I am currently on a media trip in the Hudson Valley focused around the outdoors and photography. I’m working with an amazing group of men and women with all different backgrounds and careers from all over North America. When my editor asked if I’d like to write something about Lean In’s tumblr, What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid, I instantly thought to ask the question of the nine women on the trip (and one more in the hotel bar). Some of them wanted more specific parameters while others answered immediately, but most needed a little while to think about what fears were in the way of something they really wanted. What was most interesting is when the men overheard our conversations, they responded with “But I’m not afraid of anything,” or they thought more along the lines of strenuous physical activities they would complete if they weren’t afraid of death or pain.
While one could never make a general assumption based on the answers available, it’s safe to say that there is most certainly something to the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” After collecting all the answers and putting them in order from youngest (18) to oldest (72), I noticed there are most certainly “seasons” to our fears, which helps me as a mom. When my girls are young, I will help them understand that it doesn’t matter what other people think of them. (Although does anyone really know how succeed at completely ignoring what other people think?) As they grow into their careers, I will help them understand that they are worth just as much as men and that their potential is limitless — as long as they are brave enough to speak up for themselves. Hopefully their fears in their later years are simple ones, like skydiving, and not regrets over decisions they made. And at the end of their life, if they lived a fearless life, then I will know I was a good example and led them well.
Click through the slideshow below to find out what these women would do if fear wasn’t a factor — and feel free to submit your own answer on the If You Weren’t Afraid tumblr!
Phoebe – 18 1 of 17
I hope you do, Phoebe. In the meantime, I'll bet your dog is a great listener until you're ready (and when you are, we will be too.)
Anne – 23 2 of 17
"If I weren't afraid I would put myself out there instead of being afraid I'm going to get rejected and sound stupid."
This was a pretty common answer on the tumblr site, to lose that fear of being perceived as stupid for speaking up.
Monica – 25 3 of 17
"I would challenge men more in the workplace."
Joanna – 27 4 of 17
"I would speak up for what I want instead of just waiting for it to happen."
Allie – 26 5 of 17
"If I weren't afraid, I would leave my apartment in the morning without makeup. I would walk down the street to the T without makeup. I would wait in line at Starbucks without makeup. And I would have a successful, fulfilling day at work without makeup, without worry that I would be viewed as lazy or somehow less feminine, or even unattractive.
If I were brave enough, I would own the face I was born with, the one that resembles my mother's and her mother's. And I would love it, sparse eyebrows, short eyelashes, dark circles, and all."
"Without worry that I would be viewed as lazy or somehow less feminine, or even unattractive." *slow clap*
Allison – 30 6 of 17
"I would say no."
Another very common theme for so many women.
Leslie – 31 7 of 17
How many of us want to do something brave and bold but don't because we are afraid?
Casey – 31 8 of 17
This one is me, and I would either give away half my stuff or I would swim with whales.
Both terrify me just thinking about them.
Genny – 32 9 of 17
"I would have more kids."
Dude, Genny has one toddler and I totally get the fear of adding another. There's this feeling of obligation but then this fear of the dreaded 'AMA' (advanced maternal age) It's so much harder when everyone can see and hear your clock ticking away.
Karen – 33 10 of 17
"I would never lose my edge or conform."
Jennifer – 41 11 of 17
"If I wasn't afraid to live without health benefits, I'd dump my job to start a business doing what I love and also make time to write."
Oof, how many of us would lead very different lives if we weren't so reliant on the benefits our current jobs give us?
Jackie – 41 12 of 17
"I would quit my job and move to Hawaii. Then I'd move again — forever traveling."
Jenn – 47 13 of 17
I may have convinced Jenn to really give it a shot. She promised to keep me updated.
Noreen – 49 14 of 17
Atta girl, Noreen. Atta girl.
Julie – 50 15 of 17
I love when women are passionate about something that is traditionally or stereotypically viewed at as a masculine interest.
Lois – 67 16 of 17
Oh, I'm 31 and still have to hold my nose underwater. The idea of really learning how to swim is scary, this I totally get.
Delilah – 72 17 of 17
Delilah didn't really have an answer, but she did say one of her greatest fears was losing her husband of 54 years. "We do everything together, I'm not sure what I'd do without him."
Losing my husband is also a very real fear of mine, but I have to believe that I would continue to live life if he ever left mine, not live in fear of being alone.
(Portraits are submissions used with permission from the If You Weren’t Afraid tumblr. Answers from the women in my group are paired with photos from the weekend we’ve spent together doing some pretty crazy stuff in the Hudson Valley.)
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.