How To Stop being a “Yes Woman”

Let go of Imposter Syndrome and start saying YES to YOU.

Despite years of hard work, a college degree, and success in your career, you still ask yourself: “do I really belong here?”

You are constantly trying to prove yourself as worthy of your position. You take on more and more work, but no matter the good feedback from your boss or good outcomes for your clients, your internal voice keeps telling you might just be faking it.

Imposter syndrome involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.

While imposter syndrome can affect anyone, we know that it often shows up for those of us who already have reason to feel like we don’t belong. For women in traditionally male-dominated fields, for marginalized or oppressed people, or even for young people entering the workforce, feelings of self doubt can be acute.

If any of this sounds like you, you’re likely showing up as a “yes woman” (or “yes man,” “yes person,” etc.) For those who struggle with feelings of inadequacy or self doubt in our careers, saying yes to literally everything that comes our way is often not even a conscious choice we make.

Eventually, we end up frustrated, overwhelmed, and burnt out. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We “Train” the People Around Us

Think back to your first day on the job. You likely said some form of, “Anything you need, just let me know!” While it’s important to establish yourself as capable and motivated when starting a new position, this sentiment is more powerful than you might have realized.

The way we show up to others sets the stage for how they treat us moving forward. By showing up as someone who gets sh*t done, you train your boss and colleagues to rely on you when they need sh*t done. By showing up as someone who’s always there to listen and problem-solve, you train the people around you to rely on you when they need to vent or process work-related (or even personal) problems.

Of course, professional success and career advancement often rely on your ability to take on challenging projects and prove yourself capable of a heavy workload. We’re not advocating that you start saying no to everything and everyone around you.

Say yes, but say it differently

Professional woman, letting go of imposter syndrome

All “yeses” are not equal.

There’s a huge difference between the following statements”

  1. “No problem, I’ll have it to you by the end of the day.”
  2. “Well… I’m actually really busy right now. I’d love to work on this but I’m going to need some extra time.”

“Re-training” the people around you doesn’t always mean saying no. Sometimes, it just means choosing a new way to say yes.

However, there are time where it’s necessary to say no. And that can be scary if you’ve found yourself tying your self-worth to all of the tasks you complete successfully, or all of the times someone turns to you for a listening ear.

That Anxiety-Provoking Two Letter Word

Saying no can feel impossible. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that something terrible will happen if we say no: our boss will fire us, our coworkers will stop respecting us, and above all, we’ll finally be found out as the fraud we really are.

Reality check — saying no can actually cause the opposite to happen. Your boss and your coworkers will respect you for having healthy boundaries, and if they don’t? Well, is that a place you really want to be working for, anyway?

Saying no to the things that you truly don’t have time or energy for allows you to say yes to more of what is healthy for you, your organization, and your career.

There are ways to say no that make it less scary. Here are some of them.

An Inside Job

Learning to show up differently to the people around you is an important step. But as with all areas of growth, truly letting go of imposter syndrome involves showing up differently to yourself. If you’ve struggled with being a “yes woman,” you likely identify as someone that does it all. You feel good about yourself when you accomplish something difficult (don’t we all?), but the feeling of achievement wears off quickly and you begin to doubt yourself again.

Escaping this cycle involves building new thought patterns and changing the way you think about yourself. This can be difficult work, and it often helps to have someone to talk to who gets it, whether they’re a therapist, a trusted friend, or a coach.

Ultimately, changing your thinking takes time. Be patient with yourself. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Remember that no one is perfect, and most of us really are “faking it til we make it.”

For Helping Professionals, Saying No Can Feel Impossible

Joy Society Team member, Laine, surely has a history of being a “yes woman.” As a social worker, she often felt the pressure of having clients who relied on her for their emotional well-being.

Listen to part of her story here:

For the full video, follow us on LinkedIn . For live group coaching with Elizabeth & Laine, peer-to-peer support, and a wealth of resources to improve your well-being in all 8 spheres of success, join us in the Joy Society membership community!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *