Over 70% of the population, both women and men, report feeling like impostors at work. Doubt, insecurity, and fear hold us back. We set goals and expectations for ourselves, of how we should be. Then when doubt shows up or we don't do the thing we "should" do, we judge ourselves and line up all the data to prove that we aren't enough. It's time to interrupt this cycle!
Step 1: Define success for yourself.Everyone else sets the standard of our success. Growing up it was your teachers, parents, colleges, competition judges, and now it's your manager, team, partner, or kids. Everyone has their own view of what enough is and what they expect of you. Can you see the cosmic joke in that? Why does everyone else think they get to define you? They want to define you so that they can feel safe and better in their life. It's really all about them, and not you.
So, I invite you to be a trickster and ask yourself what do you want? What would make you happy? Because that is the only measure of success that matters. That is where your greatness as a leader comes from.
Who you are is how you lead. Your desires and wishes are the only expectations that matter, really.
How do you define & measure success? On your deathbed as you look back at your life what will be important? With my clients, I find that the definition they discover is usually a feeling that relates to growth, contribution, purpose, meaning, creativity, intimacy or accomplishment. It's a process and not a destination.
I’d like to offer this quote from Theodore Roosevelt.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I propose that success is a life well-lived. It’s the person who keeps dreaming and daring. That's my definition. What's yours?
Step 2: Welcome doubt, fear, and insecurity.I have a secret. The confident and courageous leaders you admire have judgment, doubt, fear, and insecurity. They don't magically disappear with confidence. I recently read "we are defined by what we tolerate." Our inner-critic gets fed by the belief that we should never have doubt or fear.
Confident leaders don't have doubt! They do. What they don't tolerate is letting it dictate their actions.
I have another secret. Doubt, fear, and all the other parts of us want one thing, well maybe two. To be seen and listened to, feeling safe and appreciated. That's it. These voices get so loud and persistent because we try to ignore them.
Try this trick I learned from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before doing something big, new and challenging; welcome doubt and fear along. Tell them they are welcome passengers on the trip. Let them know that you will listen to their concerns and requests. They can whine, scream and be scared; however, they don't get to drive, they don't get to touch the map, they don't get to change the music, and no way are they allowed near the steering wheel.
Let's accept that doubt and fear are normal. They keep us safe. They care. They are a positive sign that you are doing something big and new. You are growing. So welcome them. They may even have some sage wisdom for you. Something you haven't looked at or thought about. Welcome them.
Step 3: Ask your inner Sage & choose courage."I don't know." I think you do know. Deep down you know what you want and what the right answer is. Doubt, fear, anxiety, and stress are overwhelming you to not do the thing you want to do. What you want, is always the first thing- the great idea before our inner critic sounds the alarm and recruits our Sabatouers into battle. You may not even be conscious of what you want, and it's there.
Take a deep breath, find your center and choose courage. Even if it's the courage to say the truth, if not act.
Step 4: Encourage, validate, try, learn and celebrate.Once you choose, act. Encourage and validate yourself. My favorites... I can be proud of myself for ____. Damn, that's brave! You are strong. What is the encouraging word you most need to hear? Validate that it's normal to doubt and be scared. Remember your definition of success and what you most want in life, then act and celebrate.
Celebrate your courage. Celebrate trying. Here's the trick, just celebrate. If you got it right and it went well, yes celebrate but celebrate that you tried. If it goes wrong and you make a mistake- celebrate. Feel how you feel, then be curious, learn and try again.
Who you are is how you lead. The more authentic you are to your own success, accept doubt and fear, celebrate risk-taking for yourself; you can do the exact same thing for your team and others in your life.
The thing is, you get to decide on success.
About the Author
Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.