The enemy in the mirror: On self-doubting and how to stop it

“Great job, Anne! I am very impressed.” – “Ah, that was nothing. Marc actually worked on the really complicated stuff.”


“Oh, I love your beautiful hair. You look like a princess!” – “What? Nooo, I hate my hair today.”

Sounds familiar? I guess most women have or had to learn to accept compliments or recognition. Somehow we all learned that we HAVE to be humble and that the good things that we achieve or happen to us are… nothing special.


And here we are now, grown-up women doubting ourselves, working hard and watching others climb the ladder or pack their stuff and travel the world or write that book or publish that art project we always dreamed about.




It all begins very early

“Boys are strong, girls are weak. Boys can run and climb and fight, girls are shy and sweet, not sporty but careful, fearful, delightful.” #toxicmasculinity #toxicgenderbehaviour


I am pretty sure that even if we grew up with parents who wanted to protect us from stereotypes, we still encountered them. In my case it was not my mom but kindergarten teacher, school teachers, other kid’s parents and of course boys who grew up with their parents telling them that kind of bullshit and voila: the gap gets bigger and bigger.


What happens is a change in our mindset that affects our charisma and confidence. Whilst a lot of men enter jobs, interviews, negotiations or simply networking events without having a doubt that they are the one person everyone was waiting for, most women are not as loud, not as shiny, not as bold. (Read more about Gender in the Job Interview here.) Especially not, if the room is filled with a majority of men and especially not, if we feel these three invisible guests by our side. Their names? Discrimination, unconscious bias and patriarchy. And they do not just have an impact, influence, power on us but on any person in that room.


Do you know what that still sadly proves? The huge success of patriarchy – because we still are insecure, we doubt ourselves, we dodge our heads and a lot of times we don’t even reckon that behaviour. And just to be clear, this does not just happen to women but to any person who does not feel comfortable around the typical male-dominated “boys will be boys” environment.

So, how can we stand upright, stop the imposter syndrome and finally take credits for our good work, for the professional success and yes, even for that really cute dress?


Your ideas are great! Sell them

It is the little things that happen on a daily basis. You are in a meeting maybe you even lead it and people are interrupting you again and again. Mansplaining is not old news, yet.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea but maybe we could…” “I just thought we could maybe try it like…”

Now guess: Who would build these kinds of sentences in big groups, women or men?

There are people in ridiculously high positions because they can sell themselves really well, and they found other people who were convinced about their “great sense or feeling” for this position, about the good connection to their gut, about them being able to GROW into that position. Those people with these high positions are responsible for important decisions and big teams – just because they entered rooms and talks with their big ego and over-confidence and other people simply trusted them. One person who was the loudest monkey in the forest and who achieved what he yelled for became president. Guess the gender they identify as.




Now, you are talking!

Let’s see how we can change that. Because we can. We just have to crash the vicious circle. We have to stop being our biggest enemy and start being our biggest supporter.

  • We have to live the persuasion that we, girls, women, people who identify as women, can do as great as men. And this belief has to be carried out – to family and friends, to work, to neighbours and one day when someone tells a young girl that she cannot do something because she is a girl – people will stop walking, talking, will stop whatever they are doing right now. They will be shocked and intervene immediately. Because talking girls down is not – was never – acceptable.

  • We have to dare. Your boss informs you about a new position or opportunity and asks you whether you dare to do that or not. You may think about it but you surely may take that opportunity and prove how amazing you are. Indeed, there is a risk of failing. But guess what!? It is not the end of the world. You have been through bad times in your life already and you always got out of it. Yes, you can do it. You will work hard, you will probably outperform and you will shine!

  • Think about all the difficult times you’ve been through already. Do you see it as clear as me? You are a fighter and you can do nice shit. So go out there and do!

  • Start taking credit. It will not make you seem arrogant, you did great and you can accept that. Over with the days of “Nah, it was nothing”! Yes, you have done a great job and yes, people may tell other people about it. And don’t anyone dare to take YOUR credit.

  • Build allies – be strong together, support each other at work, as friends, on projects, wherever. Support and praise other women in front of their bosses or other team members also when they are not in the room. Especially when they are not in the room. Together as a team, we can achieve a lot. We can rock high positions, we can shine on projects.

  • Trust women. If there is a woman applying for a higher position and there is not “enough” evidence that she’ll properly perform – give her a chance to prove and most likely she will outperform.

  • Read “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” with your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, god kids and read it yourself. Because girls can do crazy cool stuff.

Damn, we do!


Text by Elisa Thiem

Preview Image by Timothy Eberly

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