Risk Aversion and a Moment of Vulnerability

I’m a pretty private person and recently I have begun to have some self-realizations (as 20-somethings often do) with regard to this idiosyncrasy. I have discovered that if something is really important to me and I’m not sure how people will react to it, I tend to conceal it. This is true with beliefs, guys that I am seeing (or want to be seeing), and things I create -among many other examples. When I was younger (and even now to some extent) I concealed my artwork or some other type of creation from my parents, even though I knew they would probably think whatever I was doing was great. There was something deeply personal about what I created. I guess it’s a part of feeling vulnerable, which all humans struggle with at times.

Therefore, this business that I am starting is definitely stretching me out of that comfort zone. I am having problems taking the plunge. It’s not that I can’t handle criticism; in fact, I feel like criticism is never nearly as bad as the prospect of criticism. Usually when I receive criticism I can handle it pretty well. I am usually able to see what’s valid about the other person’s statement and what isn’t and go from there. It’s fear of the unknown that holds me back.

Anyway, starting a business is a huge risk, and although I like to think of myself as a risk taker, I am just as big of a coward as anyone because of the potential of being judged.

Luckily, I have found inspiration for taking risks in many places, a lot of which I have shared on this blog already, such as the article from my previous post: Lessons from an Article. One part of this article that I did not address in the other post was this quote: “Coming to terms with failure is not enough –you must learn to ignore shame.” I’m sure that is something that everyone has dealt with at some point in life. We all fail and we recognize this and often accept this as a part of life. But shame? That’s the part of failure that we all like to ignore but it is also the part that prevents us from completely leaping whole heartedly into the ventures we dream of. Shame is the deal-breaker for most, but this article argues that it shouldn’t be because when shame is ignored we are liberated from our fears and fear is what prevents us from taking risks.

Another quote that has been inspiring me to take a risk is from the previously posted TED talk by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon when she says: “never import other people’s limitations.” I had a chat with someone close to me yesterday and even though I felt like she was supportive when I first told her about my business venture, yesterday her support seemed to be waning. This is perhaps because she has also been trying to start her own business for the past several years and has had little monetary success. It’s understandable how her slightly bitter emotions toward entrepreneurship would rub off on how she viewed my latest undertaking, but I should not let it affect my attitude toward my business. Our situations are very different and her support (or lack thereof) is not indicative of my success so I shouldn’t let it limit me.

My next inspiration comes from a source that seems a bit cliche, and perhaps even conceded, but isn’t intended to be that way. It comes from myself. Not because I think that I am grand supreme in the awesomeness category, but because I have taken risks in my life and these risks have gotten me successes that produced nothing but blue skies and more success, as well as crippling, humiliating, painful failure. Through my running (I ran cross country and track for over 10 years) I took lots of risks. Every race there were risks. My senior year I ran so boldly and so gutsy that I nearly lost my life because I wasn’t willing to stop risking. Although not every risk was good, I didn’t care, I kept doing it because it had the potential to produce great things. I look at that part of my life now and think of it the way Harry Potter thought of his first patronus charm. He told Hermione afterwards, “I knew I could do it because I had already done it!” That’s how I feel now. If I can take bold risks in one aspect of my life, I can in others.

Finally, risk taking reminds me of other women who are trying to start their own businesses, or even those who just have a dream, and have fears that are far worse than quiet rejection and subtle judgement. There are women who are prohibited from speaking, or being seen, or to some degree from thinking at all. In some parts of the world rejection takes a lethal form. The crazy thing is that there are women who still jump, who still take risks, even when the stakes are 1000 times higher than mine. Talk about inspiration.

So today, I am addressing risk and all the possibilities of criticism, failure, and shame that come with it. After all, it’s just cards! But it is also about recognizing that it is more than just cards to me. Today it is about deciding what kind of person I am/will be. Will I be the risk-taker who launches herself out of her own comfort zone in order to grab all that life has to offer, or will I play it safe?

I think I know what the right answer is: risk-taker. It’s the only known remedy for a boring life.


TED Talk #2: Gayle Lemmon -Women Entrepreneurs Example Not Exception

This video has a lot in common with the first, however, it does a great job of asking the question of: what’s next after microfinance? This question is vital in the continuing battle for women to have the economic, political, and social place in the world that they deserve. Like Gayle says in the video: “Women can no longer be half the population and a special interest group.”