May 10, 2018

7 Effective Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

How to be a confident woman in business


At long last, I am kicking off a business series! I’m excited to (finally) start sharing some of my business insights with you. You see, I come to you with a bit of a different perspective than most bloggers. Clearly, I’m  not a 20-something, and this ain’t my first rodeo, so to speak in Texas slang. Ha.

In fact, I had an almost twenty year career in the corporate world before transitioning to running my own business. With an undergrad in engineering, I worked in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial, growth-driven (male-dominated) environment. The company I worked for is continually voted one of the best places to work in America. I worked in various engineering and finance management roles over the years, and I had the opportunity to see and do and be part of many really exciting and cool things. Along the way, I got my MBA as well. I’m forever grateful for that experience, as it propelled me forward to starting this business.

And yes, this blog is a business for me. Always has been and always will be. Sure, by the nature of what I do here, it is fun and personal and colorful and all that. But at the end of the day, I must apply my business acumen in order to (a) continue sharing all this colorful content, and (b) support myself, my family, and the wonderful team of women who work for me. Hopefully, given my unique background, you might be able to glean some practical insights from my experiences.

So, let’s get started!

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Set’s start with the first question…

What is impostor syndrome? Simply put, impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which we continually have that nagging feeling that maybe we are a fraud. We fear that maybe we don’t really merit being in the position we are in. We doubt our accomplishments. We wonder if we really deserve that seat at the table, so to speak.

Why is it important to understand this subject? 

Well, let me turn the question around on you… Have you ever felt this way, particularly in a business setting? Have you ever felt that you were somehow “less than”? Or have you you ever had that irrational fear of being “exposed” – that somehow they (whoever “they” are) are going to figure out that you’re not really that good.

Chances are that the answer is yes, you have felt that way – and you are not alone! Studies indicate that an astounding 70 percent of people have experienced impostor syndrome at some time in their lives. Impostor syndrome tends to disproportionally impact perfectionist and high-achieving individuals. Furthermore, women and minorities experience this at an even higher rate. That’s because, as research has proven over and over again, the more people who look like you in a room, the more naturally confident you feel.

Heck even one of my professional role models (and now personal role model – see yesterday’s article) Sheryl Sandberg admits to struggling with this! As she said in Lean In, “Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again.”

So, yes, I do believe this is a critical topic in business.These are horrible feelings to have! And they really hold us back! We as women must find ways to overcome this self-doubt and own our power in the business world. We must know our worth and exude that with confidence.

With all that being said, let’s jump right into seven ways to overcome impostor’s syndrome…

7 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

If this feeling of doubt is so prevalent, how do we as women overcome it? How do we develop confidence in the business world? Well, I have seven ideas for overcoming impostor syndrome which worked for me.

1. Do the work! 

First and foremost, always do the work! There is no substitute for doing the work.

If you are unprepared and feeling unconfident, that’s not impostor’s syndrome. That’s just laziness! You have to do the work. 

In my oil and gas career, my aim was always to know more about my subject matter than anyone else in the room! That wasn’t arrogance. I just wanted to know my numbers and my facts inside and out, forwards and backwards, so that if a question arose, I knew the answer.

Preparation is an easy confidence booster! Do the work. Over-prepare. Know your stuff.

2. Take note

We become confident in ourselves by developing patterns of success. We look back with pride on the mountains we conquer, and we know we can climb the next one! It’s a great feeling.

But too often we forget if we don’t make note of it. So, write that stuff down! If you’re like me, seeing it in black and white on paper makes it more real. Grab a journal, pick up a pen, and take note of that tough thing you did today.

3. Dress for success

When I say “dress for success”, I mean it both literally and figuratively. Your physical presence matters! It matters to you and it matters to others. How you look impacts (a) how you feel about yourself, and (b) how others perceive you.

Then, this is one of the biggest nuggets of advice I give young women in business:

Dress for the job you want – not the job you have. 

Seriously. I cannot overstate this point. You want people to be able to picture you in that next role on the corporate ladder. When you’re name is being considered for a promotion, you want those executives to think, “Yes, I can definitely see her representing my company at a high level.”

Now, before you accuse me of being superficial, let me pre-empt that counter point. Of course, you must first and foremost demonstrate competency and mastery of your job day in and day out. That is a given. But you must also look the part. Fair or not, that’s the way the world works. You must look to possess all the traits desired at an executive level — polished, professional, pulled together, etc.

True story: in my oil and gas job, when I worked in the corporate world, our office was set up such that executives were on one floor, accountants were on a different floor, and the technical folks (engineers and geologists) were on a separate floor. Most of my career was spent on the same floor as the executives, so I was used to dressing the part. At one point, though, my duties relocated me to the engineering floor. I have to say that I was taken aback by how casual some people dressed. Their reasoning was that the executives rarely visited that floor. But when they did, these folks were ill-prepared appearance-wise.

4. Fake it ’til you make it

Furthermore, pay attention to the space you occupy. Stand tall, hold your shoulders back, keep your head up. Look people in the eye, and greet them with a strong handshake. Sit up straight. Pay attention in meetings. Listen thoughtfully and give relevant, helpful input.

And hey – you never know… If you pretend you’re confident, some of that confidence just might rub off on you!

5. Surround yourself with people who do believe in you 

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong…” – We all know the song, but it’s true. No one is an island unto herself.

One of my biggest professional regrets is not realizing earlier in my career the power of building a support system. I thought that my intelligence, my hard work, my accomplishments, etc were enough to stand on their own. I didn’t need anyone else. I was strong! I could do this myself!

But in reality, we all could use the wisdom of those who have gone before us and the camaraderie of those who are in it with us. Find a mentor. Find a wing woman. Find a friend. We all need someone in our corner. When you’re having those moments of self-doubt, let the voice of a trusted colleague drown out the doubt by building you up.

6. Forget feelings and focus on facts

We all struggle with doubts and fears and insecurities and all that. Particularly as women, we tend to get emotional about things. I know that’s a big generalization, and maybe you are an exception, but it is true for many of us. We let our emotions get in the way.

But don’t let those feelings get in the way of facts. Don’t let an emotion stop your momentum. Ask yourself about the facts. What factual evidence exists to suggest that you are less-qualified, undeserving, or whatever? If you don’t come up with any factual evidence to support these negative feelings, then by all means, cast them aside!

7. Take a deep breath

Be kind to yourself. You are better / stronger / smarter / <insert adjective> than you think you are most of the time. Be patient with herself. Be gracious with yourself. These thought patterns won’t be changed over night, but just take a deep breath and practice these skills. Little by little, day by day, your thoughts will indeed shift.

In Conclusion

Have you ever experienced these feelings? If so, have you found any coping mechanisms that have worked for you? I’d love to hear them! Let’s support and encourage one another in any way we can.

Finally, regarding the direction of this business series, I have a few topics in mind. But I am open to your suggestions! What questions can I answer for you? What topics can we discuss together? As you can tell, I’m passionate about this subject, and I’m excited to see where this business series takes us! Thanks for being a part of the discussion.


  1. Anabel says:

    Amazing article! I have a question how did you keep yourself motivated during times of self doubt? What were your happy thoughts that held you together when something did not go the way it was suppose to?

    1. Great question, Anabel! I appreciate you asking.

      I think what works for me is just doing the work. Nothing is more satisfying that getting stuff done!

      When outside circumstances go haywire, I just keep my nose to the grindstone and trust that, in the end, hard work and perseverance will pay off!

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