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SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Truth Sovereignty…

Following on from my last blog on self-worth, I thought I would focus in on owning our stories, our truth. In the self-worth piece, I discussed how an important part of valuing yourself included the parts of us we found less desirable, it was about owning all of who we are. The same goes for our story.

Truth: The body of real things, events and facts.

Sovereignty: Supreme power or authority.

We all have a past. This includes the mistakes we have made and those truths that we are not proud of. I know from experience, as well as working with clients, that a common way of ‘dealing’ with these areas we are not proud of is:

–          Avoidance; pretending it did not occur, never addressing this area of your life,    ignoring it

–          Numbing; using an external stimuli (alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, eating, exercise, internet) to avoid dealing with the internal pain/guilt/shame

–          Oversharing as a third person; regularly sharing this story, but it is very distant, as if you are telling it about someone else, very matter of fact, void of feeling.

By not addressing the pain or a piece of our truth we are actually giving it power over us. It becomes THE thing that we put extra effort in to avoid or prove wrong, it becomes THE thing that we think defines who we are, it becomes THE thing that we think will be the make or break for us. The only way to take the power from the past, is to own it. Take the power back. Establish your truth sovereignty.

I have recently exercised my truth sovereignty over a personal story of mine. I admit I have done the avoidance, I have done the blame, I have tried to numb it and I have done the oversharing too. I literally tried everything I could so I would not have to actually deal with it and own it. But I decided (with the help of two beautiful wahine toa – Kat & Binny so much aroha to you xx) to lean into the discomfort and really own it. In order to do this, I had to real lean into the hurt, I had to practice some mindfulness to keep the anxiety at bay in sharing such a hard story, I journaled A LOT, and it was mostly centred around acceptance and kindness to myself. It wasn’t easy, but as well as empowering me, it actually gave me the final piece of healing I needed in this space, and brought me my greatest value of peace.

This does not mean we have to tell everyone, I do not think this, or practice this at all. It means you own it, you take responsibility for it, you learn from it, you don’t let it define you and you share it with those who you chose to do so with. It is not easy sharing our darkest corners or deepest scars, people can react negatively, they can judge us, they can choose to leave our life. This only serves to reinforce our own shame and internal negative self-talk and internal reasons for previously avoiding, numbing or oversharing. So be selective with who you share your truth with, exercise your sovereignty here too.

I will say this though, if people choose to react in these ways, this is for them to own. Their reactions are theirs. You can’t control other people’s emotions, reactions, opinions or perceptions, so let it go. I know this is easier said than done but reinforce this messaging to yourself regularly. I also believe that if someone doesn’t love me, all of me, then it is for the best that they aren’t in my world anyway. I have too many amazing people I walk this journey with to waste any time on those who are not in my life to simply love. I think Marilyn said it best:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little bit insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”

Marilyn Monroe

This goes both ways too. Remember this when someone shares their truth with you. Walk in their shoes and recognise the pain they have dealt with to be in a place to be able to share this with you. Reflect on how you would want to be treated at this time:

–          Listen without judgement. We do not have to like or agree with choices others have made, just as they wont with our own, but we do not need to judge them for it.

–          Be empathetic, not sympathetic. I have written a whole blog on this topic (so have a read of that one “Feel with me, not for me”) so I won’t go into this one here.

–          Offer them the space to share. Listen. I mean really listen. Not for the sake of talking! And be present – put the phone away, don’t look at your watch etc.

 

When we own all that we are, and all the chapters in our story, then we can be truly authentic. We can accept and speak our truth, we have the power over it. We have truth sovereignty.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

Flaws and all…

How often do you hear self-worth these days? I read about it in books and blogs and social media pages, I hear it in podcasts, clips and even in general conversation.  A lot of this is focused on the “positive” elements of someone, and this is emphasised and hugely reinforced in social media. This is problematic. Let me explain why.

Firstly, I need to dig into what self-worth is.

Self-worth

noun

                            The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect.

In its very definition it is about value. With an object we purchase its value is dependent on what it has to offer AND the needs it doesn’t meet e.g. a cheaper version will not last as long hence it is cheaper. So to our own value takes into account our internal assets AND our flaws. Yes…our flaws too! Those with high self-worth know their weaknesses, they don’t think, or pretend to think they are perfect. They acknowledge their flaws, and further they do something about them.

If you are only focusing on the strengths of yourself, are you ignoring parts of yourself? Are you ignoring them because you don’t like them, or because you feel ‘less than’ because of them? This will mean that when something occurs in life that forces you to be confronted with a personal flaw your self-worth drops. If you own ALL that you are, your self-worth will not fluctuate with external events, it may just be the reminder you needed to work more into that space.

This is the issue with a lot of what you see on social media. By only presenting the ‘positives’ of ourselves and claiming we love this about ourself, and so we are showing our self-worth, we are missing a huge part of the equation.

As a younger person I always had a firm grasp on the first part of self-worth. I was always able to list my strengths and my weaknesses easily. I had no problem acknowledging what I excelled in, what I was decent at, and what I really struggled with or needed to work on.

  • I have great ideas, but I struggle to see an idea right through to completion.
  •  I am very reflective but can over-analyse.
  • I am a passionate person, but I can be too narrow minded in the pursuit of something.
  • I am empathetic, and I can take things too personally.
  • And I can’t sing to save myself! I got a certificate in primary school saying “Sings well in groups” Even as a ten year old I understood what my teacher was telling me and thought it was amusing, because I totally agreed!

This doesn’t make me feel exposed, or ‘less than’ or weak by having areas of limited capability, and it rarely has. In this way I have always had strong self-worth. However, a few mistakes I have made in life, some pretty big, led me to question my own self-worth. I couldn’t understand why, as I knew myself well, I accepted my flaws as part of me. However, I was only accepting those flaws that I thought were the “ok” ones, you know the examples you give in interviews “I am too passionate,” “I am not very good at excel.” I was not so kind about the flaws that caused me hurt, and that I felt were not deemed to be loveable traits by societal norms.

Because I was not acknowledging ALL of me, I was also not working on these aspects of myself. You can’t work on something you don’t acknowledge to be an issue, or even be part of you. So I had to get honest with myself. I could no longer deny these parts of me, or those pieces of my story. And I had to get to work…on myself. It is all well and good to accept your whole self, but if you leave it at that, and let those pieces cause self-harm you can start to question your own worth – did I set myself up for this? If I can’t improve myself what can I add to the world?

Once I really started to work on those weaknesses (except the singing, I just couldn’t subject someone to that kind of pain) I really felt complete in my self-worth. This is not a tick box exercise, and some of these areas take a regular concerted effort, while others will continue to fill my journals up for life as I improve, grow and change in those areas. The point is, my self-worth no longer bottoms out when shit hits the fan, I just have to clean the fan!

Mel H x

SELF HELP

“Change your priorities and you change your life”

I finally got around to opening “The subtle art of not giving a f@ck” by Mark Manson, and I have to say, 20 pages in and it is really resonating with me. I spent a lot of these pages nodding and laughing as I recognised myself in so many of the key points.

For me, the title was misleading. I had conjured up the imagery of not caring, and cruising through life without setting goals or creating meaningful relationships. Because of this, I didn’t really think this book would be for me. I care deeply. I feel deeply. I am blessed with many meaningful connections, and I am most definitely a goal setter.

But here is the thing, I know what I care about, and for those things I give my all and do whatever I think is required at the time. The connections and goals in my life are created around these priorities. My energy is invested into these areas. I know my priorities. It isn’t about not giving a f@%k, it is about knowing what to give a f@%k about.

For all those things that do not align to my vision, my intentions and my people, my energy is limited. This is not to say I won’t do anything in other areas, nor will I not care at all. But here is what happens in the areas I have not prioritised: I say “No,” I don’t get wound up or over emotional, I brush things off (comments, negativity etc.), and I just don’t spend my time in these spaces.

Many people don’t set, or even know, their own priorities, which is something I see regularly with coaching clients. Not setting these for yourself can create the following issues:

          It can lead to spreading yourself too thin, and so nothing gets done at the level you would want, nor are you getting to spend the quality time on the areas that really matter to you. This in turn leads you to feel incompetent, which can cause you to put more energy into proving to yourself and others that you are…it is a nasty spiral!

          It can create an emotional rollercoaster. There just isn’t enough time in the day, nor enough energy to care about all the things! To keep yourself more centred, you need to know the areas that you chose to invoke deep emotions within you.

          You can become the “Yes” woman. It is hard to say “no” to things if you are clear in what it is you want and need to say “yes” to. In turn, people learn you will always be the one to do something, consequently your load increases (again not in the areas important to you necessarily). We really do teach people how to treat us!

          This all can create an increase in stress!

So the art of “not giving a f@#k” for me, means to know what it is you do care about. Once you know this, you can declutter your mind, your time, your emotions and your energy by not stressing over everything else. Here are some questions you might want to use, to really help focus this, and work out your priorities:

          What is it you want out of your life?

          Where do you want your energy going?

          What and who do you want to be investing in?

          What is your purpose?

          What does your ideal life look like?

          What do you need to be doing to achieve your ideal life?

          Rank, in order of importance, your daily tasks. Does your time allocation match this ranking?

Some of these questions overlap and as such you do not need to answer them all. Different ways of asking the question help different people to clarify things for themselves, so see if any of these questions work for you. Brainstorm, take notes, or write freely after reading some of these questions and see what it is you come up with. You can then use this to say “No” to things and people that don’t align or go back to this when you are fretting over something to remind yourself of its lack of importance.

I wish I had done this years ago, really figuring out my own priorities. It would’ve saved me a lot of time, heartache, and stress from investing myself in areas that were wrong for me.

“The key is to not prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” – Stephen Covey.

Mel H x

P.s – Let me know how you go with answering these questions, did it help in any way, or what struggles came up for you!

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Slow and steady wins the race…

I have always been one to do things a million miles an hour. I have always been a sprinter, I get stuck into things as soon as they present, I put all my energy into it and I want it done now. As a child I would rush home telling my mum that I needed to get an assignment started now, and we should have been at the library yesterday. After questioning me, mum would soon discover I had just got the assignment today, not weeks ago as my agitated state suggested. Moving into the work force I applied the same attitude and behaviours. I eventually had a boss who pulled me aside to tell me not to respond to emails or get things done for people so quickly as it set up an expectation and would mean more people would come to me in the first instance. This would increase my workload and leave me less time for the project work.

This conversation led me to stop and reflect on why I ran myself ragged to get tasks completed as quickly as I could. After digging deep internally I realised that this behaviour was driven by a deep-rooted fear, the fear of being viewed as incompetent. I was constantly trying to show people that I was competent and one of the ways to prove this was by completing things before it was expected, and being able to carry such a high workload.

Once I realised this, I was able to address it; challenging my thinking and changing my behaviour.

Thinking:

–          I journaled a lot. I wrote down my thoughts and evidence that refuted the idea that I wasn’t competent. I recorded people’s responses, and wrote about assumptions and perceptions which helped me see that.

–          I read books around self-limiting beliefs, fears, rushing women and similar topics. This lead to a lot more journaling.

–          I used positive affirmations: I am competent. My competence is not hinged on others’ perceptions. My time is valuable.

 

Behaviour:

–          Plan in advance. By having my deadlines in my calendar and inputting checkpoints for my work I know where I need to be for everything. This helps me see how much time I actually have to do other pieces that present themselves.

–          Stick to my calendar. To allow for deeper critical thought, and to comply with my slower pace I keep to the checkpoints I have put into my calendar, rather than trying to get it all done in one sitting.

–          Not ‘squeezing’ people in. I don’t want to be rushing my catch ups with loved ones, nor do I want them to feel as though they are just another meeting. Rushing people is not who I am, so I have stopped doing it.

–          Knowing my priorities. I know, I say this in like every single piece of writing I do, but this is how important it is! For example, I know that exercise is a non-negotiable for me, I don’t put it in the “if I have time” category, it is scheduled, it is a priority. Knowing this means that rather than continuing to work on a project for hours on end at full speed, I know the tasks I need to move on to as they are priorities.

–          Breathe. An action we do so regularly at the unconscious level, yet it is such a powerful an important tool to use for peace, mindfulness, and in this instance taking a step back. When I feel that energy overload kick into my system, the adrenaline starts surging (oh yeah I am a self-labelled geek and I love it!) with a deadline or a new project I just stop and take some deep belly breaths. My mind clears and I am able to reflect back on my priorities before rushing off at a million miles an hour.

 

Having this “I must get it done quicker than humanly possible” mentality has had its benefits, but it also created a highly stressed individual who was always working to tick things off a list, struggled to stay focused on one task at a time, failed to enjoy the process and had moved critical thinking and peace down the list of priorities. As I already mentioned it was also driven by an insecurity, which was kept alive by this out of control behaviour.

This is something I have actively worked at for the last few years; just allowing myself to spend time on tasks, spend time on my own pieces and reducing my stress levels that were created by rushing around all the time. This is not to say that I don’t fall back into old habits every now and then, nor do intentionally choose to “go all in” on very specific pieces of work – though this is after careful consideration and for a range of reasons.

If you could relate to this need to get things done, the fear of being seen as incompetent or running at a high stress state regularly I encourage you to work deeper into this space. Try some of the things that I did, do some of your own research or reach out to me!

Mel H x

THOUGHTS

Don’t be a bystander, be a stand up human!

One of the intentions I set for 2018, was to call out racism, sexism, homophobia and the likes. I have been in uncomfortable situations where people are saying, writing or posting commentary that is dangerous to our society and I have not said anything. I am sure many of us have thought at one time or another “it’s not worth it,” “they are set in their ways,” “there is no point,” or something similar, only to reflect later and wish you had said something.

Here’s the thing I realised, when I was saying “it’s not worth it” what I was actually saying was its not worth it for ME at this point in time. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, or have negative feelings directed towards me. I was not focusing on the cause, those who were marginalised or the bigger societal picture. I also checked myself on my “there’s no point” thinking. How do we even know someone will reject our opinions until we express them? It may be the seed that gets planted, or it may be the last piece they need to have a paradigm shift. I am also conscious of the other bystanders. We never know who else could be listening or reading something which could influence their thinking or provide them support in a space where they are feeling the hate, judgement and oppression.

 

At first, I told myself ‘well its not like I am being racist/sexist’ to try and make this realisation easier to take, to make myself feel better, to feel more comfortable in my silence. And although that technically may be true, I am perpetuating it. I am not doing anything to challenge or change those thoughts, and in some cases social norms. I am letting people who say, write, and post about these things think I agree with it, think that it is ok.

It is not ok. I am not ok with that. This is not who I am.

This realisation was quite confronting. I thought I was someone who had strong social values, and a strong sense of social justice, who had fairness and equity in her DNA, yet my behaviour was not supporting this.

So, back to my 2018 intention of calling this out, and no longer being a silent partner in the fight for equity. I have unfollowed people on social media as a show of ‘voting with my feet’ of sorts. I have commented on posts that contain dangerous narratives, even if I am the lone voice and comments are made in other places that are negative towards me. I have told people I disagree with what they are saying, or simply questioned their statements. And it feels good.

Sure, people may in turn unfollow me, say negative comments or have ill thoughts about me. This says nothing about me, it says something about them. I am confident in my views. Sure, I have more to learn in these spaces, and I can still respect differences of opinion, however, I am confident that racism and sexism are never ok. And, as I said above, maybe I have given someone else the support or release, or voice they needed at that time.

The other part of this 2018 intention for myself, is about being ok with expressing myself from an emotional space or viewpoint. I do my research, I am connected with some pretty amazing people in both the feminist and racial equity spaces and engage with them regularly, my background is one rooted in education, and I feel like a good argument has sound evidence. However, this thinking, coupled with the societal push I feel for only having a perspective based in cold hard facts has meant I have dismissed my own anecdotal pieces, my own experiences and my own emotions. These topics are emotional. I am allowed to be emotional, and I will not try to hide this or pretend it is not part of my calling out. I believe there is so much research in these spaces, but let us not forget an individuals voice or story. I want, and feel some people need to see and hear the emotion that is attached to these areas.

I am already connecting with some amazing people, making new connections and being exposed to new opportunities through the calling out, challenging, deconstructing, questioning and not accepting of these attitudes and social norms.

So, there it is, one of my intentions for 2018. I will no longer stand by and be a silent witness to the ‘isms’, I am standing up.

In what areas, and how do you stand up?

Mel H x

 

For your reading and viewing pleasure…

www.thespinoff.co.nz

www.everydayfeminism.com

www.facebook.com/littlebrowngirlstories/

www.raedawn-martin.squarespace.com

https://www.ted.com/search?q=racism

https://www.ted.com/search?q=feminism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/

https://www.hrc.co.nz/your-rights/race-relations-and-diversity/

https://courageousconversation.com/about/

 

 

 

 

SELF HELP

The Art of saying “No!”

Only two letters; N and O, but oh how hard they can be to put together and say out loud.

Through the feeling of social obligation, trying to prove oneself in the work place, not wanting to let a friend down, not being able to escape a role that we have played (the one that gives good advice, the nurturer etc.), or simply not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, we end up committing to things that can in fact be harmful to us. By harmful I mean by putting ourselves in a social situation that could be upsetting, by trying to take on too much and raising our stress levels, costing us sleep by fretting over it, and overall not putting our own well-being first. By saying “Yes” to something, are we saying “No” to ourselves?

Time is a limited resource we have, and one we can not get back. It is our choice how we use our precious time, and so we need to ensure we are investing this in areas that align with our goals and with us personally.

This is an area I have become stronger in over the last couple of years, and in all honesty, I have had to say “No” more to protect my heart with matters surrounding the infertility space. I have said “No” to baby showers, children’s birthday parties, and large group catch ups with groups of mothers. I have said “No” by unfollowing people on social media who only write about babies, or those who write comments that are highly insensitive and offensive to someone with fertility struggles. I have declined seeing people when I need some space and time to recharge. This is not easy. Feelings of guilt arise at not being there for other people, particularly for important milestones in their lives. I have had concerns of how I am making friends feel by me making that choice to not attend events, which again makes me feel guilty. I have wondered whether I am being too sensitive and actually silly at other times, and whether it is detrimental in some way to not be following certain people in the ‘wellness’ space. Then I remember how I am left feeling, the tears, and the upset phone calls to my sister (who will always tell me to unfollow them, leave their house, or tell them you are not doing it NOW) after these have taken place.

My well-being is affected.

I am not practicing self-love.

Saying “No” is done out of self-love.

To improve my art of saying “No” I have learnt the following things:

–          Don’t say “Yes” to things straight away. You can say you will think about it, get back to someone or simply take time to respond (obviously depending on the forum, this may be awkward standing there silently in a 1:1 conversation). Having this space to think about it will allow you to say “No” upfront, rather than a last-minute cancellation which does let people down, or going along with something you didn’t want to.

–          When saying “No” you do not owe an explanation! This is one of the hardest parts for me personally. This comes out of wanting to minimise the guilty feelings, and wanting to avoid other people thinking poor of me. You can of course provide an explanation, but you do not need to, “I don’t want to” is explanation enough!

–          Why are you apologising? This is linked with owing the explanation, and minimising the negativity towards ourselves. By all means, if you are actually sorry about something (there is a clash), then apologise, but if you aren’t sorry, don’t apologise.

So sorry, I can’t make the group dinner as I have something else on. Hope it goes well x”

–          Be proactive. By telling people what your priorities and goals are, what is upsetting and what you are focusing on for your own well-being it becomes easier to decline. This means being vulnerable, and may not be possible in every situation, but it also creates an army of sorts that surround and support you. I have been in very uncomfortable situations where I have had someone back my stance simply because she knew where I was coming from.

–          Practice makes perfect it easier. The more you say “No” it does get easier, the guilt subsides, the explanations and apologies dwindle. For me, this was because I realised it was coming from a place of self-love and not being mean or selfish.

–          Know your direction, priorities and bottom lines. Brainstorm these areas out for yourself. When you know where you want to be heading, and what you will not accept it is much easier to decline things that don’t align to you!

 

If this is an area you know you need to work on, maybe “I love myself enough to say No” could be a personal mantra or affirmation you regularly use.

I challenge you to say “No” in whatever form that is for you, as part of your self-love practice. Let me know how you get on, what works and what is difficult for you.

Say YES to YOU!

Mel H x

SELF HELP

The worst that can happen is failure…and I can deal with failure.

How did you react to the title of this blog? Did you agree, or did you react strongly with thoughts around how bad failure can be?

A common deep fear people have is that of failure. The thought of not being able to do something, at everyone discovering that we couldn’t do it, losing things because of our incompetence or just not feeling we are good enough in this space prevents many people from taking action.

Fear of failure, like many things, lies on a continuum. Rather than simply having the fear or not, most people have this fear to an extent, but the impact it has on their life and how they engage with it varies:

 

Embrace the failure

I have had clients who will admit they still don’t like failing, but they understand it is part of the process, it is where growth happens, and they don’t attach their self-worth to it. They view failure as a step towards amazing success and part of living. Although, as I said, they don’t like it and will still have negative feelings towards it, the feelings towards themselves are not altered, and they are quick to move into the positive space.

“I see failure as an opportunity”

 

Weigh it up

For many, fear of failure plays out in their risk aversion. They will look at the likelihood of failure, and weigh that up with the outcome, output or reward for taking that risk. They will be willing to take a bigger risk if the reward is bigger, or they may be more comfortable taking risks in certain areas of their life. Although they understand failure is part of the world we live in, it is still something they would rather avoid, and it can take some work to actually take the action required. These people can see that failure does not always reflect them as people, there are other factors involved, but they can be too hard on themselves too.

“It could be worth it”

 

Dragging their feet

This group of people will find any fault with the new piece, procrastinate heavily or look for ways to stay in the same position they are in, convince themselves they are happy where they are. They can often self-sabotage before even trying, ask other people to confirm their resistance, or will do things behind closed doors, so no one will need to know. These people believe that most failures are personal, that blame should be laid squarely on their shoulders, and they will struggle to not attribute it to themselves regardless of the evidence.

“But I guess I could actually like where I am at now”

 

Staying here

Those that have the fear of failure as their central fear, and have not challenged, addressed or worked on this will do almost anything to avoid failure. They will remain in unhappy relationships, unfulfilling careers that are beneath their capabilities and aspirations, and will not create or seek out new opportunities. Any failure is attributed to themselves, and they will seek to confirm this, while ignoring any contradictory information.

There is no point in even trying I won’t get it anyway”

 

This is by no means THE groups that you could fit in, as I said to start it is a continuum. You might recognise yourself in a few of these examples, or think you are somewhere between them.

As I am sure you have picked up by reading through the different examples of places along the continuum that I have given here, the fear of failure is linked to self-worth and self-compassion. Not attributing all external pieces to one’s self internally is part of our self-worth, while being able to say ‘I made a mistake’ or ‘that didn’t work out, but it is ok’ is part of self-compassion.

At times, we are all going to have that fear that something may fail and what that could mean for the company, for lives etc, but it shouldn’t become so strong that it prevents us chasing our dreams, or opening up new spaces for us. We shouldn’t sit, unhappily, in the same spot because this fear far outweighs the unhappiness we are feeling.

–          Where do you sit along this continuum?

–          Do you view failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, do you avoid it at   all costs, or are you somewhere in between?

–          Does the fear of failure affect your functioning or your direction?

If you can relate to this, or realise through any of these examples or questions that the fear of failure is affecting you, addressing your self-worth could be the place to start. Have a read through some of my other blogs, try journaling, read some texts in this space, seek out a counsellor, or reach out to me.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

“I am a fraud…”

Have you ever sat in a roomful of people and thought ‘Why was I invited, what can I add to this?’ or had lingering feelings of doubt around your own capabilities even when people were saying otherwise. Have you thought that people will ‘finally catch on and realise you aren’t even good at this’ or sabotaged yourself to avoid being in a situation where others will ‘figure it all out’.

Well, you are like so many other women!

Many women experience what professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes coined as the imposter syndrome (Bell, 1990). They studied high-achieving women and found that although many of these women were functioning and achieving at a high level they felt as though this was not due to their own capabilities, it was due to external factors. They have a disabling belief that they are imposters.

Imposter syndrome is where you are unable to internalise your achievements, even when evidence indicates this is the case. Ironically, this often occurs after a positive milestone; a promotion, a new business, acceptance into a scholarship programme of area of study, the invitation to an event or group or winning an award. They often downplay their success, dismiss their abilities and this leads one to feel as though they don’t really deserve to be where they are at, and that at some point everyone is going to figure out they are not actually capable of the space they occupy.

Although imposter syndrome occurs across the board, women have been found to suffer from it at a much higher rate. In her research, Bell (1990) found that men were more likely to attribute their success to their own capabilities, while women were more likely to attribute it to external factors. Bell (1990) commented that the socialised gender role expectations in society create conflicting messages to women about their achievements, which consequently make it difficult to internalise success.  These social constructs suggest that women should be secretaries and nurses etc, and not in leadership positions. This can lead to women who are ‘breaking the mould’, to have feelings of not fitting where they should, they feel they are imposters simply because of their gender. The socialisation of gender also means many women hide their capabilities to avoid being targeted, to avoid jealousy and envy, to not appear ambitious or bossy or career focused etc.

If you find yourself feeling like a fraud and struggling to internalise your success here are a few things to help:

–          Not setting excessively high standards. I am not talking about having goals and striving to achieve these. It is the excessively high standards, the chase for the myth of ‘perfect’, having to be the best at everything you do. It also means not setting these ridiculous standards for your children, employees, colleagues or loved ones. This often sets people, including yourself, up to fail which causes negative self-talk around your own capabilities. When you do achieve one of these items it becomes the exception and so it is difficult to internalise this.

–          Stop with the comparison. I feel like I could put this bullet point in pretty much every blog I write, and with good reason. Comparison really is a killer. Comparing your own life and achievements to someone else is comparing roses to orchids, we all bloom in different seasons. If your baseline of success is based on what someone else has achieved, nothing will ever be good enough and someone will always ‘be better’ which leads to similar thought processes as having excessively high standards.

–          Evaluate yourself. Really engage with yourself and evaluate you. What are your strengths, what are your capabilities, areas to improve on, blind-spots, areas for opportunity etc. Try and be specific with your evaluation; “I am good at presenting information to an audience in a way that is easy to understand. I am also an engaging presenter” rather than “Good presenter”. Ask other people what they think for the areas I have suggested too.

–          Link your evaluation to examples. After you have done the in-depth self-evaluation, think of the times you have achieved something and use this evaluation to explain it e.g:

Example Evaluation points New explanation
I was asked by my manager to present to the whole staff.

 

I am good at presenting information to an audience in a way that is easy to understand.

I am also an engaging presenter.

I am reliable.

I have a strong work ethic.

I have strong research skills.

I am good at developing presentations.

I am able to think on the spot.

I can articulate answers well.

I am a good learner.

I am thorough.

(you get my drift!)

My manager asked me to present to the whole staff because she knew I was competent, and had the capabilities to do so.

 

–          Be a good boss/friend etc. This means not micro-managing people. You are sending the message that you do not trust them or think they have the required capabilities by doing this. When they do succeed then, they will not take any internal credit as they will not feel they did it anyway. It means to give people the chance to show their capabilities, provide help and training where it is needed and let them achieve themselves. Be supportive and empower others in their success, think about how you acknowledge or praise others, does it allow them to internalise success or are you creating ‘imposters’ by saying they were lucky to be given the opportunity, were able to do so because of the structures in place, or without their team they would have struggled etc.

–          Use specific affirmations. Use affirmations that highlight your capabilities “I am good at..” etc.

It really saddens me that so many of us women (I was definitely one), have these feelings of being an imposter. So, let’s change this! Own your capabilities, celebrate your success, walk with pride knowing all you have achieved, and it is ok to acknowledge external factors, but be sure to internalise it ladies, because you are awesome!

Mel H x

 

Bell, L. A. (1990). The gifted woman as imposter. Advanced Development Journal, 2, 55–64.

THOUGHTS

Being authentic matters to everyone…

I recently was in a situation with a group of friends, where via a group chat they were discussing a group catch up. Without going into too much detail, it turned into a discussion around the catch up becoming one where all the children would come too, rather than just a girls brunch. It went on about how cute it is when the kids are together, and a lot of other kid talk. As each message came in to my inbox, I got more and more upset (we have fertility issues and are unable to conceive naturally), I even shed a few tears. It is that constant reminder of what we are unable to have, and how it impacts all facets of our lives, like wanting to avoid hanging out with my own friends! I wrote out a few responses, and then deleted them. I felt that any response I gave was either not going to be my authentic self, or I was going to hurt my friends’ feelings by being honest, and vulnerable.

I sat on this for six days, and I really did stew over it. I was weighing up if it was worth saying something, what was the point when it was only going to hurt people’s feelings, and this was something I just had to get accustomed to, and basically just harden up. I also did not want to say anything, which would lead my friends to feel awkward, or created an elephant in the room with all future interactions. However, after writing my thoughts and feelings out it became clear to me that I had to say something:

          How did I expect this situation to change in the future when my friends had no idea it was upsetting to me? If they were unaware of my reaction to this conversation it was highly likely that similar conversations would occur in the future, which was not good for anyone.

          It was not ok for me to feel this upset in a casual conversation with some of my closest friends, and I did not want to lose these friendships because I was avoiding any contact that led me to be so upset.

          These are girls who actually love me and although I know they would hate to feel they had upset me, I know they would rather know for future reference, and so they could understand my feelings and consequent behaviours.

          It was not ok for my friends to not have the truth from me. To not have the authentic, vulnerable me. To not be honest with them.

I sent them all an email, outlining my feelings around the situation. I highlighted that it was not about hurting anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for the conversation, but this is how I was feeling. I suggested that in future I am happy to be left out of these conversations (which people probably feel like they can’t do). The responses I got back were amazing, of course they were, these are my girls! I love them, and they love me.

The whole situation highlighted to me how important being authentic really is. By being authentic I have created stronger connections with loved ones, I have saved myself future heartache, and allowed my friends to understand me and my situation further.

It can be scary at times to open ourselves up like this, because the fear of rejection when it is our true self can hurt. However, by being authentic we are being true to ourselves and those that love us will recognise this and love us all the more. Most importantly, you can walk with peace in your heart and your head held high as you know you have spoken your truth.

Mel H x