If you’re an introvert like me who sees any “confidence boosting” tip online as the tastiest click bait in the online ocean, you’ll have read this common piece of advice:
Fake it till you make it.
Right? Of course! That’s what we have to do to appear more confident: just FAKE IT! Like anything in life we struggle with, apparently “faking” our skill level gets us to where we want to be.
…Wait, what? Not for me.
One of the reasons I lack confidence in many situations is I feel like an imposter. Like I’m a total fake, just waiting to be found out. I felt this way on my first job as a junior web designer, when I had little experience with design programs like Dreamweaver. Years later, I still felt this way when I started my own freelance design career. I wasn’t even sure that I was invoicing my clients correctly.
My own experience with feeling like a fake–which is called imposter syndrome–was one of the reasons I founded a community for creative introverts. What I found was imposter syndrome is particularly common in the introverted clients I work with. I haven’t found any hard evidence to support why introverts might suffer from imposter syndrome more than extroverts, but blogger Laura Woods offers a plausible answer:
“Introverts tend to be highly, perhaps overly, analytical and self-aware. It could be that the root of imposter syndrome is really just self-absorption: spending too much time worrying about yourself and how others see you.”
However, imposter syndrome doesn’t affect just introverts. Interestingly, there are plenty of outwardly confident people who are struck by this fraudulent feeling too. Celebrities such as Natalie Portman have openly admitted to feeling insecure about their abilities. When arriving at Harvard as a freshman, she reported:
“I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
So basically, no one is safe from feeling like a fraud—regardless of achievement or fame. So what can be done to shake imposter syndrome? Here are five pieces of advice I share with my clients:
1. Give yourself an appraisal.
This is particularly useful if your boss does not take an active role in helping you grow in your career. It’s also helpful if you’re self-employed and there isn’t anyone else to give you positive feedback. So you need to be the one to supply it. First, list any achievements that you’re proud of. Next, ask yourself what are your skills? Or what kinds of things could you talk about for hours? Introverts tend to be overly hard on themselves, but chances are you’re better than the vast majority of people at certain things.
2. Remember that awareness is a good thing.
The sheer fact that you’re critical about your abilities is a sign that you care. A key ingredient to mastering anything is to care enough about it that you want to improve. If the greats felt imposter syndrome (and they did), then you can put yourself on the same path—the tumultuous path to mastery. Jennifer Mattern, a.k.a the “Grumpy Introvert,” explains, “True frauds (how’s that for an oxymoron?) don’t admit to any problems, insecurities, or fears.”
3. Make a “feel good” file.
This is a file—physical or digital—where you save all the positive testimonials, kind words, praise, and thanks you’ve ever received. Include emails, letters, messages on social media, and texts that have made your day. Every time you need a confidence boost, remind yourself of your greatness by flicking through this file.
4. Spend time with those who lift you up.
While it’s easy to get stuck in our own bubble when dealing with a dip in confidence, one of the best things we can do is surround ourselves with others who will pull us out of our slump. Former Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post UK Carla Busazi recommends a glass of wine or a lunch with someone who can reassure you that are worthy, brilliant, and fully deserving of your success.
Conversely, take a step back from those who make you feel inadequate, whether intentionally or not. Some people will only remind you of your flaws and ultimately contribute to your lack of confidence.
5. Keep a journal.
Every day make a note of one thing you achieved or felt good about that day. Some use daily affirmations to train their brain into feeling more confident, but I recommend starting with achievements because they are more concrete and measurable. It doesn’t matter if it seems insignificant. Maybe your accomplishment is as simple as going to the gym today or completing an item on your to-do list that has been nagging you. The practice of writing these accomplishments down will ultimately increase your self-confidence and belief in your abilities. Jo Haigh, Senior Partner at FDS, explains, “What we who suffer have to learn is how to manage it and not let it destroy any ability we have to deliver.”
Whatever you do—don’t let imposter syndrome or lack of confidence hold you back.
Read this: Introverts’ Top 3 Career Challenges
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