Let me share something ludicrous: I am taking an MBA class. I have a 100% in the class. A 100%! Like, you can’t get any better than that, right?? I missed one question on one of my quizzes. If this were a friend of mine, I’d be bewildered at her success. Do you know what I focus on????? I think “oh I am just so terrible at multiple choice tests I’m not really very smart at all! Other people are smart. I am not smart.” WTF. I know, logically, this is insanely stupid. YET THAT IS MY THOUGHT. I am hardwired to dismiss the positive and focus on the negative.
Whyyy? I’m not the only one.
It’s a thing. It has a name.
The imposter syndrome.
Most women have an endless cycle of doubt and guilt spinning around their brain in the background, while the countless tasks, thoughts, and ideas are running laps at the same time. So many studies, articles, speeches all call this “the imposter syndrome.” Seemingly confident women feel like they are frauds, and are about to be discovered as a fraud, in positions at work and at home. We think someone is on the brink of discovering we are not perfect. Yikes. These women who are leaders and achieve great things focus on the tasks left undone, the “what ifs” and compare themselves to others. These women do not have the same perception of themselves that others do. They are extremely accomplished, have their own style, appear to be confident – but they are not confident. They focus on the negative.
Clinical psychologists and people who study the brain say we can change. Headspace says we can change. We can focus on the stories we tell ourselves. We just need to be aware (or woke, as the cool kids who know how to operate Snapchat would say?)
And it’s not just bad for the women who feel this way: it’s bad for other women. I have concluded, in my 40 years of age, that women who do mean things are simply insecure. Meanness plants insecurity in the next person, and now we have the imposter syndrome cycle.
Women just need to support each other. We have to. It helps us all. We need to choose to be supportive rather than gossipy, or critical, or judgmental. Support leads to confidence. Confident people are kind. Criticism leads to insecurity. Insecure people are mean.
Insecure people will tear one woman down in order to buddy up to another. She feels threatened, she points out someone else’s flaws. Insecurity breeds insecurity, and we’re stuck in this cycle.
I listened to a great speech recently about Cliff Strengths. The speaker shared a story from earlier in her career about someone who told her that her sense of humor would prevent her from being a leader. Later, another boss told her that her sense of humor made people at ease so she could be a more effective leader. The point was: if we really elevate and focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses, we are going to be free of insecurities to be our best selves.
So how do we build confidence in one another? How do we support other women so they know how incredible they are, and can pass that confidence on to the next? How do we solve this insecurity problem so women can be united, and confident, together – supporting each other, bringing joy, pushing each other to reach our goals? Isn’t that what we want? Is that not so much better than than pulling a friend aside to chat about how another person is not meeting a certain expectation (being a creative mother, being to work on time, dressing classy, turning in a polished presentation)? Perhaps, rather than tear someone else down, we should focus on all the ways we can help others be their most confident, their best self. We need to focus on each other’s strengths. We can do this, together. Here’s how:
25 ways we can support other women & inspire confidence
- Remind her of her strengths. Tell her specifically what she is good at.
- Understand everyone has special talents and skills. You cannot be great everything. Spread the word.
- Perfection is dumb and boring. Also, spread the word.
- Tell her she’s pretty and smart. Even though we should be judged on our merit blah blah blah we also like to look good and be acknowledged for a killer eye shadow choice.
- Take time to find someone’s strengths. Knowing someone’s unique strengths will make it easier to praise than be annoyed by perceived shortcomings.
- Compliment her ideas.
- Congratulate her on a win – even if it’s something small like a well-written reply all email.
- If she gets talked over in a meeting, redirect the conversation back to her idea.
- If she makes a mistake, point it out like you would point out spinach in her teeth. In a caring, cool way.
- If you have an issue, go to her and address it. It’s easier to go to someone else and “vent” but that’s just what mean girls do and you are not a mean girl.
- Be like her PR agent. Talk about her accomplishments behind her back.
- Know that building someone up else makes you look like a badass.
- Encourage her to ask for the raise.
- Substantiate her ideas with reasons why she would be great at the thing she is proposing.
- If you think her idea is bad, tell her. Not your mutual friend.
- If you’re a boss, show her great leadership by pointing out her strengths.
- Own your mistakes to show others how to admit theirs. Move on.
- Share your own accomplishments to show others it’s ok to express confidence and positivity.
- Seek mutual goals, not mutual enemies.
- Share compliments other people have said about her.
- Let her vent. Then ask her questions about her accomplishments. Make her answer out loud.
- Choose positive feedback rather than a criticism.
- When criticizing, frame it kindly. And with a collaborative solution.
- Know it’s Ok to cry to certain people when the situation is appropriate.
- Always be a cheerleader and a champion.
However, when someone is a B with a capital B, don’t be a pushover. Stand your ground. Defend yourself. If this person is a boss, document or report then move on. If this person is a friend, find a new one. If this person is a colleague, minimize contact. Trust your gut when it comes to intentions and do not place blame on yourself for someone’s inappropriate actions.
Remember everyone has a choice, including you. Choose to support.