A few years ago, I asked my client Kate what I thought was an innocent question – how did she celebrate her recent promotion.
Kate was already an incredibly accomplished and well-regarded leader at a healthcare company. In addition to being an MD, she’d earned her MBA, held significant volunteer roles in her community and was mom to three school aged children.
I was expecting she’d tell me about the fancy dinner her husband treated her to, or show me a fun piece of jewelry that she’d purchased, or gush about a celebratory happy hour with a few friends.
Instead, Kate told me that other than her husband she hadn’t told anyone else her good news and didn’t plan to.
My eyes widened.
I’ll ever forget Kate’s answer when I asked her why she hadn’t shared her well-earned promotion with anyone else:
“If I tell them I was hired, I’ll just have to tell them when I’m fired.”
I was sitting with an incredible, accomplished, generous woman who, despite all she’d achieved on the outside, struggled mightily to feel her success on the inside. Add to that, she doubted that she was the real deal – that she had what it took to succeed in her new role.
You can bet the goals of our coaching immediately expanded to include diminishing the impact the imposter syndrome was having on her.
In a future blog post I’ll share a few notable and surprising benefits of the imposter syndrome, but those benefits have limits. And when we can’t truly credit ourselves for and be nourished by our accomplishments for fear that we’re a fraud, then what’s the point in achieving them?
My guess is that many of you can relate to Kate’s reluctance to claim let alone celebrate her accomplishment. Many women – especially those of us of a certain age – were taught not to draw attention to ourselves or to appear boastful or arrogant.
But we do a disservice to ourselves and to those around us when we fail to own our gifts, acknowledge our triumphs, and bet on our best.
Kate’s homework at the end of our session was to tell her children and 3 friends about her promotion and to choose a way to celebrate that felt authentic to her.
A week later I was thrilled to receive the relaxed and smiling selfie she took after enjoying a long overdue massage.
Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to wait for a promotion to claim and share and celebrate an accomplishment – these days just getting half-way through your to-do list counts! So tell me, what’s one thing you feel good about accomplishing this week?