Doesn’t sound right, does it? Wouldn’t you think that the more success a person achieves, the more confident they would feel? It’s often not the case and here’s why. We do not create evidence in our brains that we can trust ourselves when we make excuses for our achievements.
Here are a few examples that might sound familiar to you.
I didn’t earn this promotion. They were just being nice.
I got the job because I knew someone on the committee.
I don’t want to present my research because they’ll find out that I don’t really have any original ideas.
I need to work harder to earn the raise I received.
I wouldn’t have risen in the ranks if I worked at a better company.
They wouldn’t have selected me for this position if more people had applied.
I got lucky. Next time they’ll find out.
I fooled them.
These kinds of messages looped in my brain for years and I know from talking to women all over the world, that I’m not alone. Research defines this self-doubt and worry as “Imposter Syndrome.” The problem with this concept is that it stigmatizes those of us who have these thoughts instead of analyzing the systems that were built on white supremacy culture and hierarchy to keep some folks in power and most folks out of its reach. The pressure to think like everyone else exacerbates self doubt because we cannot think like others. We can try. We can attempt to retrain our brains, but we think like ourselves.
Thinking these thoughts when we succeed keeps us in fear. Our brains kick into high gear to tell us to stay small and hide for our own survival. The thing is that fear undermines self-trust which is what we need to gain confidence in ourselves. Society teaches women that we shouldn’t take up too much space, so we act humble, smile, and deflect compliments. Our brains need us to own our accomplishments because each one becomes evidence that we can trust ourselves.
Attributing our success to outside factors increases worry because each success brings higher stakes. Our brains tell us that the higher we climb, the farther we could fall, especially because we didn’t actually earn our success in the first place.
Feminist coaching helped me catch onto my brain’s critical loop so that I could begin to disrupt it. I realized that nothing had gone wrong. Not really. My brain had become an expert at trying to protect me from danger. I learned reusable, practical skills to reset my thought patterns and I realized that using my gender research was one of the primary keys to my mindset shift. Stay tuned for more on the feminist part of feminist coaching next week. Remember that you are not stuck (even though it might feel that way now) and you are not alone. If I can retrain my brain after decades of worry, you can too.
The thing is that fear undermines self-trust. Attributing our success to outside factors increases the danger because each success brings higher stakes. Our brains tell us that the higher we climb, the farther we could fall, especially because we didn’t actually earn our success anyway.
Feminist coaching helped me catch onto my brain’s critical loop and once I noticed it, I could begin to disrupt it. Reply to this email if you are ready to shed fear and self-doubt so that you can feel more calm and confident. You are not stuck and you are not alone. If I can retrain my brain after decades of feeling worried, you can too.