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The Fraud Factor Syndrome: How to Silence Your Inner-Critic and Prevent it from Derailing your Success

The world thinks of you as a smart, successful, super-achieving woman… co-workers, colleagues, and friends admire your accomplishments and bosses shower praise on you.To them you are a pretty, fit, feisty, on the ball woman with much of the world ‘at your feet’.

You – you think…if they only knew!
Sound familiar?  Then you may be suffering from a case of The Fraud Factor Syndrome.

The Fraud Factor Syndrome is simply the voice of your inner-critic whispering harsh, judgmental, negative comments in your head that demean and discredit your ability. It is also most often our harshest critic.

As a successful career woman or one who owns your own business, no doubt you have had more than one experience with your inner-critic and resulting self-doubts that have taken a toll on your self-confidence, mindset, and self-esteem. However, If you are frequently plagued by your inner-critic, The Fraud Factor Syndrome may be seriously limiting your potential to take pride in your accomplishments and to feel happy and successful. These ongoing conversations essentially prevent you from owning your success and accepting the recognition you get for your accomplishments. Instead you minimize your contribution, give away the credit and deny the fact that your talents and perseverance had much of anything to do with a big accomplishment.
The Fraud Factor Syndrome is not a serious problem until the voice of the inner-critic is so loud that it immobilizes you and/or limits your career or business success!

The Fraud Factor is not uniquely a woman’s issue, but it seems to take a bigger toll on women than men. Tony Schwartz, in his article for HBR Blog Network post “What Women Know about Leadership that Men Don’t” says it this way … From an early age, men often overvalue their strengths, while women too frequently underrate theirs. In reality, we all struggle to feel a stable sense of value and self-worth. Men often defend against their doubts by moving to grandiosity and inflation, while women more frequently move to insecurity and deferral. Men seek more often to win, women to connect. So long as the path to power is connected to proving you’re bigger and badder, it’s no surprise that men have mostly prevailed.”

Striving for perfection is a common symptom. You excessively over-prepare, over-analyze, and repeatedly scrutinize your work to compensate for your perceived shortcomings.

  • You may not have the confidence to apply for a big promotion or strategic project or ask a client to hire you for a valuable contract.
  • You avoid speaking up in a meeting or in public because you minimize the value of what you have to say.
  • You would do anything rather than have to stand in front of an audience and give a presentation.
  • You promote other men and women over yourself when asked if you know of anyone that can take on a new role or promotion.
  • You don’t know how and when to ask for the raise or promotion that you have earned (not just deserve).

As mentioned, take heart you are not alone. Countless incredibly strong “successful” women deal with the voices of their inner-critic at times. We all have self-doubts. We all hate to make mistakes. We all dislike facing our shortcomings.This is normal. It is how you respond to your inner critic that counts!

Becoming aware of the fact that your inner-critic is limiting your potential is good news.  Awareness is the first step toward change. You are on your way to overcoming a problem that has the potential to derail your success and your inner happiness.

Seven Tips to Minimize the Impact of

The Fraud Factor Syndrome:

  1. Make a list of five success stories from your recent past.
  2. Identify your top five strengths. The book on online assessment Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath is a simple and affordable tool
  3. Ask five colleagues to name your top strengths (If this makes you uncomfortable you have permission to tell them your coach, Jean gave you this assignment.)
  4. Notice and jot in your calendar or journal the circumstances when your Fraud Factor Syndrome is most noticeable.
  5. Look for a common theme in these situations that fuel the problem.
  6. Catch yourself when you are being a harsh judge and change your conversation into the encouraging words you would use when speaking with a colleague, co-worker, or teenage daughter.
  7. Finally, talk back to your inner-critic. Ask her for evidence!

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Jean Caton

Jean Caton is a Business Women’s Coach and popular speaker who educates, motivates, and inspires her audience. Jean brings a practical perspective to her coaching a speaking because she “gets” the challenges of business women- she has walked in their shoes both as a corporate America business leader, and now as a small business owner. Learn more about Jean at www.TheProfitableWoman.com