I was at an event recently with around 100 other women, all very experienced doctors, accomplished and excellent at what they do.
And yet most of the women I chatted with confessed that they were experiencing imposter syndrome being there.
Feeling that they didn’t have as much to contribute, they didn’t have enough experience, they weren’t doing enough, and they didn’t belong in the room with all these other successful women.
And I resonated. Because I was also feeling like this. Not good enough. As if I was about to get “found out”.
And then I took a breath, and I remembered. I’d been here before.
I knew what to do.
I reminded myself that the intense self-doubt was an understandable reaction, but it didn’t mean it was true.
I remembered that my self-doubt is to be expected when I’m stretching the edges of my comfort zone – it is here to protect me and keep me safe – but I don’t have to be silenced by it.
By dropping my awareness into my body and choosing to lean into the energy of connection and curiosity (two of my values) to keep me rooted in my purpose and intention for the day – I was able to show up, learn and deepen relationships with my colleagues. And I had a brilliant rest of the day.
But I haven’t always been able to navigate self doubt like this.
There’s been many a time previously where I’ve not been able to show up in the way that I wanted because the imposter syndrome felt too much and the voice of self-doubt too loud.
I’ve missed out on career opportunities because I’ve not felt qualified/experienced/good/confident enough to speak up and put myself forward.
And I know I’m not alone. The majority of my 1-1 clients, at the start of our work together, admit to experiencing imposter syndrome and/or self doubt which is impacting their career and their wellbeing.
And this is one of the reasons that I do the work that I do. Because a huge part of thriving in our careers is about building inner confidence and self trust – so we can step forward to make the difference in the world that we long to – in both big and small ways.
But why do so many of us experience imposter syndrome and self doubt?
- From an evolutionary perspective, as women we are built to compare ourselves to others so we can assess how we belong and “fit in” with others. Because our brains are wired to focus on the negative by default, we often end up comparing our achievements and abilities negatively, and so imposter syndrome pops up.
- Our working lives have historically been focused on the masculine culture of competition over collaboration so we are used constantly doubting and appraising ourselves
- On first impressions in professional scenarios it’s often quicker to get a sense of achievements and experience rather than what someone’s values and beliefs are.
- Because we are taught that confidence is about being 100% sure of ourselves and looks like being the loudest person in the room – we’re told that you can’t be confident if you’re quiet and gentle (not true)
- And because we sometimes hear confident women being referred to negatively – “she’s full of herself,” “who does she think she is?!” and so it feels safer to doubt ourselves and focus on what we’re lacking, so that no-one ever accuses us of being “too big for her boots”.
Some reflection points to consider:
Bring to mind a situation where you’re experiencing self doubt or imposter syndrome:
- Consider the reasons you might be experiencing this from the list above (and consider if there’s any other reasons not mentioned above)
- Reflect on how your self doubt and/or imposter syndrome serving you positively here? (eg protecting you from failure, stopping you from being visible etc)
- Instead of being led by self doubt and imposter syndrome, what values would you prefer to be led by instead?
- How does this change things for you?
- What does authentic confidence look like for you? How would you act, feel and be? How would you show up if you were 100% authentically confident?
If you would like some support overcoming imposter syndrome, then get in touch here