Almost every one of us has had to deal with some level of self-doubt. That sinking feeling that you are not good enough and someone will discover the real you and expose your inadequacies to the world.
You are not alone. And if you are a woman, it probably holds you back more than you can imagine. It’s sometimes called the imposter syndrome. A phrase from a 1978 study at Georgia State University that uncovered the high levels of self-doubt that disproportionately plagues successful women.
What can you do about it? I wish I had an instant magical solution. I don’t.
I have however learnt how to deal with it for myself and to help other women in the process. Here are three steps to shake off that “not good enough” shadow.
1. Perfect is an illusion
It starts with the way we socialise girls. We generally raise girls to be perfect and boys to take risks. Perfect really does not exist. We all know that. It sets us up for inadequacy and failure from the get go.
My advice is to work on excellence not perfection.
Stop fussing about the minute details. Use the 80/20 rule. Start with the small things and work towards doing this with the big things in life.
Don’t wait till all your ducks are aligned before you take the plunge to ask for a raise, apply for a job or nominate yourself for leadership. It will NEVER be perfectly aligned. The promotion will likely arrive just as you find yourself pregnant. Take the promotion. Life will continue to happen. Just work around it.
There is always a way. We are infinitely ingenious. Stop making sacrifices and start making choices instead. It will rock your world.
2. Speak up
When you have something to say, say it. Say it out in the open and say it firmly and with conviction. Don’t downgrade your opinion before you even start by saying things like “I’m sorry but…” or “I don’t know if this is relevant but…” or “This might not be what you are looking for but…” Recognise yourself? Then stop it already. Put a rubber band around your wrist and every time you catch yourself doing this, snap it. You'll stop soon enough.
If you have a view, express it. Don’t apologise for your view or for speaking. You are in that room or around that table because you earned it.
Don’t talk yourself down. If you really struggle with this, get some training to conquer it. Or give yourself a simple goal like “I will say something at my next 2 meetings and ask a question at the next conference”, then hold yourself accountable.
If you get the opportunity to lead a meeting or speak at a seminar or conference, take it! Work out what you are going to speak about later. Seize the opportunity. Each time you do this, you will get better and it will get easier.
Together with the women of KeyNote, I am editing a book specifically to help women do this that will come out in March 2019. We firmly believe to normalise women in leadership, we need to step up and be able to articulate our ideas in a persuasive way. This is how we will influence decisions that matter in our companies and our countries. Watch this space for details about the book.
3. Failure is success waiting to happen
Dr Seuss’ book “Oh The Places You’ll Go” says it best:
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because sometimes you won’t.”
I’m pretty sure you will bomb sometime. I have. Pretty much everyone has. You will survive.
Failure is success waiting to happen. It is just a stepping stone. Every mistake holds a lesson. Learn it. Move on. It is not the end of the world. It almost never is.
“So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s a Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed). Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Still struggling with a crippling fear of failure? Read point 1 again.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are absolutely good enough. You are not an imposter.
Our guest contributor - Lavinia Thanapathy is the Chair of Inspiring Girls Singapore and a Vice President at the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO). She has a distinguished reputation as an inspiring leader having served 3 terms as President & Chair of the executive board at PrimeTime Business and Professional Women's Association.
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