The Bar That Keeps Rising

The Bar That Keeps Rising

As I coach highly successful female executives and CEOs, I continue to be astounded at how often they interpret interactions with others to mean, “I am not good enough.” There is a term for this: imposter syndrome.

“Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, psychologists.

We live in a virtual world where the people we “know” post picture-perfect lives and careers online. Naturally, we tend to compare ourselves and by doing so we are profoundly unfair to ourselves. The virtual world is mostly an illusion.

Years ago, I discovered that behind every disappointment is a lurking expectation. When a client feels a painful “not good enough” message, I probe to discover the expectation behind it. We then break down the logic behind it. Most of the time my client’s expectation of herself is quite unreasonable and unkind. She would not expect the same of others. She would not judge others as harshly. We then explore why she is being so unkind to herself. Getting to the cause can be life changing. We then re-frame the circumstance and move from there. 

Even if we do fail, we are not broken. We are still good enough. I am a big proponent of Dr. Kristen Neff’s work around self-compassion. As a PhD researcher at the University of Texas, Austin, she shares, “instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

We were not designed to be perfect. We were designed to evolve. Perfectionism is a serious mental barrier to contentment and lasting success. It is a setup for repeated failure and even depression. To evolve means we appreciate where we live and work now as a unique human being and then we learn, grow and rise to the next level of our journey. 

When I was quite young, I heard that Jesus was perfect and that I should too be perfect. Such a high bar. Few speak to His vulnerability and His humanity. Despite the challenge that He had only a few years to create a movement to transcend thousands of years and billions of souls, He still took care of himself by taking mini retreats. He was vulnerable to his fears and desires. He cried at Gethsemane. He was not ashamed of Himself. He practiced self-compassion. He had a big job to do and He realized that He was the first tool out of his toolbox. He took care of that tool. 

We are the first gift given to us by a loving God. As a steward of that unique gift, we have the rich opportunity to act as our own mother, best friend and counselor. We can be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. It is not selfish to do so. In fact, it is my belief that it is selfish to not care for ourselves because we cannot be as present to those we love if we are diminished by shame. 

My hope is that we encourage one another to be loving and kind to ourselves. It is a grand opportunity in this brief, beautiful life! 

Written by Victoria Winburne, Founder and Principal, OwnerCEOs

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