Imposter Syndrome…am I really as capable as I think I am?

We all have moments when we are hit by thoughts and feelings of doubt. That’s normal.

Periods of intense and prolonged stress, like a pandemic, can sometimes make thoughts like this more pronounced. One of the most common themes I hear as a coach from women and men alike, is overall just a desire to feel more confident. To feel confident that yes, we are just as capable as we think we are. And as a coach, I KNOW you are actually more capable than you think you are. But that’s the thing, YOU need to know it too. Here are three confidence derailers and strategies to tap into your inner greatness.

  1. Seeking approval
  2. Self-deprecation
  3. Self-talk 

First: Seeking approval: We all want approval. We are social creatures and crave a sense of belonging. But sometimes we go overboard, and this can hinder self-confidence.

Consider how often you ask for feedback. If you ask for feedback every time you finish a project or complete a task, you are perpetuating an external locus of affirmation and missing an opportunity to discover what you really think or feel about your success. Before you ask that trusted person for feedback, consider your own thoughts of self-evaluation. Ask yourself three important questions.

  1. Did I stay true to my mission and values?
  2. What did I do well?
  3. What did I learn?

If you answer these questions and you discover a clear failure, do you really need to hear about it from eight other people as well? Okay, suppose you answer these questions and genuinely don’t know what you could do to be better. When you ask for feedback, eliminate questions like, “how did I do?” or “what do you think?”. Instead be specific about what you want to know. For example:  “How could I have conveyed this point more effectively?” or “What are some other ways I could have provided enough context?” The more we look inside ourselves for approval, the greater opportunity for an accurate confidence boosting self-assessment. When you answer: Did I stay true to my missions and values? What did I do well? And What did I learn? you will watch your confidence grow.

Second: Self-deprecation

Consider this, you finish a project and receive praise from colleagues and leaders around you. Or perhaps you gain a big promotion. As much as we want to be recognized we also want to be humble. And bigger than that, we DON”T want to sound arrogant or be perceived as puffed up. Pay attention to how you respond to praise and recognition.Eliminate statements like, “Oh, I have so much more to learn about this subject and I’m sure I could have been more effective.” Or, “Actually, I just got lucky today.” When you diminish your own success, you are diminishing the experience of the colleague offering the praise. When someone offers you praise, try this instead….

“Thank you.”

Third: Self-talk

The third skill requires a bit more reflection. The first two are about new behaviors to try out and this third one is about developing some self-awareness before trying out a new behavior. And I know you are up for the challenge! We all have a voice in our head. This is the voice assessing danger, analyzing others and evaluating your own behavior. Our mind is working so fast we rarely even notice the incessant chatter. Imagine you have just finished that big project I mentioned earlier. Stop and pay attention. Slow down the thoughts in your mind just long enough to notice what you might have been thinking. It may have been something like this, “I rushed at the beginning. I forgot to present that statistic. I missed the point on that one question.” Given our brains are primed for problem solving, many of us naturally go this route, essentially looking for problems so we can solve them! There are two steps to address this confidence derailer:

  1. Recognize what you are saying to yourself.
  2. Choose your own chatter. Maybe say to yourself: “I was consistent with my values. I remembered the most important points. I learned “X”. And most important, I did it!”

So, yes, you really are as capable as you think you are! Try out these strategies to address common confidence derailers or connect with a professional coach to design your own unique plan to become the best version of yourself. You will be glad you did! 

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