How often have you felt that you are not the best version of yourself or you have been made to feel inadequate because you are not “enough” or not living up to others’ expectations? In a 2017 McKinsey & Company study on women in the workplace, it was highlighted that women aspiring to be a top executive are also significantly less likely to think they will become one compared to their male counterparts with the same aspirations.
Outside of the need for more workplace initiatives to address parity, fairness and workplace flexibility particularly in senior management and C-level, we also need to ask: why do women believe they are less likely to achieve even when they have the same aspirations and dreams as their male peers? Why, as women, are we holding ourselves back from being the best version of ourselves?
Self-limiting beliefs are a narrative that is consistently on replay for those who believe that they cannot achieve what they aspire to be. These limiting barriers are manifestations of fears that hold us back – fears of losing control, being judged, being made fun of, or making a mistake.
The narratives sound like this:
It is firstly important to recognise that most fears boil down to a fear of failure in some shape. We need to get comfortable with failure and realise that it doesn’t actually set us back – it is merely a learning experience and a stepping stone towards achievement.
What matters is how you take ownership of failure and move forward. This means allowing room for mistakes, not defining yourself by failure, and allowing yourself to try again. You also need to identify the pieces of your strategy that did work, even if the overall result did not, then harness that knowledge and positivity in your next step.
Redesigning self-limiting narratives into self-empowering ones will help to offset your fears. In preparing for my first job interview as a new graduate, I was up all night revising notes on my potential employer and repeating answers to potential interview questions. I was worried sick that I would not perform well enough. My boyfriend at the time was also doing his first job interviews – only his preparation involved repeatedly telling himself that he was “the best”.
Asserting yourself on the basis of positive affirmations can help drive the change and rewire the way you speak to yourself. For example, try switching your inner monologue from: “I feel unqualified for this promotion” to “Actually, I’d be great in this role because I have plenty of experience and the right attitude.”
Redefining your concept of success will empower you to break free of self-limits. This means looking inward and being completely honest about what truly matters to you. Success is not about walking the path someone else laid out for you or living up to someone else’s expectations. When you can confidently understand who you are and what your purpose is, there is no ceiling.
You can help others too – by taking control in your workplace to build, drive and nurture systems and initiatives to support and empower other women. This does not need to be as large as Lean In Circles, 30 percent clubs, or mentoring programs from the top down. It can be done at any level within an organisation or team, regardless of gender. Even the smallest of open coaching and support systems can make a difference in the right direction.
Tricia Yap is the founder of the Warrior Academy, Director of Fitness at Goji Studios and a Poliquin strength and performance coach.