A few months ago, I talked about imposter syndrome — that feeling that we are all hiding the fact that we don’t feel like we’re really, truly good enough to have do the work we do. Part of that feeling comes from the idea that work (and life) is some kind of competition.
Have you ever watched the finish of the Boston Marathon? Sure, the most elite runners are gunning for the finish line, but everyone else is just running to finish, and they are helping each other get there.
Well, work and life are marathons, too. We’re all running together, and it’s time to realize that we will be stronger and more resilient if we cheer each other on and get out of the habit of thinking that we need to push others down in order to lift ourselves up.
How do we do that? Here are some great places to start:
Send the elevator back down
Yes, you’ve fought some hard battles to get where you are. You may not be sure you’re at the top yet, but I promise you that your experience and your connections are the stuff of dreams for a recent graduate. Go find a woman who is new to your field and mentor her. Offer to introduce her to one of your connections. Give her a first chance to be part of a project, even if it is just as an intern.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself
I’ve certainly been guilty of this in my career. When someone else screws up, it’s easy to feel good about yourself and to think, “Whew, glad that wasn’t me.” But, if those thoughts turn into words, and you find yourself about to say something negative about another woman’s performance to someone else in the organization, it’s time to zip your lip. In fact, if you really want to change your habits, use that moment of Schadenfreude to remind yourself to reach out to that person and offer a quick pep talk instead.
Focus on strengths
Do other women’s LinkedIn profiles make you feel like they are just better at things than you are? Do you feel like you are three credentials short of a job offer? It’s easy to feel like everyone else is doing better, because we only ever see the wins. Focus on your own wins, and share them! Congratulate women you see who are doing great things, but don’t feel like you have to do everything they do and more. Know your strengths, and be confident about where you add value, instead of worrying that you are not doing enough.
Be a spoon, not a fork
Do you find yourself focusing on the negative, both when you reflect on your own efforts and when someone else asks you for feedback? Look for the positive! Find ways to lift people up instead of poking them when they are down.
Find your work opposite
Are you amazingly detail oriented but have trouble with strategy? Are you an incredible verbal communicator, but can’t create a visual to save your life? Partner up. Actively look for the people in your network who have complementary skills. Find people who push you to think in new ways, and who challenge you to be your best.
Work can be tough. We live in a world of fast-paced environments with shifting priorities in uncertain financial times. Thinking of other women as your competition will only hurt your ability to adapt and grow professionally, and it will add unnecessary stress to your working life.
Connect, collaborate, mentor, but most of all, help each other out.