Growing up, I was one of the “smart kids.” This came with a certain amount of pride and it was where I rooted most of my value and self-esteem. It never came easy for me though. I studied hard to get high grades. It seemed like there were some kids who just showed up to take the test and sailed through. For me, I spent hours and hours studying to get the grades I did. So even when I still achieved a decent mark, if it wasn’t above 90%, I got frustrated. I felt like I didn’t do enough; like I wasn’t actually smart. Like an impostor.
I’ll never forget a teacher announcing to the class that I did not get the highest mark of the class on a test. I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting in a crowd as my peers won awards at a business club conference, knowing that when it had come time to present in front of the judges, I had gotten nervous and bombed. Introverted and shy, I went into the competition shaking and nervous. I knew the material but to verbalize it to a judge made me freeze up and I choked. I felt like my classmates were judging me. “I thought she was smart – why didn’t she get an award?”
The immediate results of these instances was doubt in my intelligence.
Why can I get a high mark on a school test but freeze in front of judges? Maybe I’m not smart. Maybe those test marks were a fluke… Any minute people would find out that I really wasn’t as smart as they thought.
Sure, I achieved highest mark in marketing but what if anyone found out I failed a history test in the 7th grade?! Maybe my marks in my business courses were just a fluke.
Having thoughts like this are a symptom of what is known as Impostor Syndrome. It can be felt by anyone but women seem to experience it more than men. People who fall victim to Imposter Syndrome believe that despite proof of their success, they are a fraud. They believe that others are more competent; that they don’t deserve their successes; that they are unworthy of praise or achievements.
I know I’m not the only one. Lots of successful high powered achievers fall victim to it too. They don’t feel like they deserve the promotion they just got. They feel “lucky,” like they were just in the right place at the right time.
Which, to be honest, is complete BS.
We have to stop telling ourselves these things.
In the book The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman mention that confidence begets more confidence. Once you achieve success in one area, you are more likely to try and take risks in other areas of your life. “The confidence you get from mastery is contagious. It spreads. It doesn’t even really matter what you master… What matters is that mastering one thing gives you the confidence to try something else.”
One of the main reasons I am so in love with powerlifting is that it has taught me to lessen the occurrence of these Impostor Syndrome thoughts. When I’m in the gym, I stop focussing on what I can’t do and focus on what I CAN do. It’s just me versus the weights. It’s not chance or luck that allows me to deadlift over 300 pounds. You can’t fake it in powerlifting. You can either lift the weight or you can’t. There is no pretending.
But the confidence in my ability to lift those weights and the mental fortitude that I have achieved – from barely being able to do a bodyweight push-up to being able to lift more than 2x my body weight – has carried over to other parts of my life.
Has there ever been a time that you’ve felt like an impostor? Here are a few tips to help you deal with it next time those negative thoughts start to surface:
- Own your successes, whatever they are! Girl Boss Inc. has a great social media hashtag called #girlbossmoment. Whenever you achieve some measure of success, even if it’s something small like fixing your own website issue, going to the gym two days in a row or surviving a tough workweek, celebrate those successes. Join the movement online and read other’s successes online by using the #girlbossmoment hashtag.
- Stop comparing yourself to others and start thinking collaboratively. How can we help each other and work together? GirlsWhoPowerlift brings together women of the sport to praise one another; not compete with one another. This is the attitude we should be striving for in all areas of our lives.
- Sometimes just talking about how you’re feeling with someone else can help. Maybe it’s your mom (a gal is never too old to vent to her mom), your sister(s), a close group of friends or a Bible study group. You never know, they could be feeling the same thing. You can help lift up and encourage one another. Sown times all it takes is one gentle poke to get someone started on the path to success.
- Start a gratitude journal. Focus on the things you are grateful for: family, friends, health, blessings such as good weather, a roof over your head, food to eat every day… There are so many things to give thanks for!
- Give yourself a reality check: for me, knowing that God has put me in this place at this time and knowing that He is in control helps me to see that I am where I am because I’m supposed to be as part of a greater plan. I might not see what the grand plan is right now but usually when I look back I can start to see incredible connections and I know that my journey is not over but rather each day is a new growing experience and each new person I meet becomes part of the tapestry.
Do you have any other ideas on how to feel confident? Share them in the comments!