Written down, it might sound ridiculous. You’re a fully grown, capable, intelligent woman, after all. And yet, in the back of your mind, it’s there – a fear of getting in trouble of some kind, whether with a boss, client, colleague or even family member.
If you dread the thought of being on the receiving end of criticism, or being told you've let people down, here are a few things to help you move forward.
Is a fear of getting in trouble the same as imposter syndrome?
“Imposter syndrome” is the name given to a tendency to feel inadequate or not good enough, despite evidence to the contrary.
It’s often described as a feeling that you're going to be “found out” – as though despite your glowing appraisals, stellar results and fantastic rapport with your team, one day you’ll somehow be revealed for being a fraud.
Ironically, imposter syndrome tends to be more prevalent in high-achieving individuals. It was first identified in 1985, when Dr Susan Clance identified 6 potential characteristics of what she termed “Imposter phenomenon”
- The Imposter Cycle
- The need to be special or to be the very best
- Superman/Superwoman aspects – setting impossibly high standards in every area of our lives
- Fear of failure,
- Denial of competence and Discounting praise, and
- Fear and guilt about success
So a fear of “getting into trouble” may well be a sign that you’re experiencing “Imposter syndrome” at some level. And that can lead to stress, anxiety and guilt, all of which impact your physical and emotional wellbeing, and that of those around you.
If you’re experiencing intense psychological distress, or finding yourself really struggling with these kinds of emotions, it’s important to reach out and ask for help. Talk to your GP or a trusted friend about getting professional support to help you get back on track.
But if you’re, like so many women, functioning pretty well day-to-day and just want to free yourself from that nagging self-doubt or looming sense of failure, read on.
Here are 3 ways to break free of the fear of getting in trouble, so you can have the impact you’re here to have.
3 ways to overcome a fear of getting in trouble
1. Find your Queen
The 5 Women’s PowerTypes™ are a simple way to connect to different “versions” of yourself, without losing what makes you unique. They represent archetypes of strong female leadership that help you tap into the most effective way to lead in different situations.
The Queen is the PowerType whose behaviour is rooted in her knowledge that her power is hers by birthright. She doesn’t need to prove herself or pass a test. And no one would dare to question her wisdom or her decisions.
Ways to get into your “Queen” PowerType might include moving physically as though you’re wearing a crown and robes. It might sound a bit silly, but give it a try – rolling your shoulders back and lifting your neck can have a surprising impact on how you feel about potential criticism.
Music can be another great way to tap into the PowerTypes. What music might you associate with a regal attitude – a beautiful classical piece? Something upbeat and empowering?
The Queen doesn’t abuse her power, so this isn’t about becoming arrogant. Rather, it’s about accepting that criticism or feedback is something you can take wise counsel from, and leave the rest. It’s information that you can use to inform your future actions, without doubting your magnificence or the intention with which you made past decisions. After all, the queen always acts for the good of her realm.
2. Set boundaries
If fear of getting in trouble is something that’s creeping into your downtime or impacting your ability to relax, it might be time to set some boundaries around causes of stress.
If you work in a high-pressured environment where mistakes can be critical, it’s natural for you to want to avoid making them. What’s problematic is if you notice yourself feeling anxious when you’re at home, playing with your kids.
It might be time to set some boundaries around, say, when you’re available for calls or when you’ll check your work email. Deleting your email from your phone might help you to draw clearer lines between when you’re “on” and when you’re unplugged.
Or you might choose to set some boundaries with someone whose feedback can cause you to wobble. Perhaps you want to arrange a weekly meeting with a colleague so they can feed back on your project, instead of receiving emails throughout the week requesting small changes.
If setting boundaries is something you find challenging, we have a free guide that has helped hundreds of other women learn how to do so gracefully and without drama. It’s called Enough is Enough: How to Gracefully Set Unshakeable Boundaries. You can download it for free by clicking here.
3. Be your own mother
A fear of getting into trouble is often something we first feel as children. From a Women’s PowerTypes perspective, it can be wonderfully empowering to connect to the aspect of yourself that has the characteristics of Mother. You don’t have to have children to feel these.
A healthy Mother loves her children unconditionally, cares about their wellbeing, and nurtures and delights in all they do. Even when those she cares about make mistakes, she sweeps them up in her all-encompassing love, reassuring them that she’s there for them even as they learn and grow.
If you find yourself slipping into a fear of getting into trouble, try connecting to your Mother instincts and giving yourself that sense of unconditional approval.
You might want to journal around that; perhaps writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of a kind, loving mother. How can you make yourself feel safe and held?
Many of us rush through our days without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, or thinking about how we can take care of themselves.
Try asking yourself what you need, as though you were caring gently for a toddler. Are you tired, thirsty, or hungry? How is it understandable to be feeling what you’re feeling, and what might help you to feel better?
Your fear can be your strength
It's not always comfortable to acknowledge our fears, but sharing them is a powerful way to find support and discover that you're really not alone.
And if you worry that one day you'll really fall flat on your face, take solace in these words from JK Rowling.
"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."
And you certainly don't have to navigate this stuff by yourself.
Our intention is simple. To support professional women to handle the day-to-day so they can unleash the bigger impact they feel called to make in the world.
We believe real leadership is less about skill, and more about having a well of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strength to draw on. Every week we support thousands of grassroots women leaders around the world with powerful tools and methodologies created BY women FOR women.
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