If you’re the only woman in the room, I see you. If you’re fresh off a promotion and feel paralyzed about your next step, I’ve been in your shoes. If you know you must give intense feedback to a member of your team, but you keep avoiding him, there’s a way through this. If you’re the one senior leader on your team without an advanced degree, your knowledge base may feel oh so small compared to everyone else (but remember so is your debt!).
These are the moments we feel the insidious impostor syndrome that tells us,
"I don’t know what the F I’m doing."
"I should have partied less in college."
"I don’t belong here."
Our desire to belong in a room, on a team, at a company, in a family is core to who we are, and yet we confuse belonging with fitting it. In her latest book, Braving the Wilderness and in an article for Oprah.com, my spirit guide, Brené Brown, digs into the difference between these two concepts.
"Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all."
So, if the impostor syndrome that plagues us is simply a mask for our desire to belong, and our path to belonging is allowing ourselves to be seen as who we truly are, then our task here is straight forward. We must uncover who we are and translate that into the leaders we want to be. Here’s how I work with clients to create a Leadership Statement to do just that.
1. Define your values
Choose 5 core values that guide your life. If you’re struggling to come up with 5, a simple Google search will provide you some lists of values you can use as a starting point. My values: Courage, Connection, Inspiration, Peace, Fun.
2. Identify your strengths
What are your superpowers? For what do people naturally seek you out? Choose 3-5 strengths—and if you’re in a place right now where it feels like you don’t do anything well—ask 5 people what they see as your strengths. I find these responses both eye opening and validating! My strengths: Motivating others, Storytelling, Connecting people and companies and pets and…
3. Crystalize your Why
Why do you wake up in the morning? What makes you tick? Who do you want to serve? What problem do you want to solve in the world? If you don’t have this nailed down, go to Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk for inspiration and clarity. My why: Get more women into positions of power.
4. Put it all together
Now, throw it at the wall and make it stick together. Don’t worry about using every word that came up in the process. You need not be too literal here.
As a storyteller, connector and motivator, I’m driven by my courage to seek inspiration in all people and to help them become the best versions of themselves. Fueled by words and transformations, I rise each morning to make a more equal world for my two daughters, by amplifying women’s voices and getting more women into positions of power.
Before that big meeting, critical presentation, negative feedback session, wedding toast—read your statement. Remind yourself of who you are. Be THAT person, unapologetically.
Once you decide to stop trying to be John who kills every presentation with his hilarious stories or Anna who wow’s the audience with her meticulous data and research—incredible things begin to happen. You begin to lean into what you do best. And people will notice. They will see how comfortable you are in your skin or they will think you look great, but won’t know why. This is what it’s like to truly do you. It’s self-acceptance. It’s belonging. And while impostor syndrome will never completely go away, your access to your true self will always be your path to conquering it.