Today we’re talking about building your confidence
Are you confident you’ll be selected for the next promotion or are you a little unsure?
Do you ever fixate on how you look worried that your clothes are too tight or too loose or you just don’t look good enough?
Today we have Dr. Dorian Hunter as our guest and she’s offering tactics to help silence the internal voices that tell you you aren’t good enough so you can hold your head high.
[AUDREA] Welcome to the Think Tank of Three. It’s Audrea along with my trusted colleague Julie and we have a special guest today as our third, my close friend Dr. Dorian Hunter.
[DORIAN] Hi everyone. Thank you for having me. I’m a fan of the podcast and so I’m super excited to be talking with you all about things that are near and dear to my heart.
[JULIE] Thank you so much for joining us. We’re excited to have you and I’m really excited about these topics we’re going to discuss today.
[AUDREA] So Dorian and I go way back to junior high, the awkward years. Although nowadays were just as awkward but you can find out of school and backpacking the PNW together or we started roller derby practice together as well. It’s pretty exciting.
Dorian is a clinical psychologist who works with adults, couples and older teens. She primarily sees people who are struggling with intense thoughts, emotions and behaviors that feel out of their control and then related difficulties in relationships. Some important elements of Dorian’s work are the creation of meaningful relationships with her clients that helped fuel real change both internal and external and teaching skills that help support changes that people want to make in their lives.
Dorian completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Washington her master’s and doctoral training at Rutgers University and then came back home to me in Seattle for her postdoctoral work at UW and the Evidence Based Treatment Centers of Seattle. Wow that’s a mouthful. She’s currently working with a group called the Seattle clinic providing care to clients and supervision to students who are learning to implement behavioral treatments. This is such an impressive resume, Dorian. Thank you so much for joining us.
[JULIE] When the Think Tank envisioned this podcast our ultimate goal was to ask professional women in our communities to join finance and share their wisdom. And lucky for us Dorien you are our first guest. Thank you.
[AUDREA] So if you couldn’t tell we’re very excited to have you. So today’s topic is building confidence. Professional women often struggle with competence and those in the workplace. I know I do. So we wanted to pick your brain on a few topics that are common confidence issues for women and get some tactics to overcome them.
[DORIAN] I’d like to talk about things that interfere with confidence in the workplace. There are a lot of things that interfere with our confidence such as how women are often treated by colleagues that might reduce confidence. But there also and not unrelated things we do, ways of thinking or behaving, that interfere with our own confidence.
I encourage people to focus on things they can change in their own thinking and behaviors which may in turn influence how they’re treated. Three things that can interfere with women’s confidence in a professional setting are 1) the imposter syndrome 2) over apologizing unnecessarily and 3) body image.
[JULIE] You know it’s really interesting Dorian to hear you talk about things that we do that can interfere with our own confidence. So let’s start by talking about imposter syndrome. So this topic is really interesting for me. It came up… the first time I actually heard it by name was several years ago in a conversation with a close friend and this happened to be a man who’s a confident, larger than life guy. He seems to have it all. He excels at everything he does work-marriage life. And we actually met a nonprofit committee that we were co chairing at the time and it was one of several that he was on. So again he just seemed to always have everything together.
So when randomly he brought up imposter syndrome I was surprised 1) because how could he feel like an impostor when it looked like he had it all but 2) because there is actually a name for this thing that I had been feeling quite often in my own life. So Dorian can you tell us what exactly is imposter syndrome.
[DORIAN] Imposter syndrome is when we are generally seen by others as being competent at something say our work. But we believe we are not competent anyway. There are a lot of different kinds of approaches to this problem. It’s something I’ve certainly felt at various times in my life and it’s something I often see in women who are professionally successful.
[JULIE] So you’re saying this is something where we might be really good at our jobs to really get at what we do. Yet for some reason there’s still that nagging voice that tells us someone’s going to figure out you’re a fraud or you don’t really know what you’re doing. Okay. But I think the silver lining is that you said you see this often and in successful women and so it is so that’s happening maybe it means we’re successful. So what are some of the best ways that you have to cope with imposter syndrome?
[DORIAN] Well some of them like one of the most effective ways you’re actually doing right now.. Talking to yourself in certain ways that are more maybe effective than the ways that you might talk about yourself on the inside.
So that’s one approach. One approaches to use a set of skills common in cognitive psychology or cognitive therapy. It’s sometimes called “check the facts” or sometimes cognitive restructuring or evidence for or against. But basically in this approach you lay out the facts the support that you are in fact confident and you rehearse those facts until you believe.
So you might say to yourself what is leading me to believe that I’m not competent to do the actual facts support that I’m not good? What is the evidence that contradicts that I’m not good at my job? And then you rehearsed the thoughts that go against the impostor.
So the last piece, the rehearsal piece is important because for those of us with imposter syndrome are really good at rehearsing the thoughts that we are not. And so we need to counteract these thoughts. An example of this is something that I’ve been doing with a group of women – close colleagues- we’re reviewing and sharing positive feedback that we receive each week. It’s great. It has the element of rehearsing evidence against imposter syndrome and the element of sharing with each other and supporting one another which is so important. It’s related to what you just talked about in the podcast about knowing your worth. If you know it and you’re rehearsing those thoughts you can own it and your behavior will be more in line with your values and goals.
[AUDREA] I just had this experience today. I had a pitch due at work and I was talking to someone who I’d just done a pitch for.
And he said oh you seem a little frazzled today and I said, oh I have a pitch in and you know I’m not very good at those in comparison to the rest of my work. And he said well the one you just did for me was great. I liked it a lot. And I thought why do I think I’m not good at this? Like I just I just just started from a place of like this is my strongest space and therefore it’s something to be worried about and concerned about even though I’ve done a lot of pitches and they’ve won.
[DORIAN] And why are you telling yourself a story? I think some of the reason that we tend to do especially more as women is that we have been trained to do so. Yeah. We are reinforced for being more deferential which results in us being more deferential and less respected.
Now the problem with this cognitive approach is that there are times that this will backfire particularly if you’re trying to push away the bad thoughts. So the strategy doesn’t really work very well. You might ask why. Because of the pink elephant. What is the pink elephant? What does that mean? So let’s do a little practice.
Take a moment and whatever you do don’t think about a pink elephant.
Don’t let the thought of a pink elephant come into your mind and push it away.
Stop yourself. Don’t let yourself think about the pink elephant. Stop.
So what happens? What did you guys notice?
[AUDREA] I mean the only thing I could think about is the pink elephant.
[DORIAN] So the more you think about the pink elephant or the more you try not to think about the pink elephant. The more you do in fact think about the pink elephant and you struggle more and suffering happens. So there’s a set of strategies for this sort of problem that are called mindfulness based strategies that can be helpful. The trick with these is to keep in mind that our brains generate thoughts the same way our hurts generate beats and our stomachs generate acids But the difference is that we get all caught up in our thoughts and we treat them like they’re facts or we identify with them. In mindfulness based approaches you notice thoughts but work to get some distance from them rather than being so attached. You don’t think about them in terms of whether they’re true. Like with a capital T but more ask whether they’re helpful to your personal goals.
There are some useful practices those veins such as singing your thoughts out loud in a ridiculous voice, saying them over and over again until they become meaningless, meditations where you practice picturing them as clouds drifting by, or train cars going by. If you notice yourself jumping on the train during the sort of practice that’s the time to step back and just watch what’s going on.
[JULIE] That is so interesting. I love how you said and this is probably so basic but here I am like back caught on what you said a few minutes ago but that our brains generate thoughts the same way our hearts beat and our stomachs generate acid like that is like fundamental. That’s how our brains work and we’re not gonna stop thinking. We just have to redirect our thoughts.
[DORIAN] So these two approaches are pretty different. And they’re totally compatible. And I teach them and practice them both.
[AUDREA] So the next topic, I personally want to talk about… The concept of apologizing or over apologizing is one that gets me really fired up.
I see this and I feel like I personally am constantly telling women like don’t apologize for that. You don’t have to say sorry for that. .
Lord knows, Julie gets that from me a lot.
[JULIE] Hey now… No you’re right. I do it all. I say I’m sorry all the time.
[AUDREA] I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I just meant that you were one of the people I am most fierce about.
[JULIE] No, I do. I say I’m sorry every other minute. Every other podcast.
[AUDREA] So why do we do that? Why do, women especially, I think over apologize for behaviors that maybe aren’t even theirs? And for being in situations where they have no control over it and how do we stop that behavior?
[DORIAN] Yeah like I was saying before we are taught and trained to be deferential. And so it’s something that we… maybe there’s some part of our biology that we do naturally. But it certainly shaped culturally.
And I think I subtly did it with you the other day and you caught me and didn’t let me get away with it. So one of the reasons you’re a great friend.
[AUDREA]. It makes me angry. Admittedly it’s not a good… it’s my pink elephant.
[JULIE] Let’s talk about why we do it. It’s so interesting that we do it, especially as women. We over apologize.
[DORIAN] Yeah. It’s related to confidence for sure. And an important point to make here is that our brains and our bodies are part of a whole complex system which includes thoughts like we talked about before, as well as physiological experiences and sensations and overt behaviors. And each component of this system feeds back and influences other components of the system. So what we’re talking about here is the experience and the expression of the emotions of either guilt or shame. Shame and guilt typically prompt repair behavior like apologizing. So what happens when we apologize we’re essentially telling ourselves that we’ve done something wrong and that we need to repair which could feed the emotions of shame. So being cautious about how you communicate with the world is important because you’re also communicating with yourself in how you’re feeding back into your own emotional system.
[JULIE] So here’s a question… I find… Since Audrea picked on me, I’ll go and keep picking on me. I find that… this is probably about totally wrong… but I find myself apologizing the most when someone else’s wrong. I find myself like, so if someone else is late or if someone else missed a deadline or someone else you know did something I find myself saying I’m sorry but you know whenever so in it’s it’s like that crutch that I lean on so is that is that like guilt like but I’m right their wrong? Like how does that play in?
[DORIAN] This is a great example because it illustrates my sense is probably that you’re a pretty empathic person and it illustrates how when as an empathic person you see somebody else experiencing an emotion like guilt or shame you have that same experience. That emotional experience, those physiological sensations in your body are actually prompting repair behavior.
[JULIE] Wow. So how do I turn that off?
[DORIAN] By being aware of it. By being aware of it. And by being mindful of the sensations in your body when they’re happening, more in tune with yourself and acting opposite maybe to the urges that you’re having.
[AUDREA] Tell me what you mean by acting opposite.
[DORIAN] Yes I will. So one of the skills for this that I love is a skill called opposite action from a treatment called dialectical behaviour therapy. It’s when you notice like we’re talking about just a moment ago all of those sensations in your body and any urges that go along with us sensations in your body. So urges for a problem behavior of some kind that go along with the emotion and do the opposite of what the urges are prompting you to do so you might notice that feeling of shame. See where it is in your body. Be mindful of it. Notice that it’s prompting urges for either hiding or repairing, apologizing. Assess whether it’s justified or unjustified. So for example in a situation where someone else has done something wrong and you’re apologizing the emotion is unjustified. You don’t owe an apology. You would act opposite. You do the opposite of whatever the urge is telling you to do so you don’t avert eye contact. You look them straight in the eyes. You don’t slouch. You stand tall. You don’t avoid the topic. You talk about it directly in a matter of fact way. And you don’t apologize.
[AUDREA] I think we should practice this Julie.
[JULIE] I know. I feel like we should be paying her for therapy right now. You did that on purpose didn’t you Audrea. Like where I have this friend Julie, she really needs your help….
[DORIAN] Yes. And we’re going to talk about her empathy. And the day I met empath too.
I’m an empath too so it’s easy for me to identify.
[AUDREA] Yeah yeah. I never say sorry for anything. So I’m the opposite. I think I do the hiding definitely not the sorry.
[DORIAN] So shame and guilt typically prompt repair behavior like apologizing. So what happens when we apologize? We’re essentially telling ourselves that we’ve done something wrong and need to repair which could feed the emotional shame. So being cautious about how you communicate with the world is important because it’s how you’re communicating with yourself as well and how you’re feeding back into your own emotional system. The other reason it’s a problem is that it has social consequences like if you’re talkingto Audrea… you’re less confident to others and are likely to be treated with lesser status and maybe get some anger some slack. It’s also annoying people other than Audreaa.
[AUDREA] I don’t find it annoying. I just feel like women apologize too frequently for things that aren’t their thing.
[DORIAN] So this doesn’t mean that we never apologize when it’s needed or never repair when some sort of repair is called for and the emotion is justified but we don’t over apologize like we don’t apologize. Like we don’t apologize for breathing, taking up space and being alive.
[AUDREA] So I have a question. Say you’re in a crowded bus or train someone on bumps into you. It’s it’s very common And I actually I do do this so Jules you can throw it back at me. If someone bumps into me I say sorry. Oh excuse me, sorry. Even though they bumped into me. Is there a line between sort of like social graces and then being overly apologetic.
[DORIAN] I talk about this a lot with people too. Typically people who are not going to apologize are more likely to be worried about over apologizing. So it’s sort of like if you’re an under apologizer you want to overcorrect and if you’re an over apologizer it might make sense to overcorrect in the other direction.
Yeah and the word I’m the words I’m sorry are sort of like socially acceptable ways of saying excuse me or pardon me. And for people who over I apologize and for whom that feeds that emotion of shame saying excuse me might have less of an impact.
[JULIE] That’s interesting. So interesting. Okay so a moment ago you talked about acting opposite. And some of the things you were talking about were physical things that we should be doing. Not slouching. Looking someone straight in the eye. Standing tall. And so I want to transition into talking about body image because sometimes it is just in the way we hold ourselves. But it’s also in the thoughts that we have about ourselves and about our bodies. And so I think for a lot of women out there this is going to resonate and hit home. So can you talk to us about how to reinforce having a positive body image.
[DORIAN] Sure. I love this topic too. And of course it’s such a problem particularly among women. Again we’re talking about wanting to build confidence and having the emotion of shame getting in the way. So I would say everything we’ve talked about so far applies here. There are some specific strategies, as well that are specific to body image. People with poor body image often engage in certain problem behaviors both internal and external that keep them feeling bad.
[AUDREA] What are some of those behaviors? Can you give us examples.
[DORIAN] Sure. One example of these problem behaviors is overvaluing your body appearance with regard to how you look and how you see yourself. So this is tough because we as women are socialized from a very young age to see shape, weight and body appearance as how we are evaluated. The world is judging us, largely on our body appearance and we learn to do the same. But we can think this all the way through.
Of those people you know how much of your opinion of them is really based on their body appearance?
[AUDREA] Like almost none.
[DORIAN] Almost none. The same for me. So for most of us it’s probably not the majority. Another problem is that over evaluation of shape and weight can lead to this narrowing in your life. You focus on what you look like so much that you become obsessed with everything you eat or you can’t possibly wear a swimsuit or shorts in public. This impacts what you’re able to do. Your life gets smaller.
[JULIE] And I think that’s so interesting. Let’s pause there for a moment because I know so many women who are impacted by that. So many mothers who will take photos of their kids and post of these photos on social media for instance and not have a single photo of them with their kids. And I have some good friends who will say oh no I hate being in photos. But what about those memories? What about you know those kids are going to grow up and want photos of that vacation and have their mom in that photo. And the kids, certainly the kids don’t care what mom looks like in a bathing suit or whether mom you know has a towel on or not in that photo so… What can we do to really start to change that mindset so that we stop prejudging ourselves about her body image?
[DORIAN] Yeah. The first step here might be to make a pie chart of your identity. How much of your identity is tied up in your body appearance? How much is your career, your relationships, your activities? And does the pie chart line up with your true values?
The next step from there is to build out the other areas of your life that don’t involve body appearance at the core. For example you might notice that 75 percent, which is not an uncommon number for women I see, 75 percent of how you view yourself i shape and weight. And that doesn’t line up with what you truly value. You would want to think through what you truly value. Maybe your relationships with your kids, significant family members, close friends and deliberately focus more of your attention on building those. It could mean doing opposite acts like we talked about before. Wearing the bathing suit in public, making eye contact, looking proud, not looking ashamed, not doing behaviors that are consistent with shame. To teach yourself that you’re not likely to be rejected because of how you look.
[JULIE] You know, it’s so interesting that you say that. Someone once said to me that you know you walk into a room and you immediately assume that people are going to be judging you of the dress you’re wearing how you look in the dress.. when really, every other woman in the room is worried about what every other woman in the room is judging. And so we’ve spent so much time worrying that other people are judging us when really the other people are worried we’re judging them.
[DORIAN] Yeah and very little of our mental energy is spent on them. For most people not for everyone but very little of our mental energy is spent on evaluating the way other people look and treating them differently because of having a different kind of body.
[JULIE] Okay so what about people who are over checking or overweight? Who are doing it too often? People who maybe weigh themselves every day or I’ve heard and this is obviously something you would know more about but people who maybe go from one extreme to the other who are just so into fitness of their working out maybe excessively? Can you talk about that a little bit?
[DORIAN] Yeah. So another common problem is exactly what you said. People checking their body too much or weighing themselves really frequently, looking in the mirror really frequently, pinching their bodies really frequently. Or on the other hand extreme avoidance so refusing to look in a full length mirror, getting changed in the dark, never weighing themselves or weighing themselves very rarely, looking away from the scale when they go to the doctors office and asking not know the number. It keeps you… overchecking is a problem because it keeps you overly focused on your body and your body’s appearance to the exclusion of the valued activities that we talked about earlier. And then avoidance is problematic in part because it stems from and feeds back to that belief that your body is something to be scared of or disgusted by. And you’re feeding back into that emotional system again. So both of these kinds of behaviors keep you stuck in the belief that your body is bad.
[AUDREA] What you do for people who sort of sit in the middle ground, where you definitely are not comfortable just throwing on whatever and walking out into the world but you don’t necessarily fall on her fall under this overweigher or overchecker? I feel like I’m kind of in the middle. On my personal time when I’m getting dressed it doesn’t matter but I find that when I get dressed for work is when I get hypocritical because I want to make sure my pants aren’t too tight or if my coworkers see that I have a pantyline, that sends me into a tizzy which is ridiculous. I wear underwear and I don’t care if people know that. So what do you do for that middle ground where there’s places where you’re comfortable and you don’t think about your body but then there’s other places where you of are really cognizant of it.
[DORIAN] Yeah it’s interesting about work because it is an area where we’re trying to present ourselves in a certain light. So there may be some like adaptive benefit to trying to present yourself in a certain way.
However if you are doing some of the over checking just in that context it could be that that is feeding into feeling more anxiety or more shame about how you look. And with a client, I might do some sort of experiment like what happens when you go to work with a really visible panty line, like the biggest painting like you can make happen.
[AUDREA] I can even happen.Nope.
[DORIAN] Are you treated any differently? So we might work our way up to that. We might start with very subtle panty lines and work up to maybe more extreme party lines. But you learn over time that you’re unlikely to be treated, like the worst case what your mind is scared of is not likely.
[AUDREA] Wow. Great. That was a lot of wonderful tips. And you learned something about my pantylines… Uh… As we are wrapping this up, we have three lightning questions that we are going to ask because we do everything in threes.
We are collecting advice from successful on in our communities and sharing in out with successful in our communities. And since you are an awesome friend and part of our community here we go. You ready?
Is there a lesson that you’ve recently learned that you wish you would have learned earlier in your career.
[DORIAN] Early in my graduate training I had advisor cautioned me to curb my enthusiasm which caught me off guard because it seemed like the opposite of something I should be doing. I was thinking I’m young and I should be taking the bull by the horns, all the time. But what she meant was that I tend to get really excited about lots of different things and invest a lot of in them which has the potential for leading to burnout and over time I have seen real wisdom in her advice and have changed my overcommitting behavior. It’s something that I still need to keep an eye on and remind myself of frequently both my personal and professional lives. But I’m so much better at it than I used to be.
[JULIE] What did you today, tell you ten years ago? What advice would you offer?
[DORIAN] Ten years ago I was defending my master’s thesis. I was so nervous to be presenting and defending my own original research for really the first time. It was based on women with alcohol use problems and their social networks. I think I would tell myself to relax, to own it,enjoy it more, recognize the importance of my work. Really I would talk with myself about opposite actions to shame and knowing my worth.
[AUDREA] What do you think the most important skill to hone for a woman is in today’s professional setting?
[DORIAN] I have seen a lot of professional women some of whom are struggling with balancing work responsibilities with advancement and have a rich and fulfilling personal lives. I encourage these women often to think through and identify their values and ask whether what they’re currently doing lines up with what is most important to them. I think really understanding what you value and having goals that align with those values is key. Something I also talk with women out about a lot is their social networks and how they’re interacting with them. Close relationships tend to be more important to women and having other people in our lives that support their values and their goals related to their values is often critical to well-being and living according to our values. It’s part of why I love this podcast and what you guys are all doing so much.
[AUDREA] Thank you so much Dorian for joining us and offering us tactics to build confidence. Thank you also for being part of our community and being an amazing woman and friend. All right. We’re going to wrap it up.