Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Regardless of your gender, position, or title, the Impostor Syndrome exists in about 70% of the people walking around. The numbers that I shared matter, because it’s part of our story of American growth and reach. The stories of the people leading are relevant, especially those women leading inside your organizations or stepping out on their own and doing things never done before. Acknowledging your story matters, too. Everything matters. Showing up matters, even if you’re not in the position of leadership that you aspire to be YET. Your disposition as a woman leading matters to all of our stories. In direct defiance to the voice asking, “Am I enough”, and after a 16 hour day asking “Is this enough," I am going to say it, YOU ARE ENOUGH.
When’s the last time you heard that?
How did it make you feel?
When’s the last time you wanted to hear that?
When’s the last time you needed to hear that.
Let’s dig in to the Imposter Syndrome a little more.
Impostor syndrome is not a new concept. Like I said, it earned a name in the 1970s. It’s when you feel like a fraud despite having outward evidence of poise, confidence, and success. People like famed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, actress Natalie Portman, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have all talked about their experiences with it.
I’ve definitely been in that position, and for me, impostor syndrome has been an on-and-off struggle. When I was younger, it was pervasive, but as I’ve gotten older, it has affected me less. That said, I still have moments when the voice in my head tells me that I don’t deserve something, or I’m not good enough.
We already know and experience the obstacles. But what do we do?
We need women to lead in positional roles, and with dispositional means.
Never rely on someone else to show your worth. You’re irreplaceable.
Never let anyone treat you in a manner that is beneath your dignity.
Never try to lead like anyone else, because that becomes a whole different kind of impostoring that is unproductive and inauthentic.
How do we tackle this Imposter syndrome--the feeling that you don't deserve your position of leadership, despite all of your accomplishments in the workplace--and make the right steps to honor our stories and lead with authenticity?
Some people say that Power Dressing and Positive Thinking are the tricks.
Others will encourage you to trash the head trash with statements, such as, “I am truly capable” or “I make great decisions,” because research shows that these things can “reprogram the neural pathways in the brain and prevent automatic shortcuts to negative thought patterns.”So repeating phrases like “I am enough” “I am brave” “I am strong” “I do hard things” is good. I also propose deliberately putting yourself into STRETCH environments (networking, learning, yoga and running).
There are some things, some parts of your journey that only you can do.
What is one thing that you are really good at? That only you can do in your space and place?
This thing matters. This thing that you bring to the world matters. When women step into the space that they are uniquely and unrepeatedly created to lead, circumstances can change. Organizations can change. Change can be scary. It can be challenging. It can make people uncomfortable and respond in unproductive ways. Courage, coupled with hard work, is baked into our DNA as women. We have the ability to quell those fears and forge courage because of something that looks like and is called intuition. What it actually is, according to this 2017 Stanford study I read, a unique way that synapsing fire in the female brain.
So, turning to science, we can examine the growing slab of research tracing the biological composition of women’s brains. We really are wired differently than our male counterparts. And it starts at a very early age. The phenomenon of the female brain gives us a superpower—we are able to pull together pieces of information that shape our decisions differently. It’s not just the information placed before us that allows us to make decisions—we are accessing details, memories, observations, feelings, and experiences creating an ability to see the big picture, not only the page. Stanford researches conducted and published a study in 2017 outlining this, saying, “Discoveries like this one should ring researchers’ alarm buzzers. Women, it’s known, retain stronger, more vivid memories of emotional events than men do. They recall emotional memories more quickly, and the ones they recall are richer and more intense. If, as is likely, the amygdala figures into depression or anxiety, any failure to separately analyze men’s and women’s brains to understand their different susceptibilities to either syndrome would be as self-defeating as not knowing left from right. The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain talk to each other more than a man’s do.”
Naturally, this would indicate that behavior differences show up. This can be a value to guide you, too.
Next week we will cover the last part of this leadership series, concluding with dispositional leadership - one more guide for leading women.