4 Min ReadCareer 18 May 2020
Impostor syndrome — that feeling that you're "a fraud" or that your success is not deserved — has grown new wings during this pandemic. While most of us have experienced impostor syndrome at some point in our careers — it's estimated that more than 70% of people will feel the symptoms — I've heard from so many women who are now questioning their worth and value when they have never before. The reason? We are all overtaxed.
If you're a project management whiz, your focus can be shaky right now, which leaves you contemplating your value. If relationship management is your forte, doing so virtually is a completely new skill set to learn. If you've always delivered 110% effort at work but your caregiving responsibilities now put that at about a 60, you're contemplating if you're going to get fired.
Don't worry. No one is going to "find you out" anytime soon. Because you are worth all of the success and praise you come by in life. And, in these unprecedented times, you need to cut yourself some slack. Recently, I spoke at an event with Karen Sunderam of UBS and Christmas Hutchinson of Verizon Media about how to help women stop the impostor syndrome shame cycle. Here are some of my favorite tips from the evening:
Don't worry. No one is going to "find you out" anytime soon. Because you are worth all of the success and praise you come by in life.
Create a "smile file" full of positive feedback and accomplishments that can remind you of how competent you are.
When you're deep in the dregs of impostor syndrome, it can be so easy to focus on everything you've done wrong, all the reasons you "shouldn't" be where you are, or all of the things that people who aren't you are doing right now. It can be really hard to pull yourself out of this state without any greater frame of reference. But, whether you realize it or not, the proof of your success is very real. A "smile file" can be anything you need it to be — from a simple note in your phone with positive reminders about yourself, a collection of feedback from your colleagues, or a list of your professional successes. You could even have a physical folder with print-outs of your accomplishments and photos from major events you've attended.
Surround yourself with colleagues or friends (a "personal board of directors") with whom you can share your impostor syndrome struggles.
It's not easy to support yourself alone! Sometimes you just need to vent. And the best part is, not only can you commiserate on impostor syndrome struggles with them but these people will also be there to boost your confidence despite every fear or insecurity you may have to let out. Even the famous author Maya Angelou, who has long been lauded as a literary genius, experienced imposter syndrome: "I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out."
But, whether you realize it or not, the proof of your success is very real.
Put things in perspective to feel less paralyzed — weigh the costs of potential mistakes and rejections.
If you ever find yourself on the precipice of an impostor syndrome spiral, try to take the situation out of context and out of your own personal feelings, and consider how you would respond to the experience if a friend were sharing their story with you. In this context, you may be better able to weigh the outcomes with a level head rather than letting yourself get lost in negativity and self-doubt.
Address the root cause. Ask yourself, "Why am I telling myself this story?"
If this is the first time you're experiencing impostor syndrome, it's most likely due to the stressful situation we find ourselves in right now. If it's happened before, keep some tips in your back pocket to halt the progress of impostor syndrome as it's occurring. However, at some point, you have to think about why these feelings keep coming up in the first place. When you have a moment of clarity, try to dig deep and figure out why you keep selling yourself short. What part of your history or psychology keeps leading you back to impostor syndrome? If you're having trouble untangling this on your own, maybe call on the help of your "personal board of directors" or seek professional guidance from a therapist.
Don't write off the positive effects of impostor syndrome (e.g. humility), just keep the negative ones in check.
Try to find a silver lining in this situation. Yes, impostor syndrome comes with a lot of struggles, but sometimes it's okay to look at the bright side of a bad situation. Feeling like an imposter is a sign that you're truly progressing and challenging yourself in your field. If you stayed in the same place all the time, you'd always feel comfortable. It's only when you're growing that you may start to question yourself. Keep the negative responses to imposter syndrome down by reminding yourself of all the positive things it signals about your journey.
If this is the first time you're experiencing impostor syndrome, it's most likely due to the stressful situation we find ourselves in right now.
So the next time you're thinking, "Why me?" or "I don't deserve this praise," stop yourself, think back to this list, and celebrate all that makes you you.
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Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da
If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.
In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.
These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.
After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.
About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.
When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.
Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.
Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.
Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.
This article was originally published September 12, 2019.