I came across it in my students when I was lecturing at university. I come across it frequently in my coaching clients. And I've experienced it myself and sometimes still do.
What am I talking about?
We can be incredibly competent professionals with impressive CVs, accolades and awards. We can be flying high in our careers or producing wonderfully creative work. But we struggle to believe in ourselves.
We don't feel good enough. We battle with imposter syndrome. Who am I to be doing this work? Why would anyone pay me for that?
Sometimes, our low confidence halts our progression. We get so far but then give up on ourselves. We climb so high but then we get stuck.
Other times, we continue to rise to the top but we feel miserable. We can't relax because we never believe we're enough. Our perfectionism cripples us. We overcompensate by working too hard or giving too much. We feel no joy in our work. Eventually, we might burn out.
In my first career as a news journalist, I did all of the above. I climbed high but my low self-worth created a glass ceiling that I couldn't break through. I also struggled to enjoy my status or success. I was terrified of getting something wrong, of making a mistake. I gave too much of my time, too much of my life. And, eventually, I burnt out.
Low self-confidence and perfectionism do not disappear overnight. If we had them in one career, we'll carry them into the next. In my new career as a writer, speaker and coach, I can still try too hard, give too much and sometimes overcompensate for not feeling entirely good enough. I still have moments of imposter syndrome.
But I am out there, doing it, thanks to some tools I've developed over the years. These tools help me to counter those voices that tell me I'm not good enough so that I can live and work to my potential while enjoying myself and staying healthy and well - and so that I can coach others to do the same.
Here are a few of them:
- Connect with the bold, fearless and free child within
I have a photo of me when I was about seven years old. I'm wearing a bright red coat and I'm holding a scarf above my head as you'd do at a football match. I'm loud, proud and front of picture. I'm visible. And I have a huge smile on my face. That is who I am at my core. That is my true nature. That bold, fearless child lives within me. Yes, she had to deal with some difficult stuff over the years that knocked her confidence and dented her self-worth, but she survived. She's fierce, determined, playful and free. Whenever I'm struggling with confidence, I look at that picture and connect to the child within. She gives me courage to be me.
Do you have a photograph of yourself looking bold, fearless and free? Put that picture where you can see it and connect to it often, and especially when you feel scared or doubt yourself.
- Connect to your core and to your source through meditation
Meditation didn't come easy to me. I struggle to sit still and my mind jumps all over the place. But I've experienced the benefits of what is an imperfect meditation practice and I've studied enough about meditation to know how valuable it is. Meditation grounds me. It slows my body and mind. It connects me to my core, to my inner wisdom, to my higher self, to the child within and to my true feelings. It also connects me to something greater than myself, to something beyond myself that I can depend on or surrender to.
If you already meditate, try deepening your practice. If not, start gently, perhaps with one of the many meditation apps or by finding a guided meditation on YouTube.
- Affirm that you are equal; that you are good enough
In the past, I swung between feeling chronically less than others or feeling more than or superior to others. My goal today is to see myself as equal to others. It's easy to put people on pedestals, see them as gurus, authority figures or better than us, especially if we want something from them. I can fall into the trap of fearing magazine editors because I want them to publish my articles, or of fearing agents and publishers because I want them to publish my book. I can look at successful writers, speakers or coaches and feel less than. But we are all equal human begins. We all have different talents. We all have different paths in life. We are all at different stages. But we are equal. When I affirm to myself that I am equal to this person, that I am another human being just doing my best, I am able to speak to them naturally. And when I remember that they've probably got some confidence issues too, things get a lot easier.
Try saying affirmations out loud or writing them down on post-it notes around the house. Rather than putting others on pedestals, start seeing them as equals.
- Act as if or fake it to make it, because the world needs your talent
This tip goes against the grain in a way because I'm all about authenticity. I'm all about being ourselves. But sometimes, to get over chronic low self-worth, we have to act as if we believe in ourselves - we have to fake it to make it. I find it helpful to remember that so many hugely talented people struggle with imposter syndrome or self-doubt. You'll have heard of the actor who throws up before he goes on stage. But then he appears under the spotlight and nobody would ever know. If he didn't get out there, the play wouldn't go on. Similarly, your favourite painting or song or movie or novel might not exist if the artist had given up because of low confidence. The world needed those people to push through. It needs me to push through. And it needs you to push through too.
Think about the talent you are holding back or hiding away. Could it benefit someone? Could it touch somebody's life?
Believe in your competence. Go out there with confidence.
I'm delighted to have found the courage and confidence to share my gifts with the world.
Join me in London on Saturday April 21 for Love Yourself. Love Your Life. Find Love - an all-day version of my sold-out February evening workshop in partnership with Psychologies magazine and NOW Live Events. We'll be digging deep into self-love and self-worth. We'll be identifying our dreams and taking steps towards them. And we'll be understanding and changing our relationship patterns. Spaces limited. Watch this video for a flavour of my events.
Join me by the seaside in Dorset on a How to Fall in Love retreat on May 18-21. Two spaces left. Self-love, self-care, letting go, changing patterns, setting boundaries, creating a positive vision for our lives. Beach walks, sisterhood and cake.