Talking about Overcoming Fear with Clare Beckton

It’s a pleasure to recap these Women Executive Network (WXN) events here on Sister Leadership. There is always so much wisdom contained within the wallsof the Rideau Club during those early-morning breakfast meetings. And the May 1st event was no exception. On the stage for the conversation that morning was Clare Beckton, who we’ve actually interviewed on Sister Leadership before, as well as the fantastic Janice McDonald (another past guest) leading the conversation.

Topic of Discussion: “If You Weren’t Afraid to Fail, What Would You Do?”

Clare and Janice1

Clare Beckton and Janice McDonald (left to right)

Clare Beckton is currently Founding Executive Director of the Carleton University Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership, and so she has put on her mentor hat several times in providing women with advice on dealing with fear. So let’s dive into the conversation and get Clare’s insights on fear, and overcoming that obstacle.

“If anybody ever tells you that they’ve never been afraid, except for the very rare individual, they are probably not telling you the truth because most of us have our fears. I think the biggest challenge is not whether you are afraid, but whether you will do it anyway.

For me, fear is about trying to understand what is it that’s bothering me. Looking at it and saying, “What’s the worst possible thing that will happen to me?”

Using Self Talk Strategies

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#118321019 /  Self Talk Strategies

 As Janice asked Clare about coping with fears, Clare explained her strategy.

“What I’ve learned to do, I sit myself down if something’s happened and I need to have a little cry or wallow in self pity for a few minutes. It used to be a few days, now I give myself fifteen minutes.”

And then I deal with the little voice in my head, and I’m sure you all know what I mean when I talk about that little voice in my head. Telling me ‘oh you shouldn’t go back, you aren’t good enough, you shouldn’t do this,’ and then I say to it, ‘no, go away. I don’t want to talk to you, I want to talk to someone more positive who’s going to say “how can I do this?’”

I love that Clare mentioned the self-talk, and how to redirect the conversation. It’s very much a tactic I use in my own life and have written about on Sister Leadership as well.

Ask Yourself: How Much Does it Matter?

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#461357863 /  You Decide: Does it matter enough?

 “I think really, fundamentally, what I talk to myself about is how much does it matter to me to do this? If it really doesn’t matter . . . for example, when I was at Machu Picchu at the top, there is another mountain you could climb to see other things. Well, it’s cliff edge. I don’t like cliff edge. So did it matter to me to go up there enough? No. If one of my children was up there clinging to an edge, I would do it. But there was no reason to do it.”

But, of course, our reactions to fear are not black and white. It’s not always straightforward to decipher between deciding what isn’t good for us vs. what is simply beyond our comfort zone. Janice asked it well when she said to Clare: “Where is that difference when you say, fear is happening and I will choose differently? There’s two things happening, fear is telling me not to pursue that and go in a different direction or this is the right direction for me and I’m afraid of my next step, but I’m still making the next step so that’s progress?”

“It’s definitely not linear,” replied Claire to Janice’s question. “There will be times when fear is a really good thing. Like fear of a lion would be a very good thing. When I was on safari in Africa, we went on a bush walk and the lions were 200 yards away . . .that was a good fear; keeps you from getting into trouble. But the other fear is knowing when it’s good or bad.”

Sometimes you have that gut feeling about something. You have to analyze, is it only your fear that is preventing you from taking that next step, or is it really not a good step to take?”

I think it’s stepping back from what we’re doing, really listening and trying to figure out what’s going on with me? What is it I’m afraid of? If I can figure that out, then maybe I can figure out then how do I get around that? How do I do it anyway despite my fear?”

Advice for the Twenty-Year-Old Self on Fear

Claire and Janice Table1

Clare Beckton, Founding Executive Director of the Carleton University Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership

So if Clare were to give advice to her twenty-year-old self around fear, what would she say?

“If we really want to do it, just get on and do it. We cannot let fear conquer us. We cannot take mistakes as a personal failure. And that’s what I think women are really good at doing – making it personal rather than it’s simply a mistake and something didn’t work out. Because you are all wonderful people. But we all make mistakes. The key is learn from those mistakes. Dust yourself off. Have a good cry if you need it because there’s nothing wrong with that. And then ask, how are you going to build it forward?”

So, having read this WXN event recap, how are you going to build yourself forward? We’d love to hear your take aways whether you were at the event or not. Just leave your thoughts in the comments.

To end the conversation, Janice McDonald suggested a book about tackling fear. Given Janice’s huge accomplishments in life, when she recommends a book – we ought to be taking notice! The book is called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Dr. Susan Jeffers. If you have read the book, we’d love to hear your thoughts on Janice’s suggestion, as well.

Till next week!


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.

Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!


  1. judy levine 7 years ago

    Excellent! I hate ‘fear’ when it stops you from growing. Anyone read the recommended book? Is it worth reading? So much out there to read so your comments would be very welcomed to see if it is worth the read.

  2. MC Lessard 7 years ago

    To your question Judy, I have not read the book myself but a handful of my coaching clients have and they all say it is a very helpful, very good book!

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