For the first time ever, there are six women candidates contesting for the office of the President of the United States. These women are putting themselves out, claiming their space and demanding a chance to be in what is arguably the most powerful position in the world.

Two women scientists are the leaders of the Chandrayaan Space Mission 2 in India. They and the other women on this project are showing the world that women make excellent leaders in the field of rocket science!

Ambition is a ‘dirty’ word for women. It is seen as an overriding desire for material success and status, a desire that makes one single minded, relentless and power hungry.

These women and many others across the world are busting the three big syndromes that have plagued women for several years. These barriers, both self- created and socially ingrained keep many women away from leadership positions. I have seen these syndromes come up during many coaching sessions and workshops with women. I myself have experienced them.

Also Read: Meet Vanitha Muthayya, Project Director Of ISRO Chandrayaan 2 Mission

Ambition Deficit Syndrome

A client recently bemoaned the fact that the women in the organization were not applying for demanding jobs and promotions despite a strong equal opportunity culture. He wished they would be more ‘ambitious’. Long ago, when I was working in a bank, one of the clerks in my team did not want to become an officer- she had to leave office by 5 p.m. to cook dinner for the family! A manager confessed that she was anxious about taking a promotion because she would be earning more than her husband- it might jeopardize their equation

Ambition is a ‘dirty’ word for women. It is seen as an overriding desire for material success and status, a desire that makes one single minded, relentless and power hungry. Many women fear success because it would disturb the domestic situation, take them away from the primary job of child rearing and not give them the affection and acceptance they need. Wanting more and openly stating it seems unfeminine and dangerous. So many women do take a backseat, give up better positions and play small even if they aspire for something more.

Imposter Syndrome

Both men and women are susceptible to this syndrome but women are more prone to catch it. This is a psychological pattern where an individual doubts their accomplishments and fears being exposed as a fraud. Even Sheryl Sandberg , the COO of Facebook, has admitted in her book Lean In- “There are some days when I wake up and feel like a fraud.”

Also Read: Top 5 myths about women at workplace busted

Most women credit their success to luck, supportive family and friends while men speak about their internal qualities. While self- deprecation is more socially acceptable than self- promotion, many women don’t even believe that they deserve what they have got.

Confidence Gap

A recent study by Hewlett Packard showed that many women applied for a promotion only if they felt that they were 100% qualified for the job. Men applied if they were 60% qualified for the job. Most women tend to underestimate themselves and their abilities. The confidence gap makes women opt for less challenging assignments and appear less confident as compared to their male colleagues.

Most women credit their success to luck, supportive family and friends while men speak about their internal qualities. While self- deprecation is more socially acceptable than self- promotion, many women don’t even believe that they deserve what they have got.

More women experience the Imposter syndrome and Confidence gap because of childhood conditioning. Girls are not praised for achievements but for qualities like obedience, quietness, caring and sacrificing. Many are not encouraged to pursue ‘hard’ courses like science, engineering or medicine and even if they are good at it, they tend to second guess themselves. Many women internalize the judgements and truly believe that they are not ‘good enough.’

The three factors-Ambition Deficit, Imposter Syndrome and Confidence gap are all connected. One leads to another and each reinforces the other. The first step is to recognize that we are suffering from one of these and then take some concrete steps to overcome them.

How can we escape from these syndromes and truly live our potential?

Also Read: Confidence Gap: Why Do Women Think Less Of Themselves?

Learn from Role Models

Learn about other successful women. We have many women in India and overseas who have broken these myths. Mary Kom went on to win medals after becoming a mother. Learn about the Chandrayaan-2 women-led by Muthaiyya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal, both have been working for over 20 years in ISRO. Make time to hear about their stories and struggles. If they can do it, you can too. Adopt a role model or mentor from your domain.

Focus on Your strengths

Make a list of all your strengths. Read this list every day. Put it up where you can see it. Reflect on what all you have achieved. Everyone has areas of improvements and you should focus on them as well. However, seeing the big positive picture can dampen our self- confidence.

You have to take the first step, even if it is a baby step. Think of one small action that is new for you. It could be learning a new skill, public speaking, asking for a promotion, saying ‘no’. Just do it.

Whenever I face a group of new participants, I do feel a little nervous because I have no idea how they will behave or react to me. I do a positive affirmation and intention setting focusing on my skills and purpose which helps me to become more confident.

Step out of the comfort zone

There is no other way. You have to take the first step, even if it is a baby step. Think of one small action that is new for you. It could be learning a new skill, public speaking, asking for a promotion, saying ‘no’. Just do it.

I was very nervous about writing my first book. I thought about becoming an author ever since I was a child but was not confident enough to attempt a book. Finally, nervously, hesitantly, I began my first novel ten years ago- after dreaming about it for 20 years! And it did get published and went on to become a best seller. Take the plunge and do what you have wanted before it is too late.

I have realized that most of the fears, anxieties and insecurities are in our mind. Yes, the system of patriarchy has a role to play but as responsible adults, we cannot afford to endlessly blame the world or our parents. The best way to treat these syndromes is to give ourselves a big shot of confidence and a strong dose of self belief.

Picture Credit- AARP

Also Read: Falling Sex Ratio In India: There’s A Need To Address The Gender Issues

Nirupama Subramanian is an author, leadership development facilitator, certified coach and co-founder of GLOW-Growing Leadership of Women. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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