We’re just diving in today, professional women and womxn. Also, this week’s chat doesn’t just work for women in the workforce currently. It’s applicable to women who’d like to get back into working or shift their current trajectory, too. And I know there are plenty of women who have had their lives turned upside down the last two years or more, so I really want to open up this dialogue to all. I looked for other FSW posts that mention Imposter Syndrome and I, shockingly, only found one result with these words. So, it feels right to leap into this a little further as we all continue to shift in the world. Finally, I know there’s a debate about whether it’s real, termed correctly, or framed successfully. For more on that, check out this HBR article by clicking here. From my view, let’s just simplify a little bit and acknowledge where we have our self-doubts—which can be complex–and how we can all hold ourselves back from our greatness, depth, and potential opportunities.
Imposter Syndrome: Best Friend One Minute, Rival the Next
Understanding that there’s more to this than words alone, many of us have heard of, or used, the term Imposter Syndrome. I’ve used it myself, I’ve identified with it myself, and I’ve heard it identified in other women’s stories. I’d like to unpack that a little bit before moving ahead.
The Best Friend
While this statement sounds a little sarcastic, there’s something here: let’s acknowledge our human desire to stay safe. It’s in our very nature, in our bodies, and yet, there’s usually this piece in us that goes, “Is there more to life?” So, when I call Imposter Syndrome a best friend, what I mean by that, very simply put, is that our doubts can be both from our histories and society, and they can play a role in staying in a comfort zone, too. Or, when we don’t feel good enough to do something, that may be our way of staying in a position, organization, or relationship even, because doing something other than what we’re used to is scary, different, and unnerving sometimes. My personal favorite was believing I needed to achieve more and more, which was one way of my focus staying on work or that movement, and less on digging deeper into my personal journey. This is why understanding how we do things is pretty critical, and we need to be honest with ourselves as we go along.
In talking with women before in my workplaces, and especially during this business venture, so many of us—myself included—have felt, or do feel, less-than. Or, we’ve been conditioned to hold back, seen troubles, and want to stay safe. Maybe we “ask for permission” for ordinary things, discount our ideas or experiences, and more. It’s easy to say, “Let’s put a stop to that.” Yet, to work on this, we may need to have some daily, individual practices…especially if self-doubts feel ingrained into our nervous system, our thoughts, and habits. I know, it doesn’t sound sexy for the moment, but what if this was possible:
- The moment you start to over apologize, reword your response with confidence or even neutrality.
- If someone is giving you a genuine compliment, allow space for it and don’t push back or negate it.
- You could hold better boundaries because you are worth that and deserve it.
- After thinking about your work and career path, you find yourself craving more and plan that out.
Pro Tip: None of these are better or worse than the other. Your “Imposter Syndrome Moments” are yours alone, shaped by a variety of workplace or home cultures and insecurities. If it helps to know, I’ve had to re-learn how to be my best self, and I still catch myself doing these things to this very day. Doesn’t mean it’s forever though, just something to observe and course correct.
Let’s Not Discount Daily Habits to Chip Away at Imposter Syndrome
Question time: If you do, how do you discount your daily successes? Brush them off? Don’t celebrate them? Another question: How intentional are you about your days? Activities? Time? Space for yourself? To be honest, I’m still pretty poor at celebrating my wins, but despite this, I’ve tried to be deeply intentional in my daily life because I wasn’t for so long. My energy, time, and stress belonged to the organization(s) I worked for or the customers or clients I helped; it also belonged to my educational pursuits. And my efforts were made, in a lot of ways, for the wrong damn reasons. So, where are your efforts going? By being intentional, with my thoughts, body, and spirit, I’ve found some things to celebrate and maybe this will help you, too:
- Slightly less cortisol and a reduced amount of fight-flight-freeze
- Less body tightening simply from overwhelm, which means a little less physical exhaustion
- Finding strength and centering via consistent baby steps vs. a ton of pressure for a “huge ass project”
- Recognizing that my “fear of missing out” can be turned around in a healthier way
- Scattered thoughts and confusion has lessened, while I’ve been grounding in, and leaning into, my purpose(s) and intuition
- How I express myself has changed, even incrementally, which affects how I work
At the end of the day, I figure if Imposter Syndrome creeps up, or doubts freeze my literal body or thoughts, I want to understand why. Then I’ll try to respect it, as part of my Human Element, and then work with it.
A Simple Exercise to Reframe How We See & Get Past This
One of the exercises I’ve done lately to get grounded in the baby steps of work vs. freaking myself out is picturing an aisle full of products… I know, this sounds weird, but stick with me here. Consumer culture aside, we can go shopping in many places and usually have options. That’s privileged, I get it, and there’s always a balance between too much and too little, so to speak. The thing is, this is relatable to what I’ve heard countless times in my workplaces and now:
- But what do I have to offer in my work?
- How can I even make a difference when there are *so many* people out there trying to do the same thing I think I’d like to do?
- It’s hard enough knowing what my purpose is, and what about all this competition for the ideas I have?
- What if I fail or f- up my life because I took this chance or made X choice?
Next time questions like this pop up for you, think about your favorite big box store or natural market and seriously witness 18,000 options for shampoo, or soap, or toothpaste, or tortilla chips, or wine. Now, think of a mind-blowing perspective: for millennia thoughts, ideas, and activities, have shaped beings across the universe. So, why can’t yours? Why can’t you make a difference doing what you do best and what comes naturally to you? What if how you approach your daily work or life is the thing that changes someone else’s, just by being who you are? You’re the expert, my friends. Finally, there’s one more reason to start working on your pivot or shift. Even if doubts are there, encouragement is really summed up well in this quote that I shared on my LinkedIn platform. Emily Dickinson said, “Forever is composed of nows,” and I am taking that to heart every damn day. So, let’s start today to change our forever. If this feels hard, which it can, start with daily habits of observation and tweaking and you’ll get there. Let’s tap into YOU, the only YOU in this world, so YOU can keep making the difference that’ll make this world a better place. That’s it for this week, Friends! If you’re looking for more direct updates on the FSW world, check out the FSW Circle. Want more independent research? Hit up the FSW Quiz, and if you have any questions or comments, leave them below or contact me 1:1 this way. Have a beautiful week ahead!