Last week I cast my vote in the Minnesota primary and got an unexpected life lesson that had absolutely nothing to do with politics.
The voting started normally – I checked in, got my ballot, went to the cubby, and filled in the bubble to select my candidate. Then I took my ballot over to the scanner. That’s where I met the life lesson giver.
The woman manning the scanner was pushing 80 years old and perhaps the jolliest person I’ve ever seen. She made small talk as I submitted my ballot and I made small talk back.
And then, without any prelude or transition at all she said to me, “You know, I’m old enough that I just don’t care anymore. I know what I need.”
She wasn’t talking about voting or our government or anything having to do with politics.
She was talking about what SHE needed. On a personal, human level.
She needed to be around people. She needed the interaction.
She used to fulfill that need through teaching. Last week she fulfilled the need by volunteering to watch over the scanner – and probably chit-chatting with every voter like she did with me 🙂
I don’t know if this was a new realization that she could stop caring what other people thought and meet her own needs or if it’s something she’s been practicing for a long time.
Either way, I know with certainty you don’t have to wait until you’re 80 to unapologetically fulfill your needs.
You get to do it today, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Can successful overachievers experience imposter syndrome?
This one is easy to answer.
And not only do they experience it, but successful women are actually more likely to experience imposter syndrome.
It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I mean, if someone is successful on the outside, shouldn’t they feel like a success on the inside?
Rationally yes, but there are a million other things going on. Before I jump into them, let’s get clear on what imposter syndrome is. Part of it is self-explanatory – it’s feeling like a fraud or imposter. But the crux of imposter syndrome is assessing your skills, qualifications, and experiences as worse than they actually are. So even though you are high-achieving and successful, you don’t always see yourself that way.
Also – imposter syndrome is something you experience, not something you have. Some people experience it every day. Others never experience it. Most of us are somewhere in between – you’re feeling fine and then you have to walk into a room with a big-wig client and the imposter syndrome comes flooding in. Suddenly feel like you have no business being there, you’re not really an expert, and why would they hire you anyway?!?
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?!?
It’s complex, but here are some of the top reasons why successful women experience imposter syndrome:
Our culture places a high value on achievement. Do more, accomplish more, achieve more! This can quickly translate internally to feeling like you’re never enough. If you’re family reinforced this, it can be even stronger for you.
Little girls are praised for being perfect and following the rules from a young age. So when we break out of expectations to share a bold idea or take a different path in our career, it’s common to feel like a fraud. Like it or not, women still aren’t taught to break the rule or take up space. It’s evolving, but definitely there.
The culture at your work or school demanded perfection. People were called out publicly when they made a mistake. Eight people have to review and edit your PowerPoint before it’s shown. This kind of culture exacerbates imposter syndrome. Even if you’re in a great work culture now or even own your business, the effects of perfectionism and public shaming can last a lifetime.
We see the work behind the outcome – other people only see the great result. We see the holes, the errors, and all the effort and so we think of the end result as worse than it actually is.
There you have it. All the reasons it’s completely normal for you to be experiencing imposter syndrome.
You are not alone.
But don’t let these reasons become an excuse to hold yourself back. You can experience imposter syndrome – and take action anyway. Look for the evidence of your success and brilliance. Start to see in yourself what others see in you. Lean into your strengths and use them to create impact. Know your why and be pulled forward by inspiration and purpose.
You’ve got this.
P.S. Men experience imposter syndrome too. The research differs and it’s a spectrum for everyone, but women tend to experience it twice as strongly as men overall.
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with high achieving women to get out of their own way so they can have the life they want while making a big impact with their business. Click here to learn more about coaching.
You are a high achieving, smart, successful woman. You’re holding a million pieces of life together, juggling twenty balls and keeping them all airborne. You can spill your coffee down your shirt and walk into a meeting with your CEO 20 minutes later. You can simultaneously make dinner, teach fourth grade math, and listen to the emotional drama of a 13-year-old. You can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Possibly even walk on water.
In other words – You’ve got this.
But you don’t have to.
I can’t tell you the thousands upon thousands of times that someone offered me help and I responded with, “I’m good.”
I remember one trip to Houston, Texas when I first started my career coordinating leadership development programs for senior leaders. Thirty-five of us flew from Minneapolis to Houston and then got on a bus to our hotel. Everyone had luggage, but I also had all the course materials for the week. More than one person offered me help, but instead of saying, “Thanks, that would be great” and handing them a box, I chose to sling my backpack over my shoulders, balance one box on top of my roller bag and drag it behind me, and situate another box on my hip with my arm slung over the top. My fingers barely reached the bottom.
It would have been so much easier to accept help. I didn’t even have to ask for it! It was offered directly to me. But my lifelong MO has been “I’ve got it” so that was my response. I remember taking a certain amount of pride in walking into that hotel, laden down with all my supplies and making it through the door without dropping anything. It gave me confidence to know that I always had it together.
This is a tiny example, but when a million of these tiny examples add up, they create layers of unnecessary stress and anxiety. It’s not just about accepting help with suitcases and boxes. It’s working late nights to complete a project that was really too much to take on in the first place. It’s bearing the weight of your husband’s illness in silence because you don’t want to be a burden on anyone. It’s crying in your car while sitting in the garage at home and then wiping your tears and smiling as you walk in the door.
I see two major reasons we don’t accept (let alone ask for!) help. First, we don’t want to be a burden. We’re afraid that we’re going to put a major inconvenience on someone. But here’s the thing – people LIKE to help. They ENJOY being needed. So flip your mindset and see that you are giving someone the opportunity to help you.
Second, accepting help is admitting that we can’t do it all. That is confronting. And scary. And vulnerable. This one often takes some deeper work. You need to get behind what’s driving you to feel like you always have to have it all together so that you can create a new story for yourself. A story that makes life easier and more enjoyable. This work is hard, but it’s worth it. This is the work that can really change your life.
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with high achieving women that want to stop overwhelm and get back their joy while still having a successful career. Click here to learn more about coaching.
A client recently told me “I just want to get back to feeling like the woman I am.” Can you relate? Like it’s not actually change you need, but rather a returning to who you really are?
I get it. I spent several years actively saying out loud that I had reached the height of my confidence and freedom in sixth grade and now I was just trying to get back there.
So many things get in the way of being the woman you really are! And it’s not like they appear overnight. We have years of layers covering up our true selves. A layer of believing you always have to be successful, no matter what you’re doing. A layer of feeling like you have to lose weight. A layer of your inner critic saying you’re not good enough. A layer of culture telling you to be perfect, but not too perfect, to speak your mind, but not too loudly, and to be strong, but still feminine.
It’s no wonder you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself! I assure you, you’re still in there, but you’ve been buried alive!
There is a lot of deep work to do in this area and I would love to work with you on it when you’re ready. In the meantime, I offer one simple way to start getting back in touch with your true self.
Ask yourself, several times a day, “What do I want right now?”
So simple, but when was the last time you really asked yourself that question? Most of the time it’s been so long that we’re completely disconnected from our desires.
Start asking yourself the question. Listen to the response. When many people start this practice, the response is nearly always “sleep”. If that’s true for you, allow yourself to fulfill that need to the best of your ability. Over time, other desires will start to appear and you’ll start to tap back into the woman you really are.
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with high achieving women that want to stop overwhelm and get back their joy while still having a successful career. Click here to learn more about coaching.
Do you feel like you’ve lost some of your joy? You’re not necessarily truly unhappy, but you don’t have that same joie de vivre that you had earlier in life?
I felt this way several years ago as well. Somewhere in process of becoming a “real” adult with a corporate job and freeway commute and gym membership, I had lost some of my joy. When I was younger I regularly lost complete control of my laughter – to the point where it was a joke among my friends that I had reached my own personal “happy hour” when I just couldn’t stop laughing. In my sixth grade yearbook there were two things listed next to my name. “Good at math” and “Laughing”. But those belly laughs weren’t coming as regularly as I entered my 30’s. I still had fun, but it wasn’t the same.
Two big things gave me joy back – slowing down and giving myself permission to be unproductive. For me, they go hand in hand. I had to give myself permission to be unproductive in order to slow down and I had to slow down to be able to give myself permission to be unproductive. How’s that for a mouthful of a sentence?!? But it’s true! I knew I needed to slow down, but the achiever in me felt like I always needed to be productive – even in my free time. So I rushed around getting everything done on my to-do list, feeling like a wheel was constantly revving inside my chest. Even when I allowed myself a 20-minute nap it was in the name of productivity!
I’m happy to tell you that my joy has returned full force. There are regular moments now when I feel completely overwhelmed with joy and wonder in the best way ever. Friends that have known me for years comment on how happy I am. A few have even said I look younger! A nice side benefit 🙂
You too can get your joy back. I created this guide just for you – The Five Steps To Reclaim Your Joy. Just follow the link, enter your name and email, and you’ll be directed to the guide immediately. You’ll see that slowing down and giving yourself permission to be unproductive are the first two steps in the guide, but there are three more that you can start using today!
I promise you haven’t lost your joy. It is sitting inside of you, just waiting for you to reclaim it.
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to stop the hustle so they can reclaim their life and focus on what’s really important. Click here to learn more about coaching.
For a long time I prided myself on NOT being a perfectionist. I have a MAJOR bias towards action. I want things to be excellent, but I also firmly believe that perfection is unattainable and the effort it takes to make things very nearly perfect simply isn’t worth it. One the core values for my business is even “Progress Over Perfection”!
But then one day I was sitting there revamping my bio for an upcoming speaking engagement and I realized it was the THIRD TIME that week I had updated my bio. Total perfectionist move!
That’s when I knew there were two kinds of perfectionists – procrastinators (not me) and customizers (100% me).
Here’s how they each show up:
Procrastinators research an idea to death before sharing it with anyone. They try eighty different fonts on their website and it still isn’t published. They read an email four times before hitting send. They wait until their proposal is “perfect” before sharing it with anyone.
Customizers tweak. They re-do the presentation, re-write the bio and update their website a million times. They create an email template and then change it every time it’s sent. Occasionally customizing is helpful. But most often it’s a colossal waste of time.
Procrastinators tend to hold back from taking public action until something is “perfect”. Customizers take action, but then update every step along the way in an effort to make it “perfect.”
Both are inefficient. Both get in our way. And both are driven by doubt.
Procrastinator’s doubt can show up like “It’s not ready! What if people think this idea is dumb? I’m sure they’ve already thought about this. What if I put myself out there and I get criticized? Or worse, what if nobody even notices!” (If this sounds like you, click here to get 5 Ways To Quiet The Inner Critic right now!)
Customizer’s doubt is a little different. It’s more subtle. But at the root is working too hard to customize as a way of proving your worth.
This is HUGE for so many women. And working to prove your worth has serious impacts on your life. It creates anxiety and overwhelm. It makes you feel like whatever you do is never enough, even though you are busy ALL THE TIME.
Which kind of perfectionist are you? Comment below to let me know!
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to stop the hustle so they can reclaim their life and focus on what’s really important. See her coaching page for more information.
I was recently discussing career and life change with a women’s group I facilitate. Questions and concerns were coming up, like:
How do you know the right thing to do?
What’s the best next job for me?
How do you know if the company is a good fit?
In the midst of all these questions, one of our group members offered the answer:
You have to build your own lighthouse and let that guide you.
It’s great to ask questions. To get insights from people that have been in careers you’re interested in pursuing. Individuals that have done the thing you’re pondering, whether it’s starting a business, writing a book, or taking six months off to travel the world.
But even the best, most experienced, most well-intentioned people can’t give you the answer.
Only you can do that.
You have to build you own lighthouse and let that guide you towards the answers.
So how do you build that lighthouse exactly?
You have to know what’s most important to YOU. Not to your friends or parents or any cultural expectations – to YOU. What do you value most? What really makes you FULFILLED? When do you feel like you’re contributing and operating at a higher level of yourself? Where are you being called?
For some of you, this might be easy. You’ve already done the self-exploration work needed to answer these questions. You have the forest cleared, the plans drawn out, and you can start building your lighthouse now.
For many you, the plans for the lighthouse are blurred. They are clouded by the inner critic, the expectations you’ve put on yourself over the years, ego, family and cultural expectations.
So you have to clear the forest before building. You need to understand the blockages clouding your internal lighthouse. You need to get quiet and reconnect with your true inner voice.
Then you draw the plans and break ground. The lighthouse you build will be the internal guide pointing you towards your authentic path.
Let’s start clearing.
P.S. Writing is a wonderful way to get reconnected to your true inner voice and see your lighthouse. Click HERE for a journaling exercise to help you do just that.
I have a deep, deep belief that all people have a right to be heard. I’ve reflected a lot on where this belief came from and it goes all the way back to childhood. When I was growing up, I interacted with a lot of different people. My dad was a lawyer and when his clients came over for dinner, I was included in the conversation. My mom taught blind and visually impaired kids and was very involved with her students, so I went bowling with kids that couldn’t see the lanes, met students that were immigrants and Hmong refugees, and saw a whole different side of life than what existed in my white upper middle class suburb.
You know what I learned from this?
ALL PEOPLE ARE JUST PEOPLE.
We each have a story to tell and a right to be heard.
But here’s the next thing (this is going to feel like a ninth grade geometry theorem!):
If I believe that all people have a right to be heard.
And I am a person.
Then I also have a right to be heard.
I remind myself of this whenever I get nervous to share. Or I feel like I’m not enough of an expert to have an opinion. Or when what I’m doing feels big. Uncomfortably big.
You also have a right to be heard. You have a point of view that should be shared – and listened to. Your ideas can change your team, company, and customers. They could have an impact way bigger and broader than what you could ever imagine.
But your ideas can’t change anything if they aren’t heard. Part of being heard is just saying the words. Getting up the courage to raise your hand and SPEAK.
But the other part of being is heard is HOW you speak.
Do you ever start a sentence with “I’m no expert, but…” or “You may have already thought about this…”
Do you ever ask a question when you really have a clear opinion to share?
Do you apologize just for sharing that opinion?
If so, then you are decreasing the power of your idea. Your important message won’t be heard clearly.
Most of the time we don’t even realize all the ways we decrease the weight of our message. They are habits we learn early and they go on autopilot.
But once you know about these habits you can change them! Subtle shifts in the way you speak, write, and carry yourself will have a HUGE impact in how your message is interpreted.
I believe we need more women’s voice in the world. That’s why I do the work I do and that’s why I created Confident Communication for Women – a 90-minute live online class to raise your awareness on all the things that decrease the power of our communication – so that you can change them and BE HEARD.
Be heard in a team meeting. In a job interview. In a presentation. In a salary negotiation. In a client pitch. Even at home.
It’s time for you to be heard. Confident Communication for Women is Tuesday, April 23, 12:00-1:30pm central time. I will record the class and send it to everyone that registers, so even if you can’t make it live, you’ll still get all the information. Cost is just $25 and includes a checklist for writing powerful emails.
Coaching clients often come to me with the same problem – they feel “stuck.” Some are unhappy in their job and want to make a change, but they don’t know what that looks like. Some have a vision, but are overwhelmed and unsure of the next step. Some say they just want to get back to feeling like themselves again. Others feel like they’ve lost their ability to dream and consider new possibilities.
Occasionally these clients really do some practical tools to consider new career paths and possibilities.
But that’s not usually what happens.
Almost every time, once we get into the coaching, we discover the problem isn’t being stuck. Here’s what really going on:
Doubt and fear are getting in the way. It’s not that they don’t know WHAT they want – it’s that they don’t think they can actually GET it. They don’t go for the job they want because they don’t feel qualified. They don’t launch the business they’ve been thinking about for years because they’re afraid it’s not going to work or or believe it’s all been done before, so why even try. They don’t change career paths because they worry about what other people are going to think or fear they don’t have what it takes to be successful in a new field.
They’ve lost connection to their true inner voice. This is the voice of your inner wisdom. Your authentic voice that is completely aligned to your purpose and values and JUST KNOWS. It’s always there, but we’re not taught to listen to it. It gets lost in the noise of our lives.
These often go together. When you lose connection to your true inner voice, you start to doubt yourself. Fear and imposter syndrome and the inner critic show up and throw a party.
The good news is this is completely fixable! Through coaching and different practices you can manage doubt and reconnect to your true inner voice so you can get unstuck and start following your true path.
Want to start today? Click HERE for a 15-minute journaling exercise to tap into your true inner voice.
I recently started reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. The first time I heard the title many years ago I remember thinking, “Gifts? Yeah right. I may need to ACCEPT my imperfections, but they are NOT gifts.”
Maybe this thinking is the reason it took me so long to pick up the book, despite being a HUGE Brené Brown fan.
This past Sunday I read a line in the book that struck me as true and real as the couch I’m sitting on – “I’ve never seen any evidence of “how-to” working without talking about the things that get in the way.”
YES to all of this.
We are addicted to headlines that read, “5 simple steps to lose weight fast” and “3 practices guaranteed to find you love” and “The ultimate how-to guide to building a 7-figure business.”
No one clicks into a headline that says, “The uncomfortable process to explore your shame and fear so that you can live authentically.”
But the latter is what’s needed for REAL change. Change that doesn’t last a week or a month, but an entire lifetime.
We must examine the limiting beliefs holding us back and the parts of our story we’re ashamed to own. We need to hear the inner critic and understand why it’s talking. We have to know the obstacles getting in our way.
It’s like setting up a tent. Before plunking it onto the ground, you look around and make sure there aren’t any sticks or rocks that are going to make sleeping uncomfortable or poke a hole in your tent. And if there are, you REMOVE THEM. Way better to take the 5 minutes up front than attempt to sleep with a rock digging into your shoulder.
And so is life. It takes time and energy to remove the rocks and sticks, but it is 100% worth it. It’s worth it to ENJOY your life. To let go of proving yourself by saying yes to everything and everyone. To release the expectations you’ve piled on yourself since middle school. To follow the career path that your authentic self desires. To release the need for perfection and embrace the gifts of imperfection (yes, I believe they are actually gifts now 🙂).
All this is possible because you know in your heart of hearts that you are valuable. You are worthy. You are enough.
That is the work of real change. No quick-fixes and how-to guides can get you there.
If you’re ready to do the work, click here to set up a free coaching consultation with me. In that call, we’ll explore what’s holding you back and discuss if coaching is the right path for you to remove those obstacles so that you can have the life and career you really want.