Women in the working world are a force to be reckoned with, but it is still an uneven playing field, with men holding the majority of the cards. It’s easy to blame our successes or lack thereof on the gender inequality that is inherent in the workforce, but many of the problems we experience come from within our own minds. Sometimes the only thing that stands between us and success is our own train of thought.
What are the most common thoughts that could be sabotaging your road to success?
1. I Need Someone Else’s Approval Before I Can Continue
The business world is built upon the approval of others — you strive for the approval of your boss, your supervisor or even your peers. By focusing on this approval, you risk slowing down your potential advancement or just outright sabotaging yourself. What happens when you spend all your time seeking the approval of someone else, only to find yourself passed over for a promotion or overlooked when it comes time to pass out an annual holiday bonus?
Yes, there are cases where you will need approval from others — approval for a joint project or permission to continue working on something — but don’t spend your time questing for the approval of others before you take every little step. The only approval you genuinely need is your own. Your self-confidence and power is what will carry you through and help you reach your goals.
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2. I Doubt Myself
This is often the most insidious thought that can hold you back from your goals. Losing your self-confidence or doubting your actions don’t just keep you from success — they can actually send you spiraling backward. If you doubt yourself, you might not reach out and grab that next opportunity. Instead, you’ll let it pass you by because you don’t believe enough in yourself to take that risk.
The only way to avoid this thought is to reinforce your own self-confidence. Take those steps and reach for those goals you think you won’t be able to complete. Accept failure, both minor and major, as a part of life and move on instead of letting it stop you. As novelist Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
3. It’s Someone Else’s Fault
Mistakes are a part of life — we all make them, and we all find ways to correct them when they occur. Not owning up to your mistakes or blaming them on someone else can make it harder for you to reach your goals.
First, the whole point of making mistakes is that you learn from them — you can’t learn from mistakes you won’t take responsibility for. Plus, blaming your mistakes on someone else just looks bad and tends to make others lose respect for you.
Own up to your mistakes. Learn from them, so you don’t make the same ones twice — but don’t expect others to take responsibility for you.
4. I Won’t Step Outside My Comfort Zone
We all love our comfort zone — it’s comfortable, after all. It’s a great place to hang out because we don’t have to worry about being challenged or making mistakes. Unfortunately, staying in our comfort zone also means we don’t advance, and we don’t make progress toward our goals because we’re not being challenged anymore. Half of the path to success is just learning to say yes when our comfort zone tells us no.
Don’t restrict your comfort zone to work — find the time to step outside it in all aspects of your life. If you’re afraid of heights, go parasailing or skydiving. If you’re not a social person, take the time to get to know an extroverted friend and follow them around for a while. Figure out what your comfort zone is and make a conscientious effort to step outside of it.
5. I’m Just Waiting for the Right Time
We’re always waiting for something — we wait for the bus, we wait for traffic, and we wait for the barista to finish our overpriced coffee drink. Waiting is often unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean we need to make a point of waiting until it’s the right time to do something.
If you tell yourself you’re just waiting for the right time to do something — whether that something is applying for a promotion or making a move to a new job, you might find yourself waiting forever. Chances are, there’s never going to be a perfect time to do anything — only opportunities that will come and go. Take them when they come and don’t let them pass you by.
6. Everything Has to Be Perfect
Perfection is your enemy: It’s as simple as that. You might want everything to be perfect, and while you can try to make things as good as they can be, perfection is both subjective and unobtainable. What you perceive as perfection might not be the same for someone else.
Don’t try to make everything perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. Instead, put your heart into everything you do, and that will shine through. That will be your ticket to success because it is something obtainable.
On Being a Professional Woman
We are always our own worst enemies, especially when it comes to the workplace. And as women, the likelihood that we’ll develop professional self-doubt is much more likely, given that women still face a pay gap and still see cases of gender-based discrimination being discussed in the news all the time.
You can’t let that deter you, though. Unless given a reason to believe you are being discriminated against, you should practice going into every interview and workplace situation with the mindset that you will be treated as the qualified and equal individual that you are. If you really feel that you can’t do that, spend some time looking inward to figure out which of your thoughts are preventing you from reaching your goals, and work on finding a way to alter them.
It might not be all in your head, but if you find that it is, that actually gives you an advantage! By and large, it’s a field of battle you can control. And with a little bit of introspection, it’s one you can win.