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The Secret Fears We Hide at Work (and how to silence them).

‘I have NO IDEA what I’m doing. None. Everyone is going to find out and I’ll be sacked. This is going to be so embarrassing. So shameful. So mortifying that I may not be able to survive it. Hmmm, what’s the solution here? Hide my doubt. Hide my fear. Hello, I can go further than that – I can physically hide in my office! From my team, my boss, my peers and our members. I will also hide my thoughts. I won’t speak up in meetings. I won’t share my ideas. I won’t rock the boat or upset the status quo to try new things. I’ll stay small and quiet and invisible. I’ll ask everyone else what their thoughts are. Then no one will ever know.’

I used to think these thoughts arose when I landed Dream Job #4 in 2007. In fact, I've told stories about it. But as I reflect back further, and dig more deeply, I realise that these thoughts go back much, much further than that.

These thoughts, stemmed from self-doubt, first hit me when I moved from my tiny primary school to a much larger secondary school.

They came up again when I started my first job and was bullied relentlessly by the Office Manager (fantastic initiation into the workforce – NOT).

They pursued me when I applied for a waitressing role at a major hotel interstate and HR contacted me thanking me for my application, but with my experience, felt I was more suited to a role in their finance department. Whaaaat?

They screamed at me when I travelled overseas and applied for a job as an on-the-road cook......when I couldn’t make toast. Fast forward a few years and I became the Cook Trainer – that was bloody hilarious!

They became almighty powerful when I returned to Australia 5 years later and had to, what I felt, start all over again in a now unfamiliar working landscape. Now considered a blessing as the overwhelm and uncertainty I felt at this time motivated me to seek out my first coach and I've never looked back. Thanks, self-doubt!

When I went to University at 30 years old, when I hadn't finished secondary school) and sat in class after class with 20 year olds, feeling oh-so-old, a complex fraud and out of my depth (but I now consider 30 oh-so-young!)

They screamed when I landed another dream job working inside a major international event. The self-doubt I felt in this role drove some behavior that caused unhappiness and confusion for both myself and my boss and led me to return to my coach for help.

But their absolute pride in cementing themselves (champagne corks popped and dancing ensued) and really causing havoc was when I landed my next dream job which saw me in an executive leadership role (if you need a reminder, see first paragraph!). But my self-doubt didn’t stop there whilst in this role. Oh not at all. Fast forward a year or two, when I’d found my feet in the role and things were going well, when a Director’s role came up in another organization within my industry. I saw it advertised of course I ignored it. My boss at the time, who believed in me more than I believed in myself, called me into his office, showed me the ad and asked me if I'd applied for it. Because he thought I should! I still remember staring back at him and wondering what the hell he was taking about. This was a DIRECTOR ROLE at a prestigious organisation. Who was I to apply for that role? I did not have one belief in my body that I could do that job.

When I reflect on this today I feel…trying to find the right words….I can feel something coming up in my body as I type this…..the words flying around my head are mortified/embarrassed/ashamed (but none of them are quite right)……sad. Sad that I doubted myself and my abilities. How very, very sad I am for that woman all those years ago.

What have I learned as I reflect on my career and work with those pursuing theirs, through my business?

I’ve learned that self doubt is the major killer when it comes to personal performance in the work place.

And DO NOT kid yourself that self-doubt only affects those starting out or in transition…..your management, your leaders, your execs all suffer from it from time to time also – they are human too, you know.

It’s also isolating because whilst many of us suffer from mild to crippling self doubt, we will do so in silence. Admitting feeling unsure or doubtful or less than 1000% confident about something makes us vulnerable, and in the western world vulnerability is often seen as a weakness. When in reality, showing vulnerability is one of the most courageous things you can do. It’s a bloody strength!

Recently I was sitting in a CEO’s office discussing my working with three women he wanted to promote into leadership roles. As I was outlining the work I would do with them I touched on self-doubt. He leaned across the table (as if it was a SECRET not to be spoken out loud!) and whispered “You know, Janelle, men suffer from self-doubt too”.

Oh, buddy I know that. Believe me.

Women either feel more self-doubt than men OR are more willing to admit self-doubt (stronger sex maybe??). I’ll let you be the judge. The point is that what’s going on between our EARS is one of the major killers of work performance, happiness and career fulfilment.

A tricky beast, Self-Doubt tends to morph itself into and show up as:

  • Impostor Syndrome / Fraud Complex

  • Fear of speaking up (in meetings, reviews, giving and receiving feedback)

  • Speaking negatively of others or office gossip

  • Fear of taking on new projects

  • Fear of applying for promotions

  • Displaying an 'us v them' mentality or distrust of management

  • Disconnected team dynamics

  • Discarding other's ideas

  • Micromanaging your team

  • Lack of confidence

  • Wellness (not feeling psychologically safe in the workplace) and absenteeism (mental health day, anyone?)

  • Procrastination

  • Wasting time

  • Feeling overwhelmed

Where does our self-doubt it come from? Everything we've experienced in our professional and personal lives has created our beliefs. Our beliefs affect our thoughts (not to be confused with our thinking, but that's for another article), our thoughts create our emotions and our emotions drive our actions. Simple, hey? #clearlynotsimple

One of my missions is to help women find their VOICE, step into their POWER and SHINE their light out into the world. Because I know when I am suffering from even the tiniest fear or self-doubt (which presents itself in one of the formats I've listed above) it's almost impossible to move through it alone. And it's very easy to spiral!


Let me help you, and your colleagues via 1, 2 OR all of the of the 3 heart-felt invitations I have for you today.

They are all my gift to you.

1. ONLINE LEARNING LUNCHBOX: A free Learning Lunchbox on Wednesday 20 March at 1pm (Melb time), titled:


Book a meeting room, tell your boss you’re doing some professional development, grab your colleagues and have lunch with me. I will gift you all my very best tools and techniques to help release your fears and your doubts; increase your confidence; feel happier; be a more inspiring leader and more valued in your workplace.

2. IN PERSON LEARNING LUNCHBOX: The same free Learning Lunchbox as above, but I will come to your organisation and present it in person. I have committed to doing only two of these per month in 2019. If you are curious or interested to know more please email me and we'll set up a time to have a chat. And as the marketers say, “conditions do apply”.

3. But why wait? What can YOU DO RIGHT NOW to step into today’s version of YOU? What if you considered yourself a HUMAN BECOMING, rather than a human being? What if you knew your potential was greater than it feels right now? What if you could step into your greater potential today? What if you started the process of freeing yourself of doubt right now, in this moment?

I invite you to grab your favourite notebook or journal and free-write on these questions:

I, YOUR NAME, am a valued member in my workplace and I know this because.......

If I, YOUR NAME, opened myself up to new ways of being and acting and feeling at work it would look and feel like this.........

This is one tiny step I, YOUR NAME, can take today to feel more confident at work........

I hope you see you at either the online learning lunchbox or in person at your office!

Until next time,

Expand your mind. Create whatever it is you wish. Lead and inspire others.

Janelle x

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