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Success and Self-Stigma

Self-stigma is defined as negative judgements towards oneself. The first step to addressing self-stigma? Awareness. Beyond Stigma uses a method called Inquiry-based stress reduction (IBSR) which is simply four questions that builds awareness by simply questioning the stigma or particular thought/belief in someone’s head.

Lauren and Tara are both successful career women working in New York City and Washington DC. Despite their success, they both experience self-doubt and suffer from self-stigma.

Lauren has been working as an engineer in New York City for the past six years. She has been promoted and praised for her excellent work in that short amount of time. Working in a male dominated industry has its own challenges, engineering has only recently been introducing more female engineers. This fact coupled with the sexism women face in the workplace has led Lauren to have certain negative self-judgements in her abilities.

Belief: I am not as well-equipped for my job as a man is.

1. Is it true?

“At the core of it, no. I work with many older men, so would I be taken more seriously if I was not a young woman? Yes”.

2. Is it absolutely true?

“No. My ability to do my job has nothing to do with my gender”.

3. How do you react when you have the thought?

“I doubt myself. I hold back my thoughts in big meetings. I make myself small and let others speak for me”.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

“A great engineer. A confident leader. A dependable resource”.

Were these questions helpful?

“Yes. The only thing holding me back is myself”.

What will you do differently now that you know about this technique?

“I will remind myself that I have been hired to do a particular job because I will do it well. I do it well-enough to hold the position that I have now. I do not need to doubt myself when a certain type of person is in a meeting and I should speak my mind. In moments of doubt, I may also rely on coworkers and team members that know to amplify me”.

Tara has been working in Washington DC for the past few years and is, by all accounts, successful career woman. She tackles tasks head-on daily and shows confidence and creativity in her work projects. She has been supporting herself since she was 16 years old and has done well for herself in the past decade. She still feels as though her success is not enough and constantly questions whether she is doing enough.

Belief: I am not smart enough or dedicated enough to truly succeed at something.

1. Is it true?

“Yes, I jump from job to job looking for something that is going to stick. I don't have the patience to outlast things once I find big flaws”.

2. Is it absolutely true?

“No, I work hard and from this stigma is a desire to continue to grow and learn. I don't stick to anything because I feel my learning has plateaued and I want a new challenge”.

3. How do you react when you have the thought?

“Anxious. Anxious. Anxious. I have so much anxiety about commitment or feeling stuck”.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

“Not myself. I would like to live with little to no anxiety, but that inability to sit still is also what keeps me going, searching for something more that might stick”.

Were these questions helpful?

“I was able to answer the first three questions easily and then the fourth question threw me for a loop. I feel my greatest weakness is also my greatest strength. I have been able to experience so many beautiful things because of my yearning for more. It is just about balancing it all”.

What will you do differently now that you know this technique?

“I love the idea of asking the same question over and over again and consistently getting a deeper answer. When I feel anxious I keep asking if it's true until I get to the core of it”.

Inquiry-based Stress Reduction is Based on The Work of Byron Katie, ©2020 Byron Katie International, all rights reserved.

By: Zandi Bosua & Nancy Uzoagbado

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