by Brita Fernandez Schmidt

The sense of certainty that we yearn for and attempt to create is just an illusion.

Through my work with Women for Women International, www.womenforwomen.org.uk, an organisation that supports women in countries affected by conflict to rebuild their lives,  I know that everything changes all the time. The sense of certainty that we yearn for and attempt to create is just an illusion.

In countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria, people are living in harsh and ever changing circumstances, where they are exposed to extreme poverty, hunger, violence, natural disasters and conflict. When COVID 19 broke out, my colleagues handled the situation with far more calm and relaxedness than I was able to. I remember talking to my colleague Aram in Iraq and he said, well it is another crisis in addition to the drop in oil prices, the associated political turmoil, the violence and insecurity due to ISIS and now COVID.

I know that women in the countries where WfWI is operating are coping remarkably well, given that their livelihoods are directly affected. Many women earn their living daily. Families are experiencing hunger and yet what we are seeing is that everyone is going out of their way to help others. They are more worried about their neighbours than themselves. And they are finding ways to help and to cope with the situation.

All this is striking and made me think. As humans, we seek security, and often security comes from permanence. We think that if we know what tomorrow brings, we will be safe. And so we create illusions that will make us believe that we are safe, that there are things we can know for certain.

And it is only in times of crisis that the truth is revealed to us, that we cannot know anything for certain, other than that which we know right now. In this moment. All else we cannot know. But in that lies a certainty, that can help us, I believe.

Rebecca Solnit, one of my favourite authors, says in ‘The field guide to getting lost’:

“…the terra incognita spaces on maps say that knowledge also is an island surrounded by oceans of the unknown. They signify that the cartographers knew they did not know, and awareness of ignorance is not just ignorance; it’s awareness of knowledge limits…. To acknowledge the unknown is part of knowledge.

She goes on to say;

‘Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t – and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.”

When my team and I decided that we had to go into lock down, close the office and set up everyone to work from home, there were three long painful days of sinking into deep WORRY!

We were imagining every worst case scenario. The worse the scenario, the better we thought we were leading in times of crisis.

After three days I was exhausted, I felt deflated, with no energy, worried sick, paralysed by fear.

I had to dig deep – remember all that I know about myself when I am in fear mode, and remember all that I know about myself about how I can get through fear and find my fierce!

Here they are:


  1. Remember the mantra ‘Fears to Fierce’ – this is my mantra that has inspired me to write my forthcoming book
  2. Look at the questions you ask yourself. If they start with ‘What if’ and are not directed at you, you know they are disempowering questions that don’t serve you. Replace them with questions that you CAN answer, such as ‘What can I do?’ Fears to Fierce – the title of my book!
  3. Don’t wait to be ready!!!
  4. Fail fast – which really means learn fast, move on – like in tennis, you have a mis-hit, you move on, don’t linger, because the next ball is coming….

Embracing our agency and combining it with embracing the unknown, can help us to remember that we are stronger than we think and that we CAN bear uncertainty.

That awareness, our trust in that awareness, our presence, our knowledge that we have all we need within us, that is our root that will allow us to weather all storms.

They are the maps that guide us through the terra incognita.

What if we rode the wave of uncertainty, what if we allowed this awareness of uncertainty to be our new normal, imagine what opportunities would open up for doing things differently, for inviting people in, for creating empowering opportunities, for doing things differently?

Brita is passionate about helping women to find their fierce and unfold their potential. She currently serves as the Executive Director for Women for Women International. She also coaches women and has written ‘Fears to Fierce’ which is a combination of guidance, storytelling and practical tools, to inspire you to realise your purpose and potential, ignite your fierce and create the life you have been dreaming of. To pre-order the book follow this link https://smarturl.it/fearstofierce

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