By: Maria Pascucci, Founder & President, Campus Calm

I spoke to our nation’s next generation of change-makers at the National Center for Student Leadership Conference. College student leaders from across the United States and I connected during my keynote presentation called “Get #PerfectlyImperfect and Lead.”

Student leaders could choose from five different workshops during my time slot at the conference. The lecture hall was packed.

I asked them, “Why did you choose to attend my presentation?” Hands shot up.

A college woman leader said, “I want to give myself permission to have fun.” Another said, “I’m obsessed with my grades and I’m sick of it.” Another said, “I can’t say ‘no’ to others and I’m burnt out.”

What do these three emerging leaders have in common? They’re realizing for themselves that no greatness comes from perfectionism, which is birthed from fear. They want better.

Think about it. When was the last time you created anything meaningful, beautiful, interesting or great from a place of fear while pushing yourself to be perfect?

If you’re obsessed with your grades, are you seeding or weeding your passion for learning? If you’re afraid to have fun, are you shutting yourself off from discovering the greatest work lesson of your life, that you work most productively when you’re having fun? If you’re afraid to say ‘no’ to others, how exhausted will you become before you realize that the only person you’re really saying ‘no’ to is yourself?

My friend, this is no lecture. I speak from personal experience.

I spent the first 22 years of my life living in fear. Fear that somehow I would screw up and the whole world would know that I wasn’t as perfect as I thought I should be. In my twenties and thirties, many lessons prompted me to learn that greatness comes from authentic self-expression, courage, confidence, vulnerability and love.

We cannot lead ourselves or the world toward any kind of sustainable positive, healthy change if fear is our guiding force. As leaders, we get to teach this lesson to ourselves first, and then to each other.

During my workshop, each student leader held a blank index card. I asked them to anonymously write down their answer to the following question: “What would you dare yourself to try if you weren’t afraid to fail?”

They passed their index cards forward. We read some answers out loud together. We learned from each other what we would dare ourselves to try if we could free ourselves from fear.

Here is a sampling of what we came up with:

What would you dare yourself to try if you weren’t afraid to fail?

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.
-Mary Manin Morrissey

With love,
Maria