Business, Consulting, Women

Imposter Syndrome

The term Imposter Syndrome was first coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, who were looking for a better explanation as to why high achieving women often attributed their success to luck rather than accomplishment. Clance and Imes first observed Imposter Syndrome in a group of “highly successful” professional and pre-professional women across several regions, institutes and disciplines.

Since that time there have been numerous articles and studies published which have contributed to our understanding of the syndrome however its prevalence remains very high. In 2020, Laura Newinski (KPMG) stated that 75% of executive women in their (KPMG) study identified as having experienced Imposter Syndrome at various points throughout their careers. Despite being found more commonly in women, the term now applies to both male and female achievers who are psychologically uncomfortable with acknowledging their role in their success. 

Imposter Syndrome can be described as a “faulty belief system where one chronically doubts her abilities in spite of rivalling external evidence”. In my own consulting work over the past year, more than 80% of clients undertaking coaching / mentoring have identified with the syndrome and say it is part of their belief system. And this is despite very clear evidence to refute these beliefs.

Imposter Syndrome can lead the sufferer to doubt their achievements, and to fear being “exposed as a fraud”. It can hamper leadership and success as sufferers feel vulnerable and exposed, which makes taking risks and being innovative and creative much harder (and less likely). The syndrome can negatively impact mental wellbeing and also results in limiting the roles and jobs that sufferers will apply for and this will further exacerbate the continuing under-representation of women in leadership roles.

Some useful questions for self-reflection:

  • What is my belief system about my performance?
  • What is my evidence to support these beliefs?
  • How do I stand apart from others in my field?
  • Do I feel like this is “bragging”?
  • Am I afraid of people realising I am not as good as they think I am? Will they “wake up” one day and see what I see?
  • What do I really want?
  • How can I get it?
  • How can I build a powerful, connected and authentic network which will support me as I challenge my belief systems?

I facilitate coaching / mentoring with a number of individuals and also run workshops for women who are leaders (regardless of role) – if this has triggered a curiosity in you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me to discuss ways I might be able to support you.

Consulting, Jenny Jackson, Organisations, Women

Empathy and Boundaries (Caring, not Carrying):

It probably isn’t surprising that empathy and the “cost of caring” have been in the ‘top 5’ on the list of things discussed with me during mentoring and workshops in 2020 and so far in 2021. 2020 was a unique year – that’s for sure. And while we were all in the same storm, we weren’t all in the same boat. For empaths, it may well have been a particularly challenging year. Watching the suffering and lives lost through the pandemic, ongoing international conflict and also the politics of the US, for example – were all difficult to watch; whilst also seeing so much suffering, loss and hurt closer to home. For me and I am sure many of you, it was impossible not to care. And most of us wouldn’t want not to care. But we don’t want to burn out, either. So it started me thinking more deeply about “carrying” and how this differs from caring or being empathetic.

So many times over recent months I have had conversations with people about the “cost of caring” and it has led me to think about it in terms of “caring or carrying”. Reflecting on my own experience and choices over the years, I have started to really notice boundaries and the importance of these in the setting of being empathetic. Same caring, less carrying.

SYMPATHY is acknowledging that the other person is going through an emotional or physical struggle, supporting them and giving them comfort.

EMPATHY is something more, it’s actually understanding what the other person is feeling because you’ve had a similar experience yourself or you’re able to put yourself in their shoes.

Empathy involves honouring and respecting the other person’s experience without trying to take it from them by rescuing, comparing, or minimising and without taking on the experience ourselves. It is really vital for us to all understand that empathy is not sympathy, nor is it rescuing someone from their experience or relieving them of it. Empathy without boundaries will soon become “carrying”.

Many of us will relate to these scenarios…

  • The phone rings, but you hesitate, knowing that after speaking to this person you will feel depleted, sucked dry. Despite this, you answer the phone. Because you care.
  • Why is it that you’re always the one to offer to take the minutes at the meeting or join a committee? Because you care.

With good boundaries, it is entirely possible to care, without carrying. By being able to say “no”, “not now” or “I can do this much”, we protect and preserve our ability to have empathy for the longer term. We avoid burnout. I have noticed that resentment, or feeling resentful, is a sign for many (me included) that we need to pay attention to our boundaries and our “carrying” of too much stuff. This paying attention to boundaries might come easily sometimes. Sometimes we are really clear about what we are feeling resentful for, and why. But at other times we might feel generally resentful to many things and it might take some thought to work out what is at the core of it. However it is that we come to the core of the resentment, having arrived there, we should take some time to put some boundaries in place. It might be sharing the load with someone by asking for help. It might be saying no to someone or something. It might be turning your phone off and prioritising time for you and what you need. It might be having a conversation with someone about putting some limits or boundaries in place.

While setting boundaries is often not an easy task, it may well engender greater respect from others and in a way, provide others with the ability to see that they can do this for themselves too. As a leader, it is essential to set boundaries whilst also showing true empathy and kindness. For example, an “open door policy” should not mean that staff can come in to your office at any time for any matter. This is likely to result in you carrying their issues and not having capacity to address your own priorities. Setting clear boundaries about an open, respectful communication channel coupled; with boundaries for you to attend to your own priorities is important and may take some practice. But it will be worth it.

My top tips for managing boundaries!

  1. Ask yourself am I caring or carrying? Are you sitting with someone, alongside of their joy or pain or are you trying to ‘make them feel better’ by taking it on yourself?
  2. Pause before you say yes! Don’t feel the need to agree to things in the moment – otherwise you’re likely to feel resentful or regretful by the time you get home!
  3. Get comfortable with “no” and “not now” or “not yet”
  4. When you say “yes” – mean it! Then dive in!
  5. Use technology to help you put boundaries in place. Turn off your notifications, set it to “do not disturb”, put an out of office reply on to “buy” you some time before you have to respond. \
  6. Train yourself and others to not set the expectation that you will respond immediately.

Business, Consulting, Jenny Jackson, Organisations, Strategic Planning, Women

Growing Into Your Gifts

In thinking about writing this blog about mentoring, I kept coming back to “why?” many of us seek to have a mentor or undertake external supervision or coaching. While they are different things and use different techniques,  there are some strong common elements.

Personally, I think mentoring is a really beneficial pathway for supporting individuals to “grow into their gifts”.

A client recently thanked me for their current success. My response was probably a bit odd but it made sense to her and me! I thought I might share it with you…

“What would it feel like to own your success? Because a sunflower seed can only grow to be a sunflower. And sure, it needs the right environment and circumstances. But if you are a sunflower seed, you cant grow into a weed. As a sunflower seed, you already had ‘sunflower potential’ and yes, it is easier to grow into a strong and healthy sunflower if you have good water and nutrients but you couldn’t be a sunflower if it wasn’t already in you.”

I think the same applies to humans. Yes, we can learn and grow but we will always be a human with potential to fulfill our gifts. I truly believe that the role of a mentor is to support the individual to identify their gifts and grow into them.

These are some key words that I think describe aspects of (or reasons for) mentoring:

  • Supports the individual in gaining (and trusting) insight;
  • Increases capability and confidence to navigate complexity;
  • Mentoring is often intuitive and supports the individual to tap into their intuition;
  • Supports and guides personal and professional growth;
  • Encourages and promotes growth through reflection;
  • Provides “stretch” in a safe and supportive environment;
  • Assists the individual to explore options and consider strategies;
  • Enables the individual to ‘practice’ new skills in a safe, non-judgemental setting;
  • Two way process driven by mentor and mentee;
  • Supports the individual to find solutions and work out things for themselves;
  • Heavy on listening

The opportunity to work alongside of others as they grow into their gifts is a delight and professionally, very rewarding. Like any professional relationship, it can sometimes take time to find ‘the right’ mentor or coach and this search is really important and absolutely legitimate. I have a trusted network of highly respected peers with whom I refer (and vice versa) as circumstances warrant it. My advice is to not be afraid to try a few to see what works best for you. After all, its your gifts your growing into and only you know what is going to deliver the best outcomes for you.

So if you are keen to “grow into your gifts” I highly recommend finding a mentor or coach – one who will help you be the best sunflower you can be!

Consulting, Domestic Violence, Jenny Jackson, Women

On Power and (mis)use

I watch as women are killed in their homes in Australia at the rate of more than 1 woman per week. I read with despair, the number of Australia’s first peoples being incarcerated, dying in custody and living significantly shorter lives than non-Aboriginal Australians. I recoil at the treatment of those seeking asylum in our country of plenty. I see ‘self-interest’ driving government action and policy. At home and across the seas, I see prejudice and discrimination in every news cast. It’s news but it’s not new.

When so much is changing, why is it that nothing really changes?

I’ve just finished watching The Clinton Affair on SBS. Monica Lewinski is a name we all know. We don’t know the person. We know of a 22 yo intern at the White House. We know of “the dress”. He was POTUS.

He conspired, lied and cheated. More than once. His power over Ms Lewinski was immense. The power imbalance between POTUS and a 22 yo female intern is so obvious and oh so vast. The media ate her up and spat her out. And so did we as a society. The harm caused to Ms Lewinski and her family vs the harm to Clinton bear no resemblance whatsoever. People hear her name and immediately label her, shame her, judge her. This has affected every single facet of her life. Applying for jobs. Making dinner reservations. New relationships. The lot. For more than 20 years she has suffered the most vile public abuse and has been silenced by shame. The abuse she and the producer of the docu-series suffered when it was published is appalling yet not surprising, sadly. Him? Nope. Nada. “Charismatic…”

I’m now watching the Epstein series. Same power abuse. Different women (and girls). Same same but different. An horrendous and shameful story that befits ‘Hollywood fiction’, only it isn’t fiction.

This abuse of power occurs at an individual level, in communities and within the systems supposedly set up to protect us from inequality and misuse of power.

Many have experienced or witnessed the gross misuse of political and positional power. The system empowers the powerful. It silences, humiliates and ruins those without the power. We see that ‘politics’ and the focus on ‘winning elections’ so often gets in the way of good policy and transparency in every day dealings. In the famous words of Gough Whitlam in 1989, “the punters know that the horse named morality rarely gets past the post whereas the nag named self interest always runs a good race”.

We talk and talk and talk about living with honesty, dignity and respect. I don’t claim to have the answers but my response is to name how utterly sad I am and how desperately I want the world to be one where all people are equal and where systems and governments truly aspire and work towards this, not just use it as an election pitch. There are many who are determined to keep speaking about power and its frequent misuse despite the consequences and my name is on the list too. Please add your voice to this.

Because until we are all equal, none of us are truly free.

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