It saddens me to know that despite how accomplished and successful women have become in their work life, we are still beset with extreme degrees of worry and doubt about ourselves. Just last week, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, "Nearly all the women I know are stressing themselves sick over the pathological fear that they simply aren't doing enough in their lives." In an article for Oprah Magazine, Gilbert said "It's terribly frustrating for me to witness this endless second-guessing. The problem is, I do it, too. Despite having written five books, I worry that I have not written the right kinds of books, or that perhaps I have dedicated too much of my life to writing, and have therefore neglected other aspects of my being."
Thank goodness she let us know that she's one of us. She goes even further by asking, "so here's what I want to know. Can we lighten up a little?" Imagine that -- taking ourselves less seriously, becoming more reasonable with expectations and more favorable in how we treat ourselves.
Let's be clear: The worry she's referring to is the type that focuses on self-image and how we are seen. It activates a heightened need for reassurance that we're liked and approved of, and triggers an uncanny fear that we'll be found out to be an impostor, despite our competence and achievements.
Our fears root back to grade school, when girls start out claiming their strengths, "I'm great at that." By 5th grade, all that sense of self gets derailed and, instead of talking positively to ourselves, we inhibit that free expression of our strengths. Instead, we speak with a more negative voice that says: "I'm not so bad at that," "I'm not so stupid," "I'm not that fat." Somewhere in between 2nd and 5th grade, girls catch a cultural virus that incites insecurity and trains us to hold ourselves back, dim our lights and fear that others will put us down. In a sense, we're on the path to self-esteem recovery forever after.
The challenges are particularly palpable in the workplace, where to get ahead, we have to toot our own horn, ask for what we want and act with boldness and courage. Leveraging the power within is most definitely easier said than done. As Gilbert says, we make matters worse when "we constantly measure ourselves against each other's progress."
Success, at home and in the workplace, requires us to take charge of our mindset and manage the negative thoughts and beliefs stored within. In her new book, You've Always had the Power: Igniting Your Mindset, Power, Influence & Income, Sara Canuso speaks to the benefits of doing this by cleverly reminding us that "we lock our doors and have alarms in place so no one will come in to rob us of our possessions, and yet we are not protective of our most valuable possessions: our mind and our lives." We cannot change our past, but as Canuso points out, we do have the power to change our future.