Stretch, Grow & Thrive: Building The Confidence to Defeat The Impostor
Unbeknownst to you, you’ve already begun your confidence-building practice, thanks to your recent discovery of the Growth Mindset. Here’s how it breaks down: Step 1: Accepting that you’re going to fail daily, perhaps multiple times, as a result of the 35,000 decisions made each-and-every day! Step 2: These mistakes do not add up to you being a “failure”, but rather a work in progress. Step 3: If, with every failure, you learn a lesson to apply for the future, you’re ready to enjoy the feeling of confidence! Try all of these on for size; There’s no shame in failure— that’s saved for lost opportunities.
Sadly, the Impostor Syndrome constricts more talented people than chronic illness and diabetes. These otherwise healthy victims are letting priceless opportunities glide right by. The Impostor makes us our own worst enemies, causing us to bully ourselves harshly in an instinctive attempt to protect ourselves with armor. It’s called basic survival, as our primitive brain instinctually knows that if we can convince ourselves to play it safe, we’ll be safe. Although we as humans fear shame more than physical pain, our executive brain (the Prefrontal Cortex) knows the opposite is true; if we don’t take chances and stretch, we can’t grow and thrive.
The solution is to take the title of decisionmaker away from the Impostor. Simply prove her wrong and shut her down! Look with perspective at what you’ve done in your life— the challenges you’ve overcome, the successes you’ve achieved, and the lessons learned from your failures. This thoughtful exercise will conspicuously confiscate energy from the helpless servant known as the impostor and hand it over to the captain of your journey: You!
When you shift the Impostor’s initial frantic reaction of “why me?” to “why NOT me?”, your confidence muscle bulks up. The secret is to incorporate a celebration practice into your life. Confidence will allow you to recognize that you DO have the resources for accomplishment, whether it be the expertise, the network, the tenacity, or the willingness to stick with it. Confidence is the BELIEF. And because of that belief, your ship can set sail on unchartered waters. Celebration will then serve to retrain your brain so the impulse of belief in yourself is strengthened, prompting you to stretch, grow and master.
So How Do You Build Confidence?
It sounds complicated and mystical, but takes reflection, self-compassion, a growth mindset and perspective. Grab a pen and paper, a cup of tea or glass of wine, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Begin to consider some ‘wins’ from your past. You may, of course, think about workplace situations and personal scenarios:
- When have you been under the gun, or found yourself in dire circumstances?
- How did it feel at first? What were your thoughts? What did you do?
- How did you handle the crisis?
- What were the positive impacts of your thoughts, actions and behaviors?
- What would you do differently if that situation came about again, right now?
Next, acknowledge that you’ve been resourceful in your past. Do NOT discount the wins, for it’s the hundreds of tiny successes you experience each day that can serve to build your confidence over time. Take a few moments to honor yourself with a “way to go” or “rock on” or “thanks for being brave”. How does it feel? You’ve just taken your first step to managing the impostor! The next step will take you about three minutes each day, and the rewards will come back to you a million-fold.
I once again invite you to begin journaling. Add a twist to the gratitude journal you may have started last month or step into your identity as a journaler starting today! As you’re considering what you’re grateful for, marinate on three things you did today to contribute to your career, your team, your job or your clients. Be grateful for these actions instead of rushing over the grit and resilience you employ daily. Recognize all you do.
What’s that? You feel some resistance in your attempt to feel accomplished? Past DRIVEN clients have found it challenging to accept this notion, considering it boastful, bragging and immodest. But such thinking is like an energy drink for the Impostor. Instead of thinking, “Yes, I helped my teammate solve the problem, but that’s just part of my job”, reframe it to, “Yes and I’m good at it. I have an expertise and I’m contributing.”
A confidence journal is potent. Not only does it force you to recognize just how much you actually do and are capable of doing, but it serves as a living document— a running history of your growth, your stumbles and challenges, and how you’ve overcome setbacks. When reviewed, the journal has the power to build your confidence. So, after a week of journaling, take five minutes to thumb through. Good stuff? All adds up? How does it make you feel?
A Confidence Journal is a great first step. Exponential growth comes when you incorporate a celebration practice into your life. More on that in my next article.