7 ways to beat your inner critic
Last Thursday evening I was on a panel called “Beat The Imposter Syndrome” at House of St Barnabus, an #Omniwomen event hosted by the lovely team at Flamingo Group.
The first panel discussed different strategies to help beat your “inner critic” at work with Claire Cohen (Telegraph), Jenny Scott (Mother’s Meeting), and Sairah Ashman (Wolff Ollins). I was on the second panel with Eva Wiseman (Observer) and we discussed ways in which you can dial up your best assets, finding your voice at work and how to deal when people might not like you.
Lots of brilliant and interesting things came up in discussion – so much that I can’t remember it all – but I wanted to do a round-up of some of the main talking points:
1. Build a brand you’re proud of
We know that “building a brand” is something that makes everyone make a VOM noise, but all it really means is building a presence (online and offline) that sums up what you are about – and it helps make you feel like you’re building a reputation that makes you stand out a little from the sea of stuff floating around online. Have a side project that shows what you’re about (for me I guess I just mean my blog, for others it might be something else) and it makes me feel more confident in other areas of my life and work. It all feeds into each other and helps to quieten my often unpredictable Imposter Syndrome feelings.
2. The irony of wanting to be liked
You can’t control what people think of you – they will make a decision to like you or not – and that’s their decision. SO, trying to be liked is therefore a bit of a waste of time. All you can do is be authentic, go with your gut, and really stay true to your beliefs. People don’t care what you do, but why you do it.
3. The anti-mentor
This wasn’t mentioned much on the panel but something me and Annie from Flamingo chatted about over email before hand. If you’re lucky, you’ve had a mentor. If you’re really really lucky, you’ve had the ANTI-MENTOR! This is someone who was such an awful boss that it made you realise what you don’t want to be like. You can learn from experience, but you can also learn from experiences from how other people treat you. I realised early on that I didn’t want to be like any of my bosses who acted from a textbook “how to be a boss” guide – that brings me onto the next bullet point below.
3. Don’t rely on clichés
Being authentic means working out a style that works for you. In the workplace, there’s no single definite answer. We are all different. Women especially are advised to “act” in lots of different ways via guidebooks. I don’t believe in having to trick anyone, or pretend to be something you’re not. You don’t have to “Man Up”, whatever that means, or indeed “be the tough bitch.” You can use different ways of being honest, and gaining trust from the people around you. The bosses I learned from the most were the ones who didn’t pretend to invincible.
4. Be around supportive women
I felt I could be 100% me at the panel event and that is because the room was full of women who weren’t afraid to admit that they had suffered with imposter syndrome too. Being on the path to figuring out your answers to problems does not come from thinking alone. It comes from discussing workplace issues with supportive people who’re going through the same things as you and honest open dialogue.
5. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
I loved this little nugget from Sairah Ashman. Life is never “hard” and then miraculously “easy”, life is a constant series of waves. Getting comfortable with never feeling like everything is perfect is good advice. Plus, being flung in the water at the deep end can often teach us more than paddling in our comfort zone ever could.
6. Comparing yourself is pointless
I’ve become quite blunt when it comes to comparison. Maybe I’ve just taught myself not to do it – but I really do believe that comparing yourself is useless and does nothing for progress. We are all different, so our our “brands”, our blogs, our words, our opinions and our ways of doing things. Someone else doing well doesn’t mean that you can’t too. Women are often taught to be competitive with each other, and that there is only one bit of the pie to go around – but it’s just not true. From the moment I started truly believing that I could learn from others and not feel threatened was when the magic began to happen.
7. A little bit of self-doubt can be a good thing
Without self-doubt, we could do things that may potentially harm us or our careers. We could go into a meeting underprepared, or fire something out in the world before having another read-through to check it’s what we meant. A little reflection and asking ourselves: “is this the right thing to do?” before we make a decision is a positive thing, and just gives a second to make sure we are on the right track. It makes us double check by asking for advice. As Betrrand Russell said: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Check out the Flamingo Group’s blog post here, too.
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