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Are you an Imposter – Why do we hold ourselves back? Are we really not good enough?

Today I decided to stray away from my ongoing theme of explaining what the 4Bs are (if you’re thinking “The 4Bs…WTF?!”, then read my last couple of blogs for an explanation!) as I’ve been feeling very impassioned about “Imposter Syndrome”.

So what is Imposter Syndrome?
It’s that feeling we get that we really don’t deserve our success, our promotion, the praise form the boss etc. We feel like a fraud. We feel as though we have duped people around us into believing we are better than we really are. And we get worried that we’re going to get found out.

The worst part of Imposter Syndrome is that often the end result is that we hold ourselves back. We don’t go for the promotions. We don’t grow our businesses. Sometimes we even go so far as to think our business failing is the best solution. 

And when I say “we” in all the examples, I mean us women, because sadly all the research shows that this affects women to a much greater extent than men. It seems to me that we have been so conditioned over the decades that we are not as good as men when it comes to the world of business, that this has crept into our psyche and deep down we believe it too. 

After I had been working as a coach for a while, I inherited a wee bit of money and decided that I was going to do some property investing. So, being me, I spent a fortune on training, as I had to do it the right way. And then a couple of things didn’t go exactly as planned. I had a mortgage refused and a property I had bought turned into a money pit as the person who had advised me on the refurbishment costs totally underestimated them – by a very large amount. And yes, I do take my share of the blame for that, as I hadn’t done enough due diligence to check out his estimates. However, instead of marching on and overcoming these obstacles I decided that I wasn’t cut out for that world and gave it up. I decided I didn’t know how to mix with the big boys and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

So I gave it up and returned to coaching. Part of that story was that I truly did miss my coaching and I felt that I had strayed from being my authentic self in the property world. But in hindsight I could have done both. Imposter Syndrome was one of the sources of me making so many errors of judgment as I felt inferior to everyone I was dealing with. (I do
still dabble in property but I no longer dream of making it my main business).

‘Perfectionism’

I suspect a few of you will have noticed that I covered up my feelings of being an imposter by saying I’m a perfectionist. Does this ring any bells with any of you?! And I didn’t just say it, I acted it out. And that’s what perfectionism is. An act to slow us down, to make sure that we don’t launch the next product, or the next new business idea as we can’t possibly do it until it looks and sounds 110% right. And have the website in place, the business cards, the social media plan, the… oh, anything that actually stops us from putting ourselves out there properly and just going for it.

Two US sociologists, Jessica Collett and Jade Avelis, wanted to know why so many female academics “downshift”: they start out planning on working towards a high-status post, then switching to something less ambitious. Contrary to perceived wisdom, their survey of 460 doctoral students revealed that it wasn’t to do with wanting a “family-friendly”
lifestyle. Instead, impostor syndrome was to blame.

I’m writing this blog now to say very loudly “let’s try to stop this in its tracks”. If you’ve every felt like this, then it’s time to find ways to overcome it so you can become the glorious, successful woman you are destined to be.
I am amazed and saddened by how many women suffer from this – and Iuse the word suffer rather than experience deliberately. And don’t be fooled into thinking that only women who run small businesses suffer from this syndrome. It has been shown that it actually affects high-achievers most.  On the outside these women look very successful. But what is happening on the inside is very different. They can be crippled by high levels of anxiety and anguish and come to doubt al their decision-making capabilities, however big or small.

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.“ – Maya Angelou

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert.  How do these people believe all this about me?  I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” – Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization 2007-2017.

Some people live in fear of being found out but do it anyway. For others, Imposter Syndrome can hold them back from progressing in so many different ways. It can make our dreams and ambitions smaller so we never even try to step up to the next level. The next level starts to look so big to us; we visualise it as being completely unachievable. We see
ourselves dwarfed by the enormity of moving forward.

It also leads to high levels of stress and increased emotions. Every time we try to take a step forward our thoughts and emotions play havoc with our rationale thinking side. It also makes some people believe that they have to become more
masculine in their approach to work. We all need a mixture of our masculine and feminine powers to act as balanced human beings. And by all, I do mean both men and women. The greatest leaders have a wonderful combination of the two powers and automatically tune into the one required in the different situations they face throughout their careers
and lives.

But too many women believe that to succeed in a man’s world they have to behave like a man – or rather the worst version of male bosses they have experienced (I’m not being anti-male here). They lose touch with their feminine power and it’s innate ability to make effective decisions from a compassionate stance.

How many women have you come across in positions of authority or senior roles in large corporations who are actually really difficult to work with? Who have become unsupportive of their more junior staff, especially the women; who are aggressive, unapproachable and are called “ballsy”, not as a compliment?

Why can some women become so competitive and unsupportive at times even to the extent of stopping other women from advancing their careers? What are they so scared of? I think one reason is that they are scared of being shown to be a fraud and have developed a belief system that says they must never show any weakness or they will be ridiculed.

Women need to find a way to demonstrate that utilizing their feminine power in the workplace is the way forward. The Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the Western Woman”. This has been interpreted as meaning that we can make the world a better place in so many ways by bringing our feminine power to the forefront to promote basic human
values – human compassion, human affection. That us women are in a position to speak out for justice and take care of our planet and it’s people. So let’s do just that.

I really do believe it is time for women to rise up and become the compassionate leaders the world is crying out for. And that we can achieve this by bringing our feminine virtues into the workplace as a starting point. So if any fears of being a fraud creep into your head as you consider how to run your business from your heart as well as from your head consider
some of these ways to overcome the notion that you are an imposter and the feminine way is not good enough:
– Believe in your abilities- when doubts arise look at what you have achieved. Know that if someone has given you praise in any form it was deserved and meant.
– Support all your employees – but especially those women who are holding themselves back.
– Create an environment that empowers everyone, where no-one is seen as a failure, where they feel confident to share ideas.
– Allow people to speak their minds and share their concerns as well as their ideas.
– Find your courage. Be brave. Create a mantra or vision that you can conjure up quickly at moments when you feel the doubt rising up within you
– Be prepared – but not over prepared. Speak from a place of knowledge but don’t be scared to share your vulnerabilities too. People resonate more with those who share their negative experiences more than those who always paint the positive picture. Be more real.

It’s time to stand up and be the compassionate, successful leader that you are. Sometimes it’s not easy to overcome your doubts by yourself. Which is what I’m here for. If you need support in helping to believe in yourself again and uncover the everyday strategies to put these beliefs into practice, then please talk to me and find out how I can help you.
Go make a difference in the world. Don’t doubt yourself.

Please share with me some of your own experiences of Imposter Syndrome or self-doubt. I promise to respond. By standing together we can all grow together.