To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. – Yann Martel
I’ve spent the last seventeen years working with highly accomplished women who are having an impact on the workplace, and in their business. And not surprisingly, they have a lot in common, apart from their gender.
The greatest threat to women taking on more authority in the workplace is self-doubt or lack of confidence.
I sat down with over 80 highly accomplished women last year and asked them some fundamental questions?
The first was “Where does fear limit your opportunity?”
Think about that for a moment for yourself. We all have something that holds us back from making the next move, or taking a decision, or simply holding onto what we know instead of risking what we don’t.
In all of these interviews their answers all had an uncanny similarity. They included:
- Not owning authority
- Feeling inadequate
- Fear of losing credibility, acceptance or respect
- Undeserving of success
- Fear of being rejected/humiliated
- Fear of being lucky rather than being competent
- Unworthy of love
- Guilt about letting others down as a leader/parent/partner/spouse
- Fear of being flawed (secret…we all are!)
- Fear of being judged
- Being vulnerable
- Being tough on self/no empathy/compassion for self
- Need to prove oneself
- Feeling unappreciated/not acknowledged
- Not dealing with conflict or difficult conversations
- Fear of failure
- Feeling resentful or overlooked
- Saying NO
- People pleasing
- Not asking for what you want
- Not taking ownership of achievements
- Feeling underqualified and need to gain more credentials
- Fear of loss of control
- Being tough on self – negative thinking
Many struggled with the imposter syndrome, a tendency to doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud. It is especially prevalent in high-achieving individuals, and also applies to men. Imposter syndrome is associated with accomplishments that are frequently downplayed, and an undercurrent of feeling that somehow you didn’t deserve the success.
But is ‘imposter syndrome’ real?
When starting something new we are all unsure or anxious about our capability of handling the task. Learning a new skill or joining a new team takes time to find your way. We all struggle with self-doubt under certain circumstances. Just ask any performer, athlete or high-achiever.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome, the authors talk about systemic bias and racism in the workplace and how it leads to the magnification of self-doubt when women of color feel marginalized, shut down, or excluded from fully participating in the workplace.
Every women has a story of being put down, pushed aside, had their credentials questions, undermined, and not given space to share their ideas. They are not making this stuff up. I hear this regularly in my coaching session.
They also feel overloaded with work and home commitments and have a hard time setting boundaries to make sure they get enough time for self.
When asked to commit time to their personal development, their response is usually “I don’t have time for me”. Raising a family and holding down a high-level job take a lot of focus and energy to give it all reasonable attention.
Many highly accomplished women have earned their success by working hard, fighting the internal forces of insecurity, and being assertive. In turn, they are accused of being too aggressive, pushy, or not a team player.
In her recent book The Authority Gap, Mary Ann Sieghart states that, “Most of us – men and women – are still less willing to be influenced by women’s views. And we still resist the idea of women having authority over us.” This is the authority gap.
It’s not the woman’s fault. We have been raised in a patriarchal society that has made an impression on our minds about minding our place in the world. The world around is mainly designed by men and the rules of the world are frequently created by men. Is it any wonder that women continue to feel the self-doubt and paralysis in making decisions that have a positive effect on their lives.
What can we do about this?
It starts with understanding on both sides of the aisle.
UNICEF said gender equality in the 21st century is a global imperative. If you remove gender from our conversations, we create more equity in the workplace for people to enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections.
Women’s empowerment is not a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘need to have’. If we are to change the balance of power in the workplace and in government we must do the work to make it happen. For women to take control of their lives, become more confident and take their authority, we need to involve men in the process. We need a dialogue that helps to change the systemic patterns of bias that are frequently unconscious and harmful to both sides.
Women must feel safe enough to speak up, make decisions, and take the authority in their roles. They must be willing to change the narrative of their life and become confident that they deserve the success they have achieved, and be less concerned about what others think or feel.
When self-doubt and imposter syndrome are removed from a woman’s mindset and behavior there is no limit to what can be achieved. Women-owned businesses are more profitable, women-led teams are more collaborative, women who are empowered can change the world. And we can do it all in collaboration with our male counterparts when we are in open dialogue with them, and they become our allies and advocates in achieving equality.
There are many hurdles to overcome, but if we don’t start now, today, we are simply wasting great opportunities to create positive role models for our children and grandchildren.
Women have the power to change and no longer accept the status quo. It takes work to change mindset and behavior that has been embedded in our psyches since Adam and Eve, but it doesn’t mean we have to continue this way. Change is good. We all benefit from working together.
Simple ways to combat self-doubt:
- Examine your limiting beliefs (download my PDF to help you)
- Watch your negative self-talk (change the narrative)
- Focus on positive outcomes (what do you desire)
- Surround yourself with support (a coach, mentor, trusted advocates)
If you’re ready to bring out the best in you please visit my website for more information on how we can work together.