University of Lethbridge, Dhillon School of Business alumna Sarah Lajeunesse (BMgt ’12) is on a mission to support women to lead. The certified and award-winning lifestyle and leadership coach has been helping purpose-driven women learn to redefine success on their own terms, to trust themselves and find the courage to advance in their careers and leadership positions. Over the past four years, Sarah has worked with clients spanning seven different countries, has been featured in a wide variety of publications and spoken to audiences in Canada, the United States and Europe.
In late September, as part of Alberta Women in Entrepreneurship Week 2020, Sarah sat down with Dhillon School of Business students and members of the community to talk about women in leadership, including common fears and ways of facing them.
Common fears that indicate you’re on the verge of greatness
“When female clients come to me, a lot of the time our focus is about making change in their lives, trusting themselves, their capabilities, their worth and developing the courage to start down a new path that would allow them to experience more freedom,” Sarah says. Whether women are wanting to apply for a promotion or a raise, start a new job or their own business, Sarah says there is a common thread that connects them. It’s fear.
“Over the course of running my business for the last four years and working with women of different ages and in different spaces in their lives,” Sarah reveals, “I have learned there are top common fears that intertwine every single woman when they’re on the verge of doing something great or meaningful for them in their life.” They are:
- Fear of not enough-ness
While attending a yoga retreat to ease stress as she was launching her business, Sarah found herself chatting with a woman in her late 50’s. The woman started crying as she described that she had waited her entire life to go to a yoga retreat. She had always wanted to do teacher training at a young age but fears that no one would want to learn from her, that she’d get stage fright teaching, that her body wouldn’t fit into the pants that yoga instructors wore, held her back. Her greatest fear was going her entire life not doing what she always wanted to do. At the end of the day, that woman had the time of her life and signed up for teacher training. “My question I would ask with regards to this specific fear,” Sarah asks, “is what areas of your life are you not showing up out of fear of not being enough?”
- Fear that we’re unworthy
A close friend had been encouraged to apply for a senior level position on a male dominated executive team. “She reached out to me and was looking for a reason not to apply,” Sarah explains, “she was nervous of being the only female, of being too young and that no one would no one would take her seriously.” The woman asked for Sarah’s advice on whether she should wait until there was another female to blaze the trail for her. “The truth is,” Sarah says, “there is no right time to blaze our own path, we have to be willing to set our egos and fears aside to pave a way for ourselves and the other women to come. If not you, then who? And if you don’t, how many others that follow will delay their own advancement because they were waiting for a trailblazing woman like you to pave the way.
- Fear of being seen
“I want to vomit every time I get on a stage,” Sarah admits, confessing that the last time she spoke at a large gathering she told her partner to never let her do it ever again because of the anxiety and nerves she feels leading up to these events. “Then I show up and I survive,” she says, conceding that if she impacts or inspires one person, or says one thing that makes a woman want to take a risk and do the thing they’ve always dreamt of doing, then having the courage to look like a compete idiot was worth it. Sarah’s final piece of wisdom is that “when you get to the edge of your limits, your limits expand. So, go to your limits and risk being seen.”
- Fear of the responsibility that will come with your success
There’s a quote that Sarah goes back to time and time again that sums up the fear of success that she often sees in her clients by author Marianne Williamson. Williamson claims that our greatest fear is not being inadequate, but that it is our power and light that frightens us. Williamson goes on to say, “you being small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
- Fear of failure
During an existential crisis of wondering what to do with her life and feeling like it had all gone horribly wrong, Sarah says her dad told her a story that encourages her to this day. “When he was first becoming a teacher, he told his parents and the first thing his mother said to him was that he’d never make it and that he’d never be a good enough teacher, so he wrote them a letter asking them to believe in him, that he would make a difference and that he would follow his dream.” Sarah says that 30 years later, she still has friends, previous students of her father and parents of previous students of her father telling her what an impact her father has made on their lives. “He was the one teacher that believed in the potential of every single student,” Sarah says, “and he believed in those that didn’t believe in themselves.” Sarah even questions whether she would have had the courage and bravery to pursue her dreams, had her father not had the strength to prove the most influential figures in his life, his parents, wrong. Sarah says moving forward, women should think about “where are you scared to fail, and even further how can you support someone else who might like my father have parents, teachers, or other influential people in their lives who don’t remind them of their capabilities.”