Girls, this one’s for you (but guys, I invite you to stick around too).
I spent more than 12 hours in my car this week. It was as charming as you might imagine. The bright side to all that windshield time was that I had the opportunity to consume a ton of great content that fired me up for the drive and inspired me for long after I turned off my ignition.
One podcast episode (listen or watch) particularly stayed with me. It was Tony Robbins interviewing Ellen Latham, the creator of Orange Theory Fitness (my fav work out, ever). It’s worth listening to the whole thing but it was at the very end (minute 27 in the video), when the creator of Shake Shack asked Ellen how she’s had to reinvent her leadership style since she launched her company that really resonated with me.
Ellen talked about how when she first had the opportunity to go big, she sort of giggled and dismissed the idea. She went on to say that she didn’t believe in her potential. She didn’t feel like she deserved big things as a woman. That she didn’t deserve success. And while we can probably all marvel at the fitness empire this woman has built and wonder how she could ever feel that way, I find that it’s a common feeling among women, myself included.
In 2014, when about to have my first baby, I read Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and in Chapter 2, Sit at the Table, Cheryl writes:
“The keynote speaker, Dr.Peggy McIntosh….. explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving or guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are— impostors with limited skills or abilities.”
That whole chapter dives deeper into the subject and is fascinating so I encourage you to read it if you relate with these feelings too (because, you’re not alone! It’s a thing!).
Despite my efforts towards being aware and in control of my thoughts, I admit I fall into the trap of “impostor syndrome,” too.
In 2016, the same year that I had my second child and took a full 12 weeks off, I won Salesperson of the Year; the highest award at my company.
I was sitting in the very back of the room when they announced my name, so it was a long walk to the podium. Amidst the high fives and smiles, I was inundated with several feelings– pride, excitement, gratitude and then— undeserving, inadequate, and guilt.
Did I deserve this? Surely I wasn’t qualified? Somebody here definitely worked harder than I did. Did I just get lucky? Has there been a mistake?
I talked to other women, successful by all definitions, about this to see if Cheryl, Ellen and I are the only ones who feel this way. Spoiler alert: we’re not.
Last week I had lunch with a friend who owns her own holistic medical practice. I showed up and instead of using her lunch break to scroll through the ‘gram, she was reading medical journals because she just loves her craft that much. In the course of conversation she mentioned, “Sometimes I feel like a fraud, like I’m not qualified enough to do this.” All I could see was someone so passionate about taking care of people that she spent her leisure time investing in her own education. You can’t fake passion and that to me, is the least fraud-y thing of all.
Later, I met with a client, a senior vice president at a large bank who is totally impressive on all accounts and she too shared how she feels inadequate on occasion. I couldn’t believe that even at her level, with her success, she felt this way.
Then today, on Facebook, a fantastic photographer that I’ve worked with posted about how she was brought to tears while editing a shoot because she has doubts in her own ability.
The list of examples could go on forever.
So, how do we change this? How do we go about owning our success and fighting self doubt?
I listed some strategies that I employ whenever those feelings of self-doubt start creeping in.
- I ask myself, “Why not me?”. Ellen Latham said that once she decided to go for it, “Why not me?” became her mantra. Remember, your hard work, dedication and grit got you to where you are today and it will get you to where you’re going next. Don’t discount your own contributions and remember, you are worthy.
- I shift my mindset. Realize that the way you feel is distorted. You are not a fraud. You are not an imposter. You deserve your success, you’ve earned it. Sandberg writes, “…I needed to make both an intellectual and an emotional adjustment. I learned over time that while it was hard to shake feelings of self-doubt, I could understand that there was a distortion…I’d remind myself that I did not fail…I learned to undistort the distortion.”
- I change my physiology. As Tony Robbins says, motion creates emotion. When you find those feelings of self-doubt creeping in, strike a power pose, really. Studies show that doing this increases testosterone (dominance hormone) and decreases cortisol (stress hormone). Oh, and send me a picture when you do it. (Side story: when working with my coach via Tony Robbins, he had me develop my “power pose.” I had to go in my closet because everyone was home. I had such trouble taking myself seriously that my power pose is just me laughing at myself in a closet. You’re welcome for the visual).
- I accept the challenge. I’ve passed up some good opportunities on both a personal and professional level because I didn’t feel qualified to play at a higher level. As a result, I may have missed out on some pretty fantastic things. One question I now ask myself is “what’s the worst that could happen?”. I’ve answered that question for some pretty difficult situations, and even then, the answer wasn’t so bad. Say yes to the challenge, you will rise to it.
Do you struggle with owning your successes? How do you combat self doubt? I’d love for you to leave me a comment letting me know.