How do we get better at taking risks?
The higher the stakes, the more risk-averse most women become. But taking the safe route often means fewer rewards and lower self-worth. So, how can we start viewing risk as an opportunity and stop nagging ourselves with ‘what if?’
You’ve landed a new client at work, improved your company’s profitability, and managed your team successfully. Yet, your salary and incentives are humming a woefully different tune. Do you:
a) Sit your boss down and ask for what you deserve
b) Wait for the right time to broach the topic
c) Let it go; why rock a steady boat?
Most women, studies show, will most likely choose options b and c. We steer clear of risk because that’s what we’ve been taught, not because of how we’re wired. Traditionally, women maintained the stability of the household while men went out into the great unknown and did whatever it took to provide the next meal. And so, society applauds men who take risks but cautions women who do the same thing.
That’s why we’re averse to stepping up and asking for an overdue promotion, applying for that stratospheric job, making the first move in relationships, and even investing in equity shares. It weakens us on every front, even financially. Consider the pay gap across industries and how few women have control over their own money. In fact, that’s why Basis was founded – to power personal finance specifically for women, helping them invest for their own goals and on their own terms. But before we start investing differently, we need to start thinking differently. Here’s how we can.
1) Get over imposter syndrome
How well can you take a compliment? Most of us shrug it off and put it down to luck or some external influence because we believe we haven’t really earned it. It’s called imposter syndrome and yes, it’s curable. Here’s the thing though – when we believe we don’t deserve what we have, we’re more fearful of losing it. If we can persuade ourselves that we achieved something using our own skills and grit, we’re less afraid that someone can take it away from us.
2) Forget about perfection
Self-doubt, thy name is woman. Sheryl Sandberg lines up the facts brilliantly in this TED Talk, highlighting how “women systematically underestimate their own abilities”. We’re harsh critics, often measuring ourselves against unrealistic standards. We won’t step into the spotlight unless we’re sure we look spotless, and that means very rarely. Instead, we need to start telling ourselves that we’re already good enough.
3) Be financially secure
Financial independence makes us feel free in other aspects of our lives as well. “Having a good amount invested or tucked away as an emergency fund,” Basis founder Hena Mehta says, “makes us feel empowered and willing to pursue goals with more gumption.” Financial planning helps tackle wrinkle-wringers like medical costs, retirement, saving for your child’s education, and loans, leaving you free to pursue more meaningful goals.
4) Take small steps
Every risk doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that deserves its own Hollywood movie. Start making regular, bite-sized moves towards your goal. Better yet, break that goal down to achievable milestones that can be measured and celebrated. It’s positive reinforcement – when we feel good about something, we tend to do it more often.
5) Use your fear
As any theatre actor will tell you, pre-show jitters help her perform better. Fear prevents us from becoming complacent and taking things for granted. It keeps pushing us forward, forcing us to keep working on ourselves. When we think we have more to lose, we stay sharp. And here’s a revelation – if perceived correctly, stress can be good for you. So, rather than trying to avoid fear and stress, start using them to your advantage. In fact, while women are considered risk-averse, they are actually better risk managers than men. Once they are educated about risks or scenarios and know what they are signing up for, they take measured or calculated risks.
Done right, taking risks can help us become better versions of ourselves. They make us feel proud and courageous and bring us closer to our goals. Even when it doesn’t pan out, taking a dreaded leap helps us overcome the fear of failure and teaches us a useful lesson or two. So, take that gamble. All things considered, you have everything to gain.