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.