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These Mindsets Are Keeping You Stunted In The Workplace

Workin' Girl

When it comes to success, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. And nowhere does this ring truer than in the workplace.


With factors like impostor syndrome and self-doubt coming into play, it's easy to feel insecure about our roles in the companies we work for. As a result, we sometimes choose stagnation and making ourselves small as a means to feel safe and secure; not realizing that growth is right outside our comfort zones.

What we believe becomes our realities, and while you're busy allowing yourself to be led by limiting beliefs, your growth and your career will remain squarely in neutral. Subconsciously limiting your potential hinders your progress. Your boss's recognition? Your promotion? They are on the other side of a toxic mindset. Here are a few mindsets keeping you stunted in the workplace and affirming mindsets to replace them with.

“But I'm doing this already.”

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I can't tell you how many times I've rolled my eyes in the past because a manager's sense of urgency somehow became my emergency. The kicker would be that I felt like it was an urgent task that gave me deja vu vibes. In one way or another, the document that he/she asked for, the assignment that needed doing, or the report that needed filing was something I had done a week or so ago and I was too prideful to oblige. It'd get done, but with a whole lot of neck-rolling, teeth smacking, and side-eyeing and under-the-breath vent sessions -- on the low, of course.

Energy is everything and even though things would get done in the end, how I went about it was negative AF. So it'd be a wonder when that energy would return to me tenfold. Whether it be the rightfully passive aggressive nature of my then-employer, being overlooked for an opportunity or an unexpected layoff during a company merger. Suffice to say, the lesson is that having a can-do attitude (even when tasks feel redundant) is the difference between securing the next-level bag and staying at a plateau.

Replace it with: "I'm ready, competent and fully capable. I'll get on that right away."

“Well, this is how I usually/always do things.”

Playing it safe is the most slept-on way to stunt your growth. Be it your personal life or your work life, relying too heavily on old ways instead of rising to the occasion of taking on new challenges is counterproductive. Maybe you have to take on a new task that wasn't initially in your job description. Maybe your boss wants you to switch up the way you tackle filing or reports. Maybe she/he wants you to approach your cold calls in a seemingly new and improved way.

You could protest that it's not the way you've typically done things. You could even say that the way you've been doing things has worked so well, so why change them now? But, you would be wrong. What you might not even realize is that your negative mindset is working against you. You know what they say, the devil's in the details and if you want to succeed in life and in your career, view change as an opportunity to adapt and level up instead of as a hindrance.

Replace it with: "I welcome the growth potential of a new challenge."

“I don’t deserve to be here.”

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Sometimes it's not even a matter of feeling above doing day-to-day operational tasks, and instead is all about feeling inadequate in your position overall. A lot of us in the workplace channel this through minimizing ourselves within our performance, not speaking up during meetings, feeling an impending sense of doom that people will realize you don't know what the fuck you're doing.

You're there but you're not there and instead of owning the fact that you've rightfully aced your interview, got the job, and/or earned the promotion, you're left feeling like it's all a facade and you're a fraud. The latter is commonly known as impostor syndrome, something that an estimated 70 percent of Americans have reported experiencing.

In a 2018 interview with NBC News, psychologist Dr. Renee Carr attributed the phenomenon to individuals feeling "psychologically uncomfortable with acknowledging their role in their success" and that the discomfort is rooted in "pressures — from self or others — to achieve great success."

Minimizing yourself and diminishing your accomplishments to feelings of luck versus achievement is all too common in the workplace. Instead of asking "why me?" to your blessings, ask the Universe, "why not me?" Do your best to stop negative self-talk in their tracks and substitute feelings of undeservedness with worthiness.

Replace it with: "I am worthy and have earned my place here."

“I can’t.”

Lowkey, this goes hand-in-hand with the previous negative mindset. You can't? Why can't you? Oftentimes, when change comes up in our lives, the default response is to resist versus submit. And resistance doesn't just look like saying "no", most of the time resistance rears its ugly head in the form of self-defeat. You're assigned a new caseload or a new project and you doubt yourself from the jump by saying to yourself you can't because new challenges mean potentially leaving the secure space you've created in your comfort zone.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed because of tasks I haven't yet checked off my to-do list coupled by emails that seem to want my attention ASAP and then topped off by my boss needing me to put a last minute rundown of our analytics together, I want to succumb to "I can't" and throw in the towel. But I remember that I am a boss by playing my favorite track from The Carters', "NICE". The hook "I can do anything" is the ultimate mood and just the mantra needed to remind you of the fact that you're only as limited as your fear.

Replace it with: "I can do anything I put my mind to."

So, what do you say? Ready to kick some ass and take names by adopting these new mindsets?

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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