If you read the biographies of successful women from Sheryl Sandberg to Karren Brady, there are various common themes that emerge. The one I’m interested in here is the sense of feeling a fraud. These ares seriously successful women who questioned whether they deserved to be in the positions they have achieved, because they have learned to tell themselves a story that women don’t deserve to be taken seriously or to reach the highest level.
For years I used to deceive myself about who I was and what I wanted out of my life. I had some great stories I told myself about all the things I couldn’t do, particularly because I was a woman. And it was less than empowering! I totally believed them, and they shaped my identity. The classic one was to tell myself I didn’t have enough qualifications. It’s only now, with 5 degrees including a PhD that I realise it was never about the qualifications!
Men do it too; it’s not the preserve of women. However, women are notoriously bad at asking for a pay rise or a promotion, and their confidence levels in the workplace tend to be lower than those of men.
What these stories do for us is to protect us. We keep ourselves safe by keeping ourselves small. We tell ourselves our stories over and over again, so making them true. The problem then is that we don’t step out our comfort zone, and we don’t achieve the real greatness we are capable of. We don’t achieve the happiness we want, let alone the career success.
I just watched an excellent TEDx talk from Cortney Warren on this very subject. She’s a psychologist who has researched extensively into the subject of self-deceit, and the video makes for a very enlightening 15 minutes’ viewing.
What are the stories you have used to protect yourself and hold yourself back? Leave a comment in the box below.
And if your stories are still keeping your life smaller than you wantl, and you’d like to change them, please get in touch.