Staying positive in the business world, especially about your own value, isn’t easy. Businesswomen are conditioned to think differently than men, and having self-doubt—often called “Imposter Syndrome”—is common, says AMA instructor Jennifer Webb, a motivational speaker, author, and corporate consultant.
“Imposter syndrome is believing you’re not as valued as people think you are,” Webb explains. It’s usually connected with a belief about ourselves from our past that we still (regardless of education and experience) tend to use to discredit ourselves and our abilities.
Both men and women experience this from time to time; however, women “definitely tend to display more self-doubt and obsess over it more than men,” Webb says.
Getting out of your own head
We can’t intellectualize ourselves out of our self-doubt and negative thinking, Webb says, “but there are intellectual things you can do.” Some general techniques include:
- Realizing the negativity will pass
- Talking to a friend
- Being kind to yourself by watching a funny movie or playing music
- Smiling as if you were happy (acting happy can emit the feel-good hormone serotonin, which creates a stimulating and positive environment)
- Doing something for somebody else
- Practicing gratitude
5 ways women can stay positive
Delving deeper, the art of mindfulness can help you get to the root of your negativity, Webb says. Here are some practices she recommends:
Know your triggers and safeguard against them. Look at what thoughts triggered the emotion, what brought it on. Create a safeguard against the triggering thought next time by reframing your typical response to it. When your mind sends you a message such as “You really blew it this morning at the meeting, didn’t you?” you can respond in a new way instead of running with the negativity: “Thanks, I appreciate your comment. Actually, I thought it went pretty well.”
Practice awareness. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning reminds us that we have choices about how we react to life, Webb says. “Continually paying attention to what I am thinking.… This is what’s called ‘mindfulness,’” she says. And mindfulness includes being aware of the “nonverbals”—what your body is projecting to others and telling yourself. “Is my jaw tight? Do I have an ‘open posture’? What am I focused on?”
Find your “resource state.” This is a technique used in neurolinguistics. Imagine yourself in a place that makes you happy and then feel and sense everything you can about it—feel the wind, smell the pine, and so on. One way to get to this place is to play music, she says.
If you’re feeling down but want to feel confidence, joy, or positive energy, think about when you last experienced one of these positive emotions. “Think about that particular feeling over and over until you feel like you can create it any time, not just when something good happens,” Webb explains. “That’s how we create a resource state; the ability to feel better under stress or when chaos strikes.”
Take calculated, strategic risks. “It boosts our confidence, whether we fail or succeed,” Webb says. You’re “getting a little uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to take risks if you’re going to build new opportunities.”
Welcome the unexpected. An old way of thinking is “I can’t be happy until ______,” Webb points out. “Be open to all the amazing possibilities,” she advises. “We have no idea how much is in our futures.”
“Creating the results we want builds confidence and is a great equalizer when we’re feeling down,” she says. “We can change any habit, any habitual thinking. It’s simply a routine that needs to be changed and then repeated several times until it becomes automatic.”
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