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Are You Making It Harder than It Needs to Be?

Are You Making It Harder than It Needs to Be?

In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we look at what’s within our control as a way to build confidence in the workplace. My guest, Charlotte Crabtree, shares her story of being an introvert in a highly extroverted field and the choices she made to reflect on herself and what she needed in order to be successful. We also discuss how emotions, self-trust and paying attention to what we’re paying attention to can help us grow our confidence and overall success.

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About My Guest

Charlotte is a coach, consultant & equine facilitated learning practitioner (although we didn’t cover this in the show!) to people-first businesses, helping them to improve their employees’ experience throughout.

Working with individuals, Charlotte offers personal coaching for professional women, helping them to build the confidence they need to overcome self-doubt & worry, and feel in control in their careers (& lives) so they can reach their highest potential.

With a decade of experience ‘on the ground’ in roles within project, account & operations management, Charlotte now supports others to navigate the same challenges she faced while climbing the corporate ladder – by helping them avoid the pitfalls of burnout, complacency & job-hopping – so they can define & fulfill their potential faster, without the stress.

Charlotte’s mission in life is to enjoy it – and firmly believes that should be a priority everyone shares, so makes it her business to help others find that balance of a successful career & a fun, happy home life too.

For more information & to work with Charlotte, you can visit her website (& download her free guide: 5 Confidence Hacks to Take Control in Your Career)


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Kim Meninger Welcome, Charlotte, as I said to you before, I’m so excited that we’re finally doing this. I know there’s been a lot of scheduling conflicts along the way. So thank you for your patience and your willingness to move ahead with this discussion. I want. Likewise, I want to start just by inviting you to introduce yourself, I’d love to learn more about you.

Charlotte Crabtree Oh, thank you so much. So, well, thank you, first of all, for having me. I’m also very excited about this conversation we’re about to have. So, my name is Charlotte Crabtree, and I am a personal and career coach for professional women. So I work with people individually, and I also work directly with businesses. And I am a firm believer in people being what makes businesses successful. And if you look after your people, then they will look after your bottom line. For me, personally, I believe that life is for living. Life is for enjoying, that it’s the reason why we’re here to make the most of the experiences that we have. And so if you’re not enjoying it, if you’re not following what lights you up, then you’re kind of wasting your time. And so when it comes to work, it has to be something that makes you feel good. Whether you are, you know, workaholic, or you work part-time, or you’re looking for kind of more work-life balance, whatever it is that you’re doing, we spend so much time not only at work, but thinking about it, that if it’s somewhere that really brings you down or is draining your energy or, or draining your confidence, then it’s time to do something about it because it has such a big impact on all these other areas in our life. And for so many of us, we, we have so much to give, we can see and feel the potential in ourselves. But we hold ourselves back from actually sharing that with others. And that often comes down to experiences that we’ve had with people, with projects, with clients. If we’ve burnt out, if we’ve overdone it, if we’ve tried to give too much and not been recognized for it, all these different things can really sting us and make us feel fearful or resentful from contributing in the future. And so what I, what I tend to do is work with women who have had these experiences, or they, they want to get back to feeling like they have that fire in their belly, like they’re living their purpose. Like they get up and go to work for a reason every morning, and they love what they do. So they can also relax and enjoy themselves and their lives outside of work as well.

Kim Meninger I love that so much. I think there’s so much to what you’re saying too is to pay attention to if something just doesn’t feel right. Right? If things are harder than they need to be to, to just ask yourself, is this, is this where I’m supposed to be? Is there another option?

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah, definitely. And I love actually that you just said that, you know, are things harder than they need to be? I feel like for a lot of us, we are conditioned to believe that everything should be hard. Or we have to achieve certain things or do things a certain way, or go through a certain level of pain, like no pain, no gain, in order for us to deserve the things that we think that we’re doing it for. So I even experienced this. Recently, I’ve been doing like a 30-day yoga journey. And in it, there was a session where it was about ease and flow. And she was saying, you know, in each of these positions, where are you making this harder for yourself than it actually needs to be? Where could you soften? Where could you relax a little bit? Where could you just make things a little bit easier? Because you’re still there showing up doing it, you’re still going to get the results. We don’t need to make things as hard as they often feel.

Kim Meninger Yeah, that’s so great. And I’m curious too, if we can take a step back. How did you get to where you are? Were you doing something else before that was harder than it needed to be?

Charlotte Crabtree I swear, like most of my life up until a few years ago, everything just felt so hard all the time. And I just assumed that that was how things were. Because you know, that’s, that’s the kind of role models and the idea of success that so many of us see, especially in the workplace. And I think, so my journey is I actually used to work in event management. So I did event management at university. I went into the pharmaceutical and medical communications industry. So, I was working in kind of project management roles, I’ve worked in account management and operations management as well. So I’ve got quite a wide spectrum of experience. And I’ve been really in the mud with everyone. And I’ve been kind of at that mid-level stuck between looking after a team below me and reporting into the kind of Board of Directors level. And the thing that I always reflect back on is that they just don’t teach you these things at school. And so when we’re at school, we’re always told what to do. You go to the lessons at this time, you do these lessons, you get these grades, then you go to university, and then everyone around you is doing the same thing, they all have the same goal or the same sort of aspirations. And then you get into the workplace, and you’re not surrounded by the same peers anymore. And all you have to look to is other people that have, you know, usually been there longer when you start a new job, people that are more senior than you, more experienced than you. And generationally, we, we tend to have different values as well. So people in other generations, placed a lot of emphasis on the, you know, work hard, play hard. And to me, I was always happy to work hard, because I felt like that’s what I should do. But being an introvert, I then felt a little bit out of place with the play-hard side of things. So with the events agency, there’s a lot of like, you know, we’ll start work at half, five, six in the morning, and we’ll finish work at 11/12 at night, one in the morning. And then people say cool, now let’s go party, and I was like, Oh, my goodness. And you kind of get caught up in, in this world and the culture of the people that you’re with as well. I guess this kind of ties straight into impostor syndrome, which is probably an aspect that I hadn’t even thought about before is that the peers that I was working with both my colleagues and my bosses and my clients. They, a lot of them had this attitude of you know, work hard, play hard, let’s go do that. And I would often think, well, I have to keep up with that identity in order for me to do well at my job. If I don’t play the game and join the drinks and have all the banter with everybody, then I’m going to get left behind. And I think this is actually something that a lot of people do struggle with, particularly introverts. Because being extroverted, being very outgoing, being very chatty, especially in kind of an agency or client-facing role is it almost goes hand in hand with that expectation of this is what you have to do to be successful. And so through my own kind of personal development journey, which really kicked off around the time when I started managing other people. And I felt like I suddenly had more responsibility to always protect people from the things that I’d gone through. And that was when it really started for me going, going down this journey of you know, self-exploration and personal development, and how could I do things better, always by looking at how I could help them do things better. And it was really around that time that I started looking into things like personality types, and human design and accountability tendencies. And just really starting to appreciate just how different everybody is and just how many strengths different people bring to the table in ways that you wouldn’t expect, because that’s not what we’re taught to look for, from an earlier age in an earlier stage in our career. And actually, the more that we mature within ourselves in our careers, the more beautiful this range of diversity in terms of people’s personalities, and what people bring to the table can really be and I think once you start seeing that kind of thing, it really helps to balance out any feelings of impostor syndrome. Because you start to think about all the things that you do have rather than all the things that you don’t have.

Kim Meninger Yes, I truly believe that, that is so critical to managing impostor syndrome is to shift the focus away from what you don’t have to what you do have. I wonder from your experience as an introvert because this is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, but don’t really have, I would say, a lot of great solutions around you mentioned that you used the word diversity, right? And we talk a lot about diversity and inclusion and we tend to think about it in terms of more demographics around race and gender, etc. But for us to ever reach th,e the benefits and the potential of diversity and inclusion, we have to not just welcome in people who have different backgrounds, different ways of thinking and ask them to conform to one way of behaving and operating within the workplace, right, but to create the flexibility for people to show up as their best selves, even if that’s out of alignment with how things have traditionally been done, right? So if most of the action so to speak takes place in large meetings within your workplace, you can be assured that you are going to lose out on the voices of people who are more introverted, people who are less comfortable in those kinds of environments. And so, you know, for me, I feel like this is one of the greatest opportunities for businesses to, is to think about what in what ways are they putting people into boxes, and limiting, not just the potential of the individuals involved, but the overall the, the potential of the overall business?

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah, definitely. I think, at the moment with that, there’s so many conversations about this kind of thing, there is so much opportunity for businesses to really jump in, and absolutely maximize the potential of the teams that they have by doing exactly that. There’s been so much time where there is a certain way of doing things. And there are these certain expectations, like speaking up in meetings, you know, if you’re not seen or not heard, and therefore, you’re not recognized. So I think there are lots of different ways that businesses can provide more flexibility and just more interest, I think, in how different people operate and looking for ways to bring out and draw out those, those ideas and contributions from different people. But there are lots of ways that individuals as well can create these opportunities for themselves. And one thing that I think is really important to mention is that there is a big difference between being an introvert and being shy, or lacking confidence. And all too often, the two are bundled together. And introvert is almost a label given to somebody who is quiet or who people don’t think too much of perhaps. But there’s a very, very big difference because so I, I am an introvert and I’m very introverted. But I am quite a confident person. And I don’t think anyone would say of me that they thought I was shy, or they thought that I lacked in confidence, because I go out there and I make happen what I need to make happen, I go and do the things that I need to do to get the results that I want to do. But in terms of being an introvert, I like my own space, I like to work in quiet, focused environments, I need time by myself to recharge, and I process things in a different way to other people that might be more extroverted. So I’m using meetings as an example. If you have an introvert in a meeting, and there is a, you know, heated discussion going on, you might have multiple people in, you know, senior positions, giving their opinions or even debating opinions. And it’s quite fast-paced, an introvert might sit there and not feel like they can’t keep up with the conversation. But actually, introverts absorb and process information differently. So for me, I would sit there, and I would know in myself, I’m perfectly capable of keeping up with this conversation, I know that I will have things to contribute to this. But I want to absorb everything that’s happening around me, digest it, and then use that. So I would sit there quietly, listening to other people’s opinions, listening to the information that’s coming in, noticing how different ideas are being received and how people are responding, including in terms of the way things have been communicated. And I will sit there and digest that, take a load of notes go away. And I always mark out time after a meeting. So if it’s, say, a 30-minute meeting, I would mark out another 30 minutes for follow-up activity. And actually, just reflect on what just happened and consolidate it and draw my own conclusions from it, and come up with main ideas to contribute to it. And it’s not a case of, you know, being quiet in a meeting and then sending an email afterwards saying, Oh, I forgot to say this, but more, you know, I fully participated in that meeting. Here are my thoughts following. Here’s what I would like to contribute to further the discussion before we make a decision perhaps. And I think when you go into meeting as a team, and you think, right, the aim of this meeting is to find an answer, that can actually be quite short-sighted, and quite limiting because you’re only giving the discussion that amount of time. And actually a lot of reflections, a lot of breakthroughs, a lot of realizations, a lot of downloads, they come after a discussion. Like we’ll have this interview now. And then we’ll hang up and half an hour later I’ll say, Ah, I wish I thought about this. Oh, I can’t believe she said that. That’s made me think of something else. And maybe we should start recording these into two-parters. But yeah, I think that’s, that’s the superpower of an introvert. And so the more businesses and teams can recognize, that’s just one example really, but recognize things like that, the better it’s going to be for them. And the more introverts can feel confident in their own ability, and really harness that superpower and use it to their advantage, the more they’re going to shine as somebody unique in their team in their organization.

Kim Meninger So I have a question when you were in your previous role, were you able to apply the things that you’re talking about to that environment and feel like it worked for you? In other words, I’m curious for anybody who’s listening and is working in a, in a work environment that is similar to what you’re describing, I’m always trying to think about it from the self-empowerment perspective, what can I personally do, right? And I think that’s a really great strategy and a really great way of thinking about it. Do you believe that people can be effective at making these kinds of changes in an environment that tends to favor extroverts? Or do you think that it’s, I don’t want to say better, because it’s complicated, but do you think that people should start to think about, are there environments that are already more welcoming to introverts or do you think that we can create more inclusion from within ourselves?

Charlotte Crabtree Um, I think it definitely depends on your particular environment. For me, in my experience, I used to get very frustrated, because I felt like I was never being heard in my earlier roles. And my, the things that used to frustrate me, trigger, me upset me, they followed me every time I moved jobs. And so I think there is a level of self-awareness and personal growth that we all have to do to really understand ourselves, and love ourselves really enough to feel that confidence and feel that sense of self-worth that what we’re doing is right, we own our superpowers. And we put ourselves out there in a way that works for us. But when you’ve done that work, then, then you can really take a look at your environment and, and understand is this an environment that is conducive to my success? Is it an environment that is psychologically safe for me to be in? Do I like being here? And is this the kind of work that I enjoy? Or is this a very toxic place in general, because to an extent, there are a lot of things that you can influence in your environment. But it all starts with you. But there are obviously places and people that are very set in their ways that don’t want to address change that like things the way that they are, and aren’t very positive places to be. So I think when it comes to thinking about whether you want to stay where you are, and make a change, or look somewhere else, it’s very much about what’s going to follow you and what is exclusively related to the environment that you’re in that you cannot control. Because there are elements of things as well, like we talk often about, you know, focus on the things that you can control, but if the things that you can’t control are really affecting you, then that’s a good point to be looking at. Do I want to be somewhere else actually?

Kim Meninger I’m so glad that you brought up the things that follow you. Because I do believe that part of the challenge of feeling, just, for example, like an introvert in an extrovert world is that we are so programmed to want to belong and to want to fit into whatever environment that we’re part of that we often lose sight of the fact that it’s the structure, it’s not me. And so you made a really important point about that inner work that claiming your superpower, knowing what your strengths are, and not always feeling like you’re deficient, because other people show up differently than you do. So to really be able to even take the kind of steps that we’re talking about whether that’s influencing from within, or moving to an environment that’s more conducive to your success requires that you understand where that line is between raise it, do I need to work on myself? Do I need to become more aware and more confident in who I am first? Or do, do I need to look more externally at the environment around me and assess whether this is the right one for me or both? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and it’s complicated. I mean, I think it’s easier said than done, when we talk about these kinds of things. But when it comes to confidence, right, I always think about it in terms of not this sort of sweeping concept of confidence, because it’s so hard to wrap your arms around, but to really think about what undermines my confidence? What are the situational factors that make me feel self-doubt or, you know, like my confidence has dipped? And then to look at those patterns to look at what those situational factors tell me about myself in the environment? And then from there, evaluate what can I do to address them?

Charlotte Crabtree Yes, I, yeah, I love that. And I think it’s important to remember as well, that our emotions, point to what we’re needing. And something that we, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, is actually what do I need in this situation? Because I, if someone were to ask you at work, if you were having a problem, and somebody said, Well, what do you need, you might think I need more time, I need more resource, I need more money, I need whatever. But actually taking the time to reflect on what, how you feel. And what you need to feel differently, is really, really empowering. Because nine times out of 10, we can actually give that to ourselves. So if it’s, you know, I really need a hug, you can actually give yourself a hug, and tell yourself that you’re great. And tell yourself that you love yourself, and tell yourself everything’s gonna be okay. And you can actually do that for yourself, and make yourself feel a lot better. You know, if it’s, I need to feel more secure or more safe, then you can look at what you’re creating around you the space that you’re in, how does that make you feel? Are you giving yourself what you need? Physically? Are you eating? Well? Are you drinking enough? Are you sleeping enough? All of these things, actually, we, we grow up looking to others to give us what we need. And actually, you know, apart from where we’re at, as young children, we are the ones that have to create the environment for ourselves to thrive in, and then go out and shine a light in the world.

Kim Meninger I really like that too. And I think that you said something earlier that made me think about this idea that when we’re feeling uncomfortable, or when we’re feeling self-doubt, or whatever that uncover that sort of feeling that we don’t like how do we look at that as information? Right? If I’m feeling uncomfortable, my natural response is probably some kind of fight or flight response and like built-in automatic or something. But if I sit with it for a moment, and really think about what is it, what is it what’s really going on here and I love what you’re saying of really almost layering on top of that. Okay, well what do I need in order to feel more comfortable? Because like you said, it’s more than not within your power to provide yourself with that, and if not, that’s important information to.

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah, definitely. And because then, once you know what you need, you know whether you can give it to yourself, or if you need to get that from somewhere else. And then you can go about, well, where do I need to get it from? Or who do I need to get it from? And how can I go about that? Like, how can I create a situation where I’m most likely to get that without it being so hard? How can I? What’s the easiest way for me to receive what I need right now?

Kim Meninger Yes, and even that process that you’re describing, I think of as somebody who has struggled with a lot of anxiety, really breaks the anxiety cycle, because it gets me to a more practical place. It’s not this emotional loop of worry and fear. It’s a, Okay, now I have a plan. Now I’m, I’m in control of determining what is it that I need and how I’m going to go about getting it. And it just eases that overall feeling. So I think that’s an important piece, too, is how do you sort of snap out of that emotional loop if you get stuck there? Yeah. And take action.

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah. But I, I love as well, the idea that actually, emotions, if we sit with them, and just feel them completely, they tend to only last about 10 minutes. So when we are really stressed and worrying and anxious or upset about something. Our, our natural response is, I don’t want to feel like this. So we’ll try and distract ourselves or will, you know, try and stop it or snap ourselves out of it? Like you said, but actually, if when you feel it, you just stop, sit still? Like Put your hand on your heart and think, What am I feeling? Why do I feel it, okay, and just absorb it and just let it happen in your body, all the physical reactions, the tears, that stomachache, the headache, whatever it’s going to be, and just sit with it and let it be and say actually, okay, I feel hurt right now. And that’s okay, I’m allowed to feel hurt about this, I’m allowed to feel disappointed about this, I’m allowed to feel scared about this. And just really feel it fully. It will actually pass much, much quicker than if you’re constantly distracting yourself. And kind of it kind of drags it out. Because you haven’t processed it fully. But then yeah, you’re right, once you’ve kind of sat with it, and you felt it and then you think, right, what am I going to do now. And going through that process actually builds so much self-trust that you can give yourself what you need, you can pull yourself out of a hole, you can go and do whatever it is that you need to do, you can keep going. And you build more confidence in trusting yourself. And actually, all, all these things. I feel like we’ve gotten so many different tangents and come up with so many like ideas and practices and exercises about these but they all tie in together because they all make us feel more confident. The more you trust yourself, the more you actually realize how capable you are. And then the more confident you feel. It’s all a cycle and it ties in together.

Kim Meninger I love that you said self-trust because I think that’s such the sorry. I love that you said self-trust because I do think that that’s what a lot of this ties back to right that if we trust that we can get through something like a bad feeling or a bad situation. And we are going to feel so much stronger. That’s one thing where resilience comes from. [Right.] But I think part of it is that we’re so afraid of that we’re not going to be capable that we hold ourselves back. And it becomes a strategy of avoidance, right, I’m going to I want to avoid anything that’s going to make me feel bad, I’m going to avoid anything that might result in a negative consequence. And then you create more and more imaginary ways of being, a failing, right or getting rejected, or whatever it is that we’re trying to avoid. And our world just gets smaller and smaller and smaller. But if we just put ourselves out there if we’re just willing to take that risk and then to like you’re saying, just experience whatever we experience, we teach our brains that we’re so much stronger than we think we are.

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah, definitely. I feel like so many points just came out of what you just said. When you were talking about how we you know we focus on, on what might go wrong and kind of catastrophize, you’re coming up with all these imaginary ways that you might fail. When you focus on what you’re worrying about what you’re stressed about, the more attention you give it, the more it compounds, and it feels like the biggest thing in the whole world. Whereas if you have that level of self-trust, because time and time again, you’ve pulled yourself out of these situations, it’s much easier to step back and actually gain perspective. And see the bigger picture that actually what you’re worrying about down here is just one part of life. And there’s all these other things as well that are going on. And that actually gives you more energy and more strength to tackle it, because it seems like a much smaller thing that you can work through, and then it will be over.

Kim Meninger Yes, yes, you’re right, the, the amount of attention, we pay to these things over, over magnifies or over exaggerates the actual place in our that this shows up in our lives, right. I mean, and then that’s, that’s interesting, too. I feel like if we were to conduct a study and just follow ourselves through a certain period of time, think how many times do we actually find ourselves in the situation that we’re afraid of? How many times do we actually face a fear that we are trying to avoid? Right? It’s a, it’s just that that’s not how we think about it? Or we’re so tuned into the what if on the negative side?

Charlotte Crabtree Yeah, definitely. And I think as well, we, we spend so much time trying to get away from things that cause us pain. So a lot of us are very, you know, away motivated, we just, we want to the thing that’s annoying us frustrating as holding us back making us feel down, we want to get away from that. And we give so much attention to the things that we don’t want, that we forget about the things that we do want the things that bring us joy, and pleasure and fun and happiness. And actually, when you can trust yourself to handle the things that you don’t like, you are able to give a lot more attention to calling in the things in life that you do want. So if we put this in a back into a workplace environment, you might feel nervous about going into these meetings, or you might feel apprehensive about meeting with clients or present presenting. But if you think about the big picture of your career, and all the things that you want to achieve, and the reasons why you got into that industry in the first place, and what you enjoy about the job and the fact that you spend all day working with a team of people that you really love. It just puts it into a much better balance, and gives you more energy to focus on moving forwards and growing your career and developing and achieving. And then getting home at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been doing something that you like today and you’ve spent your time doing something worthwhile. And now you can go and do all the fun things that you’d like to do at home as well and spend time with your loved ones and relax and sleep and, you know, take an actual break.

Kim Meninger Yeah, oh my gosh, I think that’s such a, such a great theme of our conversation is like pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. Oh, gosh, this has been such a great conversation, Charlotte, any final thoughts that you want to share?

Charlotte Crabtree Um, I would just say, I guess on the theme of you know, pay paying attention to what you’re paying attention to, I would love to share my mantra that I basically live every day by which is 100% on 100% off. And this applies to so many things. So when you’re trying to deal with a situation when you’re procrastinating when you’re, you know, rushing through something or trying to multitask. I always remember 100% on or 100% off. So whatever I’m working on or thinking about or looking at right now, I’m giving it 100% of my attention. And if I can’t do that, for whatever reason, if I’m distracted, if I’m worried, then I’m 100% off and I will go and do something else. So I think yeah, just the more intentional you can be with your time, the more things you can achieve. And the more that you achieve, the more you trust yourself, the more confident you feel, the better everything’s gonna be.

Kim Meninger What a great, great insight. I just wrote that down. I love that so much. I think that’s something for all of us to think about. And I think there’s lot to think about from our conversation. So thank you so much for spending time with me. And thanks for having me sharing your story and your perspective. And we’ll include your information in the show notes as well. So if anybody wants to follow up with you, that information will be available there too. Thanks again, Charlotte.

Charlotte Crabtree Thank you for having me.

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