How to Dissolve Your Self-Doubt
The voice of self-doubt: “Who am I to…?” (1:10)
Comparison: the confidence quencher (5:20)
Playing it small and hiding vulnerabilities (6:50)
How to dissolve your self-doubt and increase your self-confidence (9:30)
Your turn… (11:50)
HOW TO DISSOLVE YOUR SELF-DOUBT
Do you ever stop in your tracks and think, “Hey, what if they find out I don’t know as much as they think I do?” If your answer to this is Yes, you’re in good company.
Many of us suffer from Impostor Syndrome. It frequently appears as crediting our success to outside factors – things like luck, the mistakes of others, or fate – instead of attributing it to our own skills, our own knowledge, our own hard work, and our own tenacity.
Here are a few ways I see Impostor Syndrome show up among emerging and established leaders…
THE VOICE OF SELF-DOUBT: “WHO AM I TO ...?”
I was recently working with an emerging leader in a one-to-one hot seat strategy session, and her dilemma was that she had skills, experience, and knowledge that could help a new hire be more successful and contribute more value to the team.
However, this emerging leader had not been asked or formally assigned to provide guidance to new hires. So, she wanted to support this person, but her internal questioning was, Who am I to do this? Is it okay since I was not asked? She was so clearly in that “Who am I to do that?” place.
These strategy sessions/hot seat sessions/spot coaching sessions are a big part of the work I do with emerging leaders. Each of these sessions lasts 15 minutes or less, and it’s an opportunity for a participant to bring forward a thought, a concept, or some resistance that they’re struggling with, something that’s holding them back in their work.
But instead of spending a lot of time on describing, processing, or explaining away, my role is to go in with laser focus and shine a light onto that underlying barrier, roadblock, or concern.
In this particular case, it was so clear to me that the participant was in the “Who am I to…?” place of the Impostor Syndrome and wanting outside validation instead of standing firmly in her own experience, skills, knowledge, and tenacity to help lift up her co-worker so they, too, could become a more valuable part of the team.
I asked her, “Can you give me three concrete examples of why you are qualified to help this new employee?” Oh man, was this easy for her. The three examples rolled right off her tongue—
I’ve been successful within the organization for many years,
I’ve managed many small projects similar to the one the new hire’s going to be managing, and
My strengths are attention to detail and organization, and this fully complements the new hire’s skill of building relationships.
As she listed those reasons, it became clear to her – almost in a comical way – that, “Yeah, I definitely have something of value to add.” And also that, yes, she was creating her own roadblocks with an internal thought of Who am I to…?
I could see the relief wash over her. And once she answered my question, she was ready to establish an action plan. This involved—
Letting go of the questioning that holds her back and keeps her from stepping up,
Talking to her director about ways she could see to support the new hire, and then
Partnering with the new hire, so both of their strengths are maximized, and the goals of the organization are achieved.
Another way the Impostor Syndrome shows up is through comparison…
COMPARISON: THE CONFIDENCE QUENCHER
Impostor Syndrome feeds on and is fueled by comparison. For example:
Your cousin’s Facebook announcement about their new promotion quickly turns into you beating yourself up about not progressing on your own career path quickly enough.
A teammate receives accolades for finding a problem on the profit and loss sheet, and this causes you to recede and beat yourself up for not being good enough at reading financial statements.
Comparison is to confidence as water is to fire. In fact, comparison has been called “an act of violence to the self.” So, next time you are tempted to turn the strengths and successes of others into recrimination about yourself: breathe, center yourself, and bring yourself back to the truth, which is that the only person you have any ability to manage and control is yourself.
Just as you would add logs to a fire to keep it roaring, remind yourself of the strengths and skills you possess, and then focus your energy and attention on building your own skills.
PLAYING IT SMALL AND HIDING VULNERABILITIES
I spend so much time working with emerging leaders who are still holding themselves really small in their role. They don’t stand firmly in their unique space because, frankly, they’re afraid they’re not going to be able to do it well. Equally important to knowing your strengths is being open about and embracing your vulnerabilities and those places where it would benefit you to grow.
As I watch people trying to move forward in their roles – for example, trying to get elected, trying to take on a leadership role, or asking for people’s confidence – I don’t look at them and try to determine who’s the expert or which person knows it all. I’m trying to determine which candidate has the most self-awareness, is honest enough to admit what isn’t within their strengths, and is vulnerable enough to surround themselves with people who have those strengths.
In other words, I am not looking to get behind a faker.
When you try to compensate for, or cover up, the areas where you don’t feel skilled or strong, you actually begin to foster mistrust instead of trust. In turn, this erodes your trust in yourself, and the Impostor voice that’s screaming for your attention just gets louder.
But if you choose to be aware and open, about both your strengths and your gaps, and then ask for help, mentorship, or a partnership for the areas where you need it, you’re not choosing to play it safe – you’re choosing to step into an amazing trajectory of growth, development, and opportunity.
And in that space, people are perfectly comfortable lining up to help you be more successful.
HOW TO DISSOLVE YOUR SELF-DOUBT AND INCREASE YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE
So, short of engaging in a coaching session with me, here are some steps that you can start taking today to dissolve your self-doubt and increase your self-confidence—
Get insight from others
Ask people you know – people you believe have a high level of self-awareness and the ability to speak their truth – to tell you what they see as your greatest strengths. Also ask them to identify three areas where they believe you would benefit from mentorship, support, or collaboration.
And then ask with curiosity about the strengths of the people around you. That way, you’ll know who you might partner with or collaborate with in any areas where you don’t feel as strong or as passionate as you might want to.
Increase your self-awareness
Make a list of the top four or five pieces of evidence you see which indicate that, yes, you do have expertise and knowledge. Then identify the top three to five areas where you don’t feel that strong. Be honest. Don’t pretend, don’t fake expertise, and be clear about what you’re interested in and passionate about.
When that Impostor voice speaks up inside of you and tries to get you to stay small, pull out your lists and lean into your strengths.
And when new opportunities and challenges come your way, be realistic and honest about what aspects are within your zone of strength and where you will be working on your edge. Be fully comfortable communicating that, and jump in!
Are you ready to step up to the next level of leadership growth and development? If so, check out my coaching, consulting, and learning opportunities to find out all the different ways you can access support from me and my team.
There’s nothing I’m more passionate about than helping leaders step forward and begin to work with self-awareness and clarity – and to empower others to do the same.
This post was originally published on March 24, 2016 and has been updated