There’s an old adage that encourages us to never be the smartest person in the room; if you are, then leave. Although it can be fun to be the expert everyone is coming to with questions, that doesn’t help you expand your knowledge. I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t learning something new every day, you’re wasting your potential. Plus, you can kill two birds with one stone here: you’ll grow your network while getting better at what you do.

Accept opportunities

There have been a lot of times where potential opportunities presented themselves and I self-selected out of them thanks to my imposter syndrome. That, and I was comfortable in my role and didn’t want to make waves or discover that maybe I wasn’t good at something. But it turns out that avoiding things I might not be good at also prevented me from figuring out what I was good at and I spent several years not developing myself or my career. Don’t waste your time being comfortable.

And finally…

Just do it! If you’ve ever thought about whether or not you qualify for something – anything – you’ll never actually know until you try. The fact that I was nominated for and accepted into the first Fearless 50 class was a wake-up call that just because I don’t always see my potential, doesn’t mean others are blind to it. And that I need to give myself more credit for what I do and my accomplishments because, in hindsight, they’re nothing to shake a stick at.

Having faith in yourself is half the battle so get over your imposter syndrome and keep doing more of what you love.

Topics: Future of Work, Career Advice

Products: Marketo Engage