Ever have those days, or even weeks, when you just can’t seem to move the needle in your business? You feel stuck in a state of analysis paralysis and your self-talk is starting to sound something like this:
“Why can’t I just get it together already?”
“Why bother? It’s never going to be good enough.”
“I’ll get to it tomorrow …”
Meanwhile, you don’t. The more unproductive you are, the more unproductive you feel, and the more your inner critic sounds off in your head.
You don’t need another productivity hack or app to get back to business. You are likely experiencing a version of impostor syndrome — the biggest productivity killer for women that no one talks about.
Impostor syndrome is a bit of a buzzword, but what does it mean when it comes to your too long to-do list? Simply put, it’s the feeling that we are not good enough or qualified enough to take on a task despite external evidence of success and competence. It’s feeling straight-up terrified of being called out as a massive fraud.
Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first used this term in 1978 for their report, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.” They found that impostor syndrome was “particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women.”
Is impostor syndrome affecting your productivity? Here are some common signs:
You use every excuse in the book.
Why haven’t you started that new project? You have just about every excuse in the book to explain. You hold yourself to an unrealistic standard, either spending countless hours trying to will perfection into your work or not getting started at all. Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand!
You feel stressed and anxious.
The pressure to succeed feels like a bigger burden than actually doing the work. That looming feeling of “What if I fail?” paralyzes you from taking action. If you don’t take the project on, no one will see that you aren’t good enough to successfully complete it in the first place.
You doubt your abilities and compare yourself to others.
Am I really cut out for this? Did they really mean to give me this opportunity? What if I disappoint them? How can I possibly do as well as “so and so”? Your inner critic can easily get the best of you when it comes to your self-worth.
You focus on the negative.
You feel so guilty about not being productive that you bully yourself for not pulling it together. Why can’t you just “be better”? You have a mental laundry list of things you should have done, and the weight of not crossing them off yet is nearly too heavy to handle.
Does any of this resonate? Then it sounds like your lack of productivity can be chalked up to impostor syndrome. Don’t worry, help is on the way!
Here’s how to overcome impostor syndrome and be your most productive self:
Validate the feeling.
Acknowledge what you are feeling and experiencing to be completely normal. What would you say to a friend going through this? You deserve the same empathy from yourself.
Take the pressure off.
Are the stakes really as high as you are making them out to be? You are probably putting more pressure on yourself than necessary. When you give yourself permission to fail or say no, you’ll immediately feel the weight lift off your shoulders.
Separate the facts from the stories.
Write down all the stress-inducing thoughts running through your head on a piece of paper. Which of these are undisputed facts? Which are limiting beliefs? You may find that what’s killing your productivity isn’t a real threat at all. If you’re struggling to tell the difference between the facts and the scary stories you make up in your head, get an outside opinion.
Read and receive praise.
Do you have a place where you keep notes of praise and positive testimonials? If you don’t, start one! Take the time to read the praise you’ve been given and openly accept the kind words.
Reframe your thoughts.
Your inner critic sure has a lot to say. This negative self-talk may have unconsciously become your daily mantra. We want your daily mantra to inspire you — not bring you down! Get those negative thoughts on paper and rewrite them into positive mantras. “I’m never going to be as good as Sally” becomes “I’m successful because I do it my own way.” The trick here is to make it a statement that feels believable.
Don’t make it all about you.
Impostor syndrome shines a spotlight on you and all your insecurities. The secret is, it’s not really all about you. Why are you doing what you do? Who will benefit from you completing this project? Focus on who you are helping and suddenly your ego is far less important.
Take an imperfect leap.
As Winston S. Churchill reportedly said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” Now that you’ve done the inner work, it’s time to take action. You know what you need to do. Take a small, imperfect leap!
You might think impostor syndrome will go away once you hit a certain revenue goal or receive a notable accolade. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The more you achieve, the more your impostor syndrome will pop up. Rest assured that it doesn’t need to stay around for long though. With this list, you are well-equipped to tackle Impostor syndrome whenever and wherever it shows up!
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