“Yes” Women

Impostor syndrome: “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Many of the women that I work with suffer from various manifestations of imposter syndrome. Recently, I have noticed that many of my clients “handle” their imposter syndrome by slipping to a persistent helper role.

Imposter syndrome persistently tells us that we are a “fake” and that we will be found out; that eventually everyone will realize that we don’t belong and they will get rid of us. One tendency to combat these fears is to make yourself irreplaceable. For many women, this takes the form of caretaker or helper.

I recently had a client who expressed how important it was to her to always been seen as reliable and someone that others could always count on. She was always offering to support new projects and teams even when she knew that she didn’t have the time or capacity. More often than not, she would come to our sessions operating on fumes. Completely exhausted and frustrated that no one can do anything without her. She was burnt out and wanted to change this pattern.

As we explored her patterns, we came to understand that this was completely a mess of her own making. She consciously took on more than she was able and was reluctant to give up that part of her practice. On the one hand, she knew that it was making her miserable but at the same time, she didn’t want to give up that important position. She didn’t want people to gripe if she said no to work. She didn’t want people to judge her if she scaled back and she imagined a parade of horrible comments she believed her co-workers would make if she stopped helping everyone. She wanted to be needed. She wanted to be an essential player on every team. It made her feel safe and secure.

This is what imposter syndrome does! It creates patterns of coping with our fears of inadequacy. We craft ways to “cover up” our perceived shortcomings to keep our secret safe. In my client’s instance, she was bending over backwards to be available to anyone for any project, at any moment. She was constantly cancelling personal trips and social gatherings to jump on new projects. It had become part of her persona and it was what made her feel like she belonged–it helped to soothe the fears of inadequacy. It silenced the negative rantings in her head — they couldn’t possibly fire her even if they discovered her inadequacies, too many people NEEDED her!

The patterns that accompany imposter syndrome are not sustainable. It is neither fulfilling nor rewarding to be at everyone’s beck and call. While it filled my client with a momentary sense of pride, more often it made her angry and frustrated. She felt trapped and out of control. She believed she had nowhere to go but to a full-fledged, out-of-nowhere explosive resignation. But in order to avoid that meltdown, my client needed to take a hard look at her helper tendencies and invest in making some changes.

What is it costing you to say yes to work and projects that you really don’t want to do?

What is really motivating you to take on all these things?

What would it get you if you were better able to set boundaries?

What would it be like to be able to unplug and enjoy your personal life?

Changing how we think of ourselves and how we show up in our lives is painful. Facing the fears associated with setting boundaries is hard work — it is FAR easier to just keeping saying yes to every man, woman, child, and dog that want your time and energy. The only way to truly make the shift is to first get really clear on what your current pattern is costing you and what it will cost you in the long-term if you fail to make a change.

Are you sacrificing your personal life and relationships because you are afraid to say “no” at work? What is that costing you?

Some day, you will leave that job and your friends and family will still be there. Your body, your health, your mental well-being will still be with you. Are you investing in those as well? Is your pattern costing you all those things that will remain once this job is done?

Our patterns are persuasive and convincing. It’s easy to believe we are doing the right things. Those tendencies likely created your immediate success, after all. In order to break this cycle, we have to open our eyes and see that these patterns are costing us more than they are getting us. We have to start believing that if we remain in place, we will destroy everything. Because it’s true. We have to see the forest for the trees. We have to do the hard work.

In order to change we have to understand the cost-benefits of staying where we are versus evolving. If you need support deconstructing your current patterns, grab a free session and start re-investing in your own wellbeing. After all, it’s just a job…

I’m Not Going To Make It

When we look around at our live and see all that we have, it is important to recognize where it all came from. How you were able to create it.

As attorneys, it’s easy to look to our law school education as one of our greatest accomplishments. Have you ever thought back to that time and considered what you were thinking that got you through it? What were you believing about yourself that propelled you through those 5-hour finals?

Have you ever considered the opposite end of the spectrum? Consider some of your struggles in life. Times when you weren’t showing up in a way that you were proud of or times when you threw in the towel. What were you believing about yourself in those times?

Our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities bubble below the surface in everything that we do.

I can support you to identify your negative thinking patterns and shift to some prettier thinking but if the beliefs you have about yourself are toxic, none of our work will stick.

What we believe about ourselves and our abilities are often based upon our past experiences. What we were taught, what we have learned about ourselves from events 5, 10, 15 years ago. The truth is that none of that is relevant today. There is no reason our pasts have any bearing on our abilities today.

We can choose to believe anything we want to believe by ourselves.

We are not constrained by our pasts.

There is no universal truth about your ability to create the life you want to. It all depends upon whether or not you believe you can do it.

Many of my clients set big goals for themselves and whenever they are faced with challenge, their brain immediately offers them those deeply ingrained beliefs about themselves. I just don’t have what it takes. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough.

We have so many beliefs like these rolling around our brains, running automatically in the background like elevator music behind everything we do and everything positive thought we try to believe. We treat these words as if they are facts. There is a part of us that believes those statements about our abilities are true.

Unless and until you can identify and address your negative beliefs about yourself, you will never be able to achieve you dreams.

This is why so many of us achieve big things but those accomplishments never hit our radar. We finished law school, we landed that major clerkship, we got the job at prestigious firm but we still don’t feel fulfilled and we don’t feel happy. We barely pause for a moment to recognize the achievement because we still don’t believe we deserve it. We believe we aren’t worthy or good enough. We’re impostors and they will find us out! Those thoughts are playing in the background and drown out any positive interpretations of our accomplishments.

The accomplishments never make us feel better because our negative beliefs about ourselves jump in and remind us that it is never going to work. So many of us spend our lives caught in this cycle, constantly achieving and reaching goals but never feeling fulfilled.

The first step in learning to believe new things about yourself is to recognize the negative beliefs you are carrying around.

Take a look at them and see them for what they are: optional thoughts. Choices you are making.

Do you want to continue to believe those things?

Are those beliefs serving you?

How would your life be different if you chose to believe something different?

Second, allow yourself some grace for those thought errors.

You are human and your brain is really good and repeating those thought to keep you safe and cozy. There is nothing wrong with you. Recognizing that your brain has this thought pattern, is not a free pass to dive into another batch of negative self-talk about yourself. These negative thought patterns are normal; don’t beat yourself up for having them.

Third, force yourself to argue with the thought.

What if I am good enough?

What if I can  do this?

What if I can figure it out?

Let those questions lead your brain to some better fodder.

Finally, choose an alternative belief about yourself that does serve you and your goals.

Consider these suggestions:

It’s not what we do—it’s who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You are enough.

Sometimes I doubt myself and that’s okay, I am learning to be more confident.

Nothing has gone wrong here.

I’m responsible for everything I think and feel.

My purpose is the life I am living now.

If you don’t do this work of recognizing and addressing those closely held beliefs you have about yourself and your worthiness, you will always be striving toward your goals while dragging a ball and chain.

Stop fighting yourself and get on the same team.

Get support for free by signing up for a free mini-session. I reserve three slots a week–get yours before it’s gone!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Impostor Syndrome #LawyerLife

Many of my clients come to me suffering from “impostor syndrome.” They believe they don’t belong in their world. They aren’t “one of them,” they will never “fit in.” Underneath these beliefs are the worries too: “I just don’t have what it takes…they have something I don’t.”

There is something about being surrounded by intelligent and talented humans that sends us right back to junior high. Feeling like we don’t fit in and not wanting to be found out in our discomfort.

For many of my female clients, it’s even worse when they are also struggling with their own physical insecurities. Not only do they start to fee like an impostor but they start to see everyone around them as some sort of a Stepford Lawyer. Everyone else is the total package, Elle Woods with the brain of RBG.

When you compare yourself to others, it sets you up for the great cop out.

Believing that others have “it” and we don’t, that we aren’t one of them, justifies our Grand Exit.

Those beliefs allow us to give up on ourselves. To quit before we even try. They completely set you up for failure.

If it were true that you either have “it” or you don’t or you’re one of them or you’re not, then OF COURSE, it would be perfectly logical and justifiable to quit. It wouldn’t make sense to continue. If we were playing monopoly and you didn’t have a board piece, there would be no sense in playing the game. It would make perfect sense to sit it out.

But these are not facts! There is no magical “it”!

There is no biological predisposition for success.

These are things you are choosing to believe. And you are choosing them because they justify your lack of trying. It’s easier to believe you don’t have “it” than to force yourself to keep trying and failing until you succeed.

These beliefs justify failing before you start.

When we believe we just don’t have it, we’re not one of them, it is our brain’s way of keeping us safe and protecting us.

Your brain is wired to keep you safe. In the cave. Away from things that might hurt you (lions, tigers, and judge-y lawyers, oh my!). Your primitive brain does not want you to try new things or put yourself out there. It wants you safe on the couch, hands full of Doritos, guzzling wine, high on dopamine. It wants you to commit to believing you aren’t one of them so you can get your ass back on the couch where the scariest thing you will encounter are re-runs of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Lawyers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, educational levels, pedigree, etc. We need lawyers of all kinds because humans are not cookie cutter.

Some clients do not want an Elle Woods-RBG hybrid. They want someone who reminds them of their daughter, their trusted friend, someone they can relate to, someone they deem trustworthy or “normal”.

When you tell yourself, “I’m not one of them,” you are setting your brain on a mission to prove that thought true. It sets your mind on a collision course with everything you have ever done wrong and every area you have ever come up short. It will prove to you, without a doubt, that you my love, do not belong. You gave your brain an assignment (“I don’t belong”) and it’s going to get to work demonstrating the truth of that thought.

Buying into those beliefs blocks your innate ability to see it any other way.

If you commit to opening up to the opposite truth, imagine what your brain could show you. If you can consider “I am learning and struggling just like everyone else…we all have our challenges…perfection is an impossibility…they all went through the same things I’m going through,” imagine what your brain would show you to prove those thoughts.

How would your life change if you carried those possibilities with you?

Instead of fleeing from these people around us who seem to have it all together, what would it be like to engage them, learn from them, be inspired by them? I promise you, the closer you get to those Stepford humans, the less Stepford and more plain human they will become.

Stop putting others on a pedestal.

Stop making yourself less than. You are giving up on yourself so that you don’t have to run the race. That, my friend, is not a pattern you want to become skilled at. That is the recipe for a life un-lived, a life without discomfort.

Impostor syndrome is not a thing. Let me prove it to you.