Among the many differences that plague men and women separately, the imposter syndrome is one which affects more women than men.
That nagging feeling that you’re not actually worthy of all the money you’re getting or the praise showered upon you makes you squirm in guilt that you don’t deserve all this.
But people have found ways to overcome this and take that leap ahead in their careers and life. One of the methods that they swear by is by conquering self doubt and challenging themselves.
Several women face challenges in their lives, especially work life. But why just women, people in the minority in the corporate world on account of their race, color, age, physical ability, sexual orientation, marital status or experience also face this challenge all the times.
At times like these, the pressure gets to their nerves and makes them question their aspirations altogether.
Not all women, but most confess to hesitating to raise their hands when an opportunity comes knocking.
Take for example when the office opens a position at some other location with promotion and additional perks. While most men will push for this new role, women, on the other hand will be hesitant to voluntarily take up the new role. There are several reasons for this hesitation. Women are primary caregivers in many homes- to the kids and to the elderly. Their decision to relocate affects the whole family in many ways. Also, they need to feel that level of comfort and confidence about being 100% ready for a new role before they commit to it. That’s kind of wired into women’s brains who are nurturers by primal nature and seek safety first.
Men, on the other hand, find it very exciting to delve into unknown territory for the sheer adrenaline rush that they experience by accepting a challenge. Even if they are aware that they know little to perform the new role to the best of their abilities, they will take a chance, believing that they will learn on the go and manage things.
The Rule Of Thirds
This piece of advice was first made popular by Bank of West CEO NandithaBakshi in her 2020 speech.
In it, she mentions having faced situations where she, as a woman, hesitated to take challenges head on when she felt she couldn’t do 100% justice to the role owing to her being a women.
At times like this, she says, she fell back upon the rule of thirds.
It entails taking up a position that involved:
– One third of comfort zone work
– One third a stretch (extension of current work but that which you’ve never tried before) and
– The other third of pure challenge (pure-white knuckle of terror as she puts it)
Isn’t that fantastic?
Using Rule of Thirds to Help Conquer Self-Doubt
By knowingly accepting the responsibility to perform a task that you know little about, you are putting yourself up for scrutiny because ultimately you have to deliver results and be accountable.
Those who fear taking up such challenges are aware that there will be a lot of unchartered territory which they will have to walk through and lots of new learning about things they never did or encountered before.
At times like these, one must ask some honest questions-
– Is the work impossible for me to perform or is it merely my perception?
– Am I ready to learn whatever it takes for this job and take the risk?
– Will I really fail or is it just my fear of failure that is stopping me?
Most of the times, it’s the inner demons that stop one from taking on challenges because we feel very secure in our comfort zones.
In my corporate life I have seen several technical experts hesitating to take on pure marketing roles because they feel they cannot sell.
I have mentored a few of them and asked them just one question, if you would be the sole owner of this company that makes this technical product and you had to sell it too, wouldn’t you figure out how to sell something you yourself built? Most of the times, it worked.
Our brains are wired to stay safe and so we love the comfort zone. Most humans are change averse and don’t like to take risks that could sabotage what they have accomplished so far. So the tech guy would have to learn marketing skills and stand a chance to fail if he does not manage to sell what he himself built. That’s more to do with mental blocks than reality and that’s where we must challenge our brains first.
By systematically taking the risk, you’re aware that at least you know a part of what you’re stepping into, there’s some part you can learn on the go and there’s just a little that you don’t know about. It’s the third that you need to deal with head on and it has its means and ways.
Focus on the part of your work or job that you absolutely don’t know anything about. Know more. Get a mentor for doing it. Pursue a course that will teach you how to do. Hire people who can do it for you as you observe and learn yourself. I know of a pharmacist who set up a chemical plant to provide industrial grade perfumes to companies. As he was doing it, he learned the intricacies of construction, accounting, taxation and also marketing and sales because he had to oversee all of that. Today he can read balance sheets better than any finance guy and take decisions on his own.
The only sure-shot way of conquering self doubt is to challenge yourself. If you associate that challenge to some reward, you may fare still better. There will always be some amount of disruption during the phase of growth. If you want to move from one place to the other, you need to take the first step. And status quo may be good in some cases, but not in career.
You can do this.
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