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Ditch Your Costume and Woman Up at Work
By Aimee Cohen
Oct 5, 2014 - 12:17:01 AM

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For a lot of people, Halloween is more like a religion than a holiday. They can't wait to decorate their homes with cobwebs and scarecrows, carve a family of pumpkins with a variety of expressions, and painstakingly select the quintessential costume regardless of the weather.

Halloween is that one day a year when it's perfectly acceptable to dress up like someone else and pretend to be a nurse, fireman, or political figure. However, no one expects you to administer medicine, put out a fire, or pass legislation. It's all done in good fun; adults and children alike get in on the action.

But what happens when you feel like you're wearing a costume every day at the office? What happens when you show up at work and cross your fingers no one will know you're hiding behind a mask and are not really who they think you are?

This fear is a reality for so many professional women. They are terrified their secret will be revealed and everyone will know they're a fraud or an imposter. They fear that a small slip will let everyone know they're not as smart, successful, or talented as they pretend to be.

Some women feel that previous accomplishments, acknowledgements, and accolades somehow were a fluke and not fully deserved. Women lack ownership of their successes and the confidence that they can keep the winning streak alive. They think, "If people really knew the truth, they'd know I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm an imposter." This is not simple modesty; it's an expression of self-doubt characterizing a scarcity of self-belief on a fast-track to self-sabotage.

Not only is the "fraud and imposter" costume extremely popular year round, but so is the mask of "perfection". Women are deeply committed to appearing perfect even though they know it's a fa├žade. They want to look perfect, be perfect, and have the perfect career.

In fact, many women will not pursue a new position or an advanced position if it's not perfect. When evaluating a new job description, women believe they need to have nearly 100% of the requirements and qualifications in order to apply for the position. Women want a perfect match and a high degree of certainty before moving forward. Otherwise, they will hyper-focus on the one skill they don't have, or don't have enough of, and obsess over the possibility that the hiring manager will discover they're not perfect.

Women become crippled with self-doubt and insecurities to the point where it sabotages their careers. However, a seasoned perfectionist will always provide a perfect excuse as to why she didn't jump at that opportunity, and will continue to hide behind her mask.

The following 10 perfect excuses will reveal if you're wearing that "perfectionist" mask or "fraud" costume -- and not just on Halloween. These excuses are written from my experience as a successful career coach and shared in my book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success:

  • That opportunity really wasn't a good fit.
  • Next year I'll have more experience and be more qualified.
  • I just need to finish my Master's degree and then I'll be ready.
  • I think there's a better opportunity around the corner.
  • As soon as my kids are older, I'll go for that promotion.
  • I didn't really want that all that additional responsibility anyway.
  • My family couldn't manage without me if I traveled more for work.
  • My team needs me and would fall apart if I changed departments.
  • I'm sure there's someone else who's much more qualified.
  • I've never done that before.

The reality is that women are low risk-takers and are paralyzed at the thought of looking stupid, silly, or incompetent. They hide behind their make-believe personas and internal fantasy dialogue, and ultimately end up killing their careers. It's time to pull on those "big-girl panties" and save the costumes for when you go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Woman UP! and be yourself.

Aimee Cohen

Woman Up! by Aimee Cohen
Aimee Cohen is a career expert, veteran speaker, and author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success. She is owner of Cohen Career Consulting where, for more than 20 years, she has a nearly 100% success rate empowering women to achieve career success.

Aimee provides strategic step-by-step action plans to clients during personalized one-on-one consultations. She leads outplacement transition seminars for Fortune 500 companies and is a contributing writer for the Denver Business Journal. She facilitates the LINK to Leadership program for The Leadership Investment, has appeared as a career expert on television and radio shows, and in print media such as Glamour magazine, the Denver Post, and Denver Woman magazine, and she was a past nominee for Outstanding Women in Business Award from the Denver Business Journal.

Aimee lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband of 22 years. She has two teenage children. Her son is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and her daughter is in high school.

"Woman Up!"
by Aimee Cohen
ISBN-13: 9781630471927
Morgan James Publishing
Published 6/24/2014
Pages: 212
Paperback $13
E-Book $10

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