Last modified 16/06/23

Bye bye imposter syndrome, hello solid confidence

by Elizabeth Van Den Bergh

Why I hate that there is so much talk about imposter syndrome and what I want you to focus on instead. 

This is a LinkedIn post turned long read article jam-packed with great tips to build and maintain solid confidence. It also applies to men and other, of course. Wouldn’t want to exclude anyone.

Dear talented woman,

I know there is a lot of talk on imposter syndrome out there. 

But all this talk makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I hate that.

I want to see more applause for confident women who stand out and speak up.

I entirely agree with Cindy Gallop, who claims: “There is no such thing as imposter syndrome. There are only people, especially women, who have not been appreciated, valued, celebrated, championed and rewarded in the way they deserve.”

Of course we all have our moments of doubt and self-criticism. A moment of doubt is entirely normal. But it should be just a moment not a hardwired habit. 

If it has become the latter, let’s start noticing and start rewiring. 

What we really should stop doing is

You might recognize one of these three behaviors that are common, but not helpful.

1. Questioning or doubting ourselves too much

I know from the front row, easier said than done. But hear me out.

In wanting to do well, of course we question whether we are doing a good job and wonder what we might be doing wrong. So behind this process is a positive intention. Let’s keep it positive. We are a beautiful work in progress. 

We can be the master and be really good at something. And still be the student, always improving our craft. Master AND student.

Example: “I have so much expertise on storytelling. I can teach and inspire others. And at the same time there is more for me to learn on the topic.”

2. Taking things personally

There’s absolutely no need really to take anything personal. A person’s reaction tells us everything about the other person and nothing about ourselves.

Because we can never know what others really think. So we might as well stop assuming to know what others think. 

What we think others think is actually what we think.

Example: you’re speaking for an audience and someone is not paying attention. Notice whether you think ‘Surely what I am saying is not interesting.’ or ‘I hope all is oké and this person is not receiving a text message about his/her kid being ill.’.

3. Keep looking for our flaws

We all have some, we are only human. Let’s focus on being flawsome. Embracing our flaws and be awesome regardless.

We look for flaws out of self-protection. There is this weird logic behind it ‘If I identify my shortcomings, it’ll be less painful if someone else does it.’ You see the parallel with difficulty accepting compliments?

You might have become very skilled in doing the above and in criticising yourself. 

But careful because the price is high, this so-called self-protection can turn into self-sabotage.

Please actively unlearn. Notice when the negative talk starts and what it says. 

If you say things to yourself that you would never say to your best friend, that’s your sign you are not on the right self-talk track. 

What we should focus on instead

I am learning to see my doubtful thoughts as separate from me.

And speak to them: ‘Oh hello doubtful thought, so nice you showed up in this moment, I see you, you take a back seat and get out of my way. I let you exist, you let do my thing.”

Here’s a list of tips. It’s not meant to be exhausting. It’s meant to be plentiful so you can identify exactly those tips that will make a big difference for you.

1. Train our confidence muscle

The good news is that our confidence is a muscle that we can train. 

Training that muscle is a practice, to incorporate in our daily routines, like brushing our teeth. 

And we train it by taking (bold) action everyday and celebrate that we did.

2. Redirect our thoughts

Our self-doubt is fed by our thoughts. Luckily we are not our thoughts. We have the power to think different thoughts.

Different thoughts lead to different feelings, lead to different actions.

Example: Imagine a speaker on stage who thinks ‘I wish this was over soon’, now imagine a speaker who thinks ‘When I speak it matters’.

“Once you realize the power of your thoughts, you will never think a negative thought again.”

3. Value ourselves and our work

To value ourselves and our work is not what we learned at school, which is weird if you think of it. We were taught to be critical and questions ourselves. 

If we send ‘I don’t value my work vibes’ into the world, that’s what others will pick up. And vice versa.

It is our job to value our work.

4. Keep believing we deserve the best.

Because ultimately in life, we get what we believe we deserve.

So this is an excellent question to reflect on: “What do I deep down inside of me, believe I am worthy of?”

5. Keep working on our own resilience.

There is no success without failure. It’s about getting up again, learn the lesson and move on. And sometimes we are soooo tired, then we pause and stop. But don’t give up. Never give up on yourself.

As W. Churchill so wisely said: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” 

Or maybe you prefer Stephen McCranie: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”

Failing fast is the number one tip in the book “The Confidence code” by Claire Shipman and Katty Clay. Ultimately it’s action that builds confidence. 

6. Start questioning whether you are operating in an appreciative context. 

Ooooh, this one might hit home. Are the people you are surrounded with appreciative of you and your work?

I am sure you have read Jim Rohn’s quote: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The people you spend the most time with shape who you are.

Be very careful of who you allow to influence you.

7. Give yourself credit

Do good work and be loud about it. If you don’t give credit to your work to start with, no one else will either. 

Don’t buy into the myth: “If you work hard, someone will notice and reward you.”

I recommend the book “Brag Better” by Meredith Fineman, if you struggle with giving credit to yourself. Spoiler alert: it is about stating facts. The hard facts of your great work.

I have a worksheet on bragging better, dm me if you want to receive it.

8. Hold a long term vision

Focus on what you want to achieve in the long run. And stay true to your values. Good things take time.

The cliché is so true: it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Whatever field of work you are in, it will be a bumpy ride. Enjoy the views and the encounters during the journey.

More tips 

Initially I published this article as a LinkedIn post and many extra tips were shared in the comments. I am adding them here, because they are such great additions.

9 Gather cheerleaders around you

Surround yourself with people who genuinely have your best interest at heart and cheer you on in a constructive way. 

10. Accumulate small successes.

Keep moving and build confidence from small successes.

When we start giving attention to our small wins, we can quickly become more positive.

11. Find yourself a supportive partner

No doubt the person closest to us will have a lot of influence on our personal success.

Do they support our dreams or not, do they share the load at home or not, do they help us grow or not. Remember number 4.

12. You can’t be what you can’t see

As women, we often times lack representation when it comes to looking for role models/ mentors.

I do believe great role models exist, but might be hard to find sometimes.

“Should we also teach girls from an early age your tips so that our future generations become more self-confident so we can weed out ‘imposter syndrome’?” – I truly hope so.

13. Collect compliments

Keep a compliment journal or a create a special folder in your mailbox to collect compliments. You can glance at them every morning or when needed.

14. Affirmations

“I often challenge negative and self-limiting thoughts by reframing them in a more positive and empowering way. I replace self-doubt with self-belief and affirmation.”

Link to great speaker affirmations coming soon.

15. Physical and mental wellbeing

“Moving forward is a constant journey, taking care of myself physically and mentally has been the biggest thing to help me not give up.”

Yes, yes, absolutely so true. Sometimes all we need is a mental health day, taking it slow, doing some exercise.

Ideally this is part of our daily routine, I struggled with this for years. Because I was still fine, or at least I thought so, and the kids simply required too much time and care.

16. Say goodbye to perfectionism

“And I simply see myself as a human – I do not want to attain perfection anymore, so I am allowed to fail, it’s part of life. It sucks, but we can’t do without it.”

Perfection is not our friend. Perfection keeps us stuck. Instead good enough should be our friend.

17. Take back the lead.

This is a great tip. It has happened to me on more than one occasion that I thought I was calling the shots, but really I was living up to other people’s expectations, or what I imagined what other people’s expectations were, and not mine.

Don’t forget to check who is in the driver seat of your life. Your heart and soul or other people’s fears, opinions and expectations?

18. Align with your inner essence.

“[I feel doubtful ] when I’m not aligned with my inner essence. When I’m acting based on (an unconscious) “I should”. By becoming aware of the “I should” and (slowly but steady) turning that into “I want” and “ I will”.

19. Ask for help

Nobody does it alone. And we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. 

I find this one a really difficult one, still. Because of my inner programming ‘I must be strong, I got this, I can do this alone.”

I am shifting it towards ‘It’s okay to be tired, I don’t have to do this by myself, I can ask for help.’

Final words

Cheers to appreciating, valuing, celebrating, championing and rewarding all people who are doing great work, starting with ourselves.

PS: If you want to embark on your own confidence journey and get ready to go on any stage you ever dreamed off, get in touch and book your free call.