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“Eventually, I just got tired of always worrying what everyone else thought of me. So I decided not to listen.”
— Michelle Obama, the former first lady on how she quieted her thoughts of self-doubt
A decade ago, I started a new job, reporting on a topic I knew inside and out: pop culture. I was enthusiastic but highly insecure, and pretty clueless about setting professional boundaries.
Nearly every morning, I’d wake up to an onslaught of impatient emails from my boss, often sent throughout the night. Before long, I was getting calls on my days off with “urgent” tasks. My record would suffer if I declined was the implication.
Paralyzed by the inability to say “no” and nagged by impostor syndrome — the feeling that I wasn’t deserving of the role in the first place — I adapted to each whim and worked myself to the bone. I kept up, to the detriment of my mental health, grappling with anxiety and burnout.
The day I left that job, the clouds immediately began to lift. I put the dysfunctional grind behind me and returned to myself, remembering that I’m perfectly capable of landing on my feet and thriving.
A career is a two-way street, I learned, and the people we work for should feel as fortunate to have us as we do to have them.
Last week, The New York Times published a special section called The Working Woman’s Handbook, how-to guides on how to overcome impostor syndrome, what to do if you’re headed for burnout and more. I sure could have used it back then.
Here are my favorite bits of advice from the series.
Find your purpose.
Elaine Welteroth, former editor in chief of Teen Vogue, took on a topic that has gotten tons of attention this year: workplace burnout. She advises finding your “purpose” — and beginning to plot your next move. “Job titles are temporary, but purpose is eternal,” Welteroth writes. If you find yourself in a rut, start investing energy in considering what you want rather than on what you don’t like about your life.
Own your accomplishments.
Stop attributing your successes to “luck,” “hard work” or “help from others,” writes Jessica Bennett, The Times’s gender editor and author of “Feminist Fight Club.” In her guide about how to overcome impostor syndrome, she encourages each reader to try to own the role you played in your success by forbidding yourself from falling back on excuses.
Stop saying sorry (while negotiating).
Women are in a double bind: Compensated less when agreeable but viewed as demanding when assertive, writes Kristin Wong, journalist and author of “Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford.” She advises to remove “sorry” from your vocabulary — as it makes your negotiation personal. If you’re in a position to negotiate, remember, you’re not asking for a personal favor.
What else is happening
Here are five articles from The Times you might have missed.
For Pride Month, we’re looking back at New York Times coverage of L.G.B.T.Q. leaders and issues.
The word “gay” has been on a circuitous and complicated journey in the pages of The Times.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, there was growing acceptance. “Gay” even appeared in headlines like “5 Gay Candidates Are in State Contests.”
That slow progress came to a halt on April 6, 1975, when the word was banished after a story about a gay cruise outraged Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, a longtime behind-the-scenes force at The Times.
Then in 1987, on June 15, the ban on “gay” was lifted. In a note to the staff, Allan M. Siegal, then an assistant managing editor, stated: “Starting immediately, we will accept the word gay as an adjective meaning homosexual.”
Learn more about the word’s journey in The Times here.