If you were to take one thing from this article, I hope it is this: the way you speak to yourself is affecting every aspect of your life, not just your career trajectory. But for now, let’s start there.
Last year, I was asked to speak on the topic of Imposter Syndrome, something I am sure many of you have grappled with. Imposter Syndrome, in a nutshell, is contrary self-speak. It’s a phenomenon commonly experienced by high achieving professionals. The individual feels as though her achievements are due to luck, not her talent, hard-work or expertise and that at any moment, she is liable to be exposed as a fraud.
While researching Imposter Syndrome, what struck me most was how many people are affected by the notion they are undeserving of their accomplishments (a recent study by the International Journal of Behavioral Science estimates upwards of 70% ). While I do believe Imposter Syndrome and job-related insecurity are part of a more significant discussion around workplace culture (namely: why it is successful women feel as though it is all about to crumble beneath them or worse they are “lucky” to merely acquire a seat at the table), progress is most easily achieved at the individual level.
The first way to correct Imposter Syndrome (or any negative self-talk) is to acknowledge it.
Often, we are so used to the story we have been telling ourselves that it has become part of the internal narrative that plays on a loop in our mind. I encourage you to ask yourself if there is a lie or story you have been speaking into existence (this practice can extend beyond beliefs around work or your career). Perhaps it is that you are undeserving of a raise for any myriad of reasons, or that you are not qualified for a job because you cannot tick every box in the requirements section, or that the person who is up for the same promotion will surely get it as they have been working longer than you.
Next, write it down.
I think it is essential to have a visual of the story you have been telling yourself — something about actually having to write it down often exposes its frivolity.
Once written, ask yourself: “do I know this to be true?”
Meaning: can you unequivocally verify that what you have written about yourself is correct? Alternatively, is it a story you have concocted, and are unable to prove?
If you have been able to identify the story is fiction, it is now time to create a new “loop” in your mind.
As with breaking any habit, it will demand you are patient and forgiving of yourself while you establish new patterns. Here’s an example:
Old loop: “I can’t apply for that job; I only have an Associate’s degree and three years related work experience.”
New loop: ” I am confident my unique work experience and broad skill set would be ideal for this job. I am so excited to submit my resume. “
When you catch the old doubt creeping in: acknowledge it. Ask if it is true, and then immediately rephrase it to a positive statement. On occasion, our negative self-speak is warranted. Perhaps we did not show up for ourselves or our colleagues in a way that demonstrated the full capacity of our ability.
Rather than letting a singular experience become a new narrative or global belief about our capabilities, learn from it instead. For example:
Negative self-speak: “That meeting was a disaster. Completely cringeworthy. My teammates and the client now know I am a total failure.”
Constructive self-speak: “That meeting was indeed not my best performance, but I did learn next time I need to create more time for run-throughs and to book the conference room a half-hour early to ensure I am feeling thoroughly prepared.”
I’ve discovered that the negative beliefs I once held about myself served as a sort of armor against potential failure. They were a leash that prevented me from straying too far out of my comfort zone, thereby remaining safe — or stagnant. It is through launching the constellations, my female-first recruitment agency, and building my business that I’ve come to understand that holding onto negative beliefs cannot and will not lend itself to growth.