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How to overcome impostor syndrome and boost self-confidence

Self-doubt is a common and quite natural phenomenon when you come to your first job or take on a new project. It manifests in self-doubt and the search for external approval, not allowing you to approve yourself well. Impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt. This is when your confidence in your abilities is less than the opinion of others about your competence. 

Most people experience impostor syndrome at least once in their lifetime. In this case, their thoughts might be something like: “I'm not ready for this,” “I don't have enough experience/knowledge to do this," “I have to earn this position/project,” etc. If such thoughts stimulate you to further development and self-improvement, then you should not worry. But when you constantly say to yourself: “I'm a loser,” it's already a problem that should be discussed with a psychologist.

How to prevent self-doubt?

Self-doubt during the employment process results from the wrong attitude to the job search and some mistakes.

Let's consider five typical mistakes that lead to self-confidence:

Exaggerated expectations for the first job

After studying, people often imagine their dream job, which does not coincide with reality. And that's normal.

Therefore, it is better to perceive the situation with the first job like this: you arrive in a new city, get off at the train station, and then look around and decide where you should go next in this unfamiliar city. The first job is an opportunity to get professional integration and understand what's what and how it works in practice.

Lack of understanding of the situation in the job market

Before entering a new industry, it is worth understanding what is happening there now: the geographical distribution of employment, people with which backgrounds are more frequently hired, etc. It means that you should not believe posts in social networks; instead, talking to people who have worked for a long time in the field that interests you is better.

Non-acquaintance with the employer company

Imagine the situation: you send many of your CVs to different companies. Then you are invited to a job interview and know almost nothing about this company. And you come, and they ask you: "How can you be useful to our company?" And you don't know how long this company has been on the market, whether they rebranded, or what products they produced. Of course, in this case, you will have nothing to offer the employer. And that's why the chances of getting a job in this company will be off-chance. That is why it is essential to learn more about a potential employer. Make a personal list of companies where you would like to work, which are suitable for you in line with the company's activity, values, etc., and carefully collect as much information as possible about each. Then you won't have to blush at the job interview.

Lack of a career goal or dwelling on a career goal

A frequent question at the interview is, “Who do you see yourself in our company after N years?”. Only some job seekers can answer it. However, this answer shows what a person is striving for and whether he is striving for anything.

Another situation is when, for example, you are studying to become a recruiter, but you dream of becoming an HR professional. And you come to the interview and say that you see yourself as an HR manager in two years. But this company already has such a specialist or specialists, and there are no plans to increase the number of such positions. In addition, you can get valuable and exciting experience while working as a recruiter.

Incomprehension of your strengths

When you create your curriculum vitae, you should clearly understand your strengths and weaknesses. You need to either strengthen your weaknesses, for example, take additional studies, or not mention them in your CV. We will talk about such an audit of your strengths/weaknesses below.

If you avoid these mistakes, you will have fewer job rejections, and your self-esteem will not suffer.

How to feel more confident when looking for a job?

When we enter the employment market, we start selling our “goods”: knowledge, skills, experience, etc. Therefore, it is worth critically analyzing this product's quality, zest, and “wrapper”. And when the product is not sold, it is necessary to think about whether it looks unattractive or did we come to offer it in the wrong place.

Look at yourself as a business project and the hiring process as a commercial proposal for cooperation.

Employers do not take very kindly to a person who comes and starts literally begging for a job: "Please give me something, at least somewhere, because life has pushed me into a corner. I need money...". In fact, this is not the kind of person an employer will want to take on the team, even if a high-level specialist came to the job interview.

Consider your CV a commercial proposal for cooperation and the employer as a future business partner. Pay attention to how they communicate with you at the job interview and what they offer you. Employment is when you sell a set of skills and are sold a position. And you and your employer are negotiating.

If, as a result of such negotiations, you receive a rejection, be sure to find out what the problem is so that you can work on these points and improve your offer in the future.

Create a business model of yourself as a specialist. Here are its main components:

  • Knowing yourself: strengths and weaknesses
  • Understanding the market and industry you are going into
  • Planning skills to set a goal you want to reach
  • Personal management skills: motivation, self-organization
  • Personal marketing skills: because you sell yourself when you come to get a job, when you communicate with specialists, etc.

Where does the impostor syndrome come from?

Self-esteem affects self-confidence and, therefore, can cause impostor syndrome. If we do not see the level of self-esteem in other people, then our confidence or self-doubt already has external manifestations in our behavior.

How insecurity is forming and how we evaluate ourselves

A child is not born with self-doubt. Someone forms it. And here is what you need to understand to prevent the development of self-doubt:

  • Factor I: what reference people think, say, translate about me in the way of behavior, that is, those who influence you. First, these are parents, and then — our closest environment in childhood (siblings, aunts, and uncles, grandparents).
  • Factor II: My own experience. What are my successes and failures? If I have more success from my own experience, then my self-esteem is higher, and I am more self-confident.

In our childhood, reference people put a particular set of statements about us in our heads, which develop into beliefs. And later, we don't even remember why we treat something in a certain way or behave in certain situations, just like that and not otherwise.

A belief is a hypothesis that needs no proof. Our beliefs are most often not realized by us.

Our beliefs can be both supportive and limiting. Some of them help us to go further and achieve our goals, and some of them, on the contrary, prevent us from moving forward. This set of beliefs becomes a filter by which we evaluate the results of our actions — we state success or failure. That is why, all other things being equal, one person will say to himself: “I got a fantastic experience. What a good man I am!” and the other will sorrow: “I'm a loser; I shouldn't have started.”

Examples of limiting and supporting beliefs

Limiting beliefs:

  • You have to earn a good attitude toward yourself.
  • You are good, and we love you when you do/don't do something (that is, we love you under some conditions).
  • It is better not to praise because you will overpraise.
  • Who are you to have your own opinion?
  • Don't mess with anything you don't know.
  • The higher you climb, the harder you fall.

Beliefs about yourself are closely related to your attitude to money. If you ask yourself the following questions: “Why can't I earn more? Why do I face a salary ceiling?” think about it, isn't this your belief, which says that earning more is dangerous, having a higher position is also dangerous because you will “fall painfully”?

Examples of supporting beliefs:

  • A professional has made the most mistakes in one direction.
  • Any criticism of me is an opportunity for my development.
  • I believe in you, and you can do it.
  • No matter your life mistakes, I will always love and support you.
  • You deserve the best in life.
  • There are no others like you in the world; you are unique and can do extraordinary things.
  • You always choose the best possible solution.

Here the question arises: who should tell us all these words? It is good if your parents and those around you speak such supportive comments, but if no one tells you this? In this case, learning to say this to yourself is very important.

Impostor syndrome: is it a pathology or a variant of the norm?

Most people think that impostor syndrome is a bad thing. In fact, this is a manifestation of self-doubt, and it should not be considered that this is a pathological phenomenon that you must fight. In general, this is a psychological phenomenon in which a person suffers from insecurity in his abilities and achievements and cannot accept his personal successes.

There are the following types of impostor syndrome:

  • A person believes he is not who he pretends to be and is afraid that his “incompetence” will be revealed.
  • A person is sure that what he does is up to anyone, so he is nothing in a professional sense.

Impostor syndrome can be considered a standard psychological mechanism that happens at least once in any person's life. But if the impostor syndrome does not go away for a long time, it can lead to anxiety or depression in a person.

Usually, impostor syndrome can happen to anyone who takes new steps in the professional direction. He learns something, grows professionally, and masters new work areas.

When a person doubts himself, he begins to work on his weaknesses and improve his strengths so that he no longer doubts and thus grows professionally.

What to do with impostor syndrome: practical techniques

Impostor syndrome is a good marker that you are not an impostor and are moving in the right direction. But sometimes, the emotions associated with a person's lack of confidence in their competence are exhausting.

In this case, you can use the following techniques.

Auditing of your skills

Divide skills into groups:

  1. Something I can do very well.
  2. Something I know how to do but doubt my skill level.
  3. Something I know but haven't tried to do yet.

Such an audit will help you check the quality of your own “goods” and understand what you have and lack to interest an employer. In addition, such a table will be helpful when you make a CV.

The second group is often the largest. In this case, check the level of your skills at last. You can ask one of your colleagues or those who know you well to rate your skills. Feedback is invaluable in professional development. 

Moreover, there is an opinion that impostor syndrome can occur when we do not have feedback about our work. That is, when you work, work, and no one tells you whether you are working well. And you need help to figure it out.

The third group also sets the direction of your development. If, for example, you are offered a job related to something you know but have not yet tried to do, you will understand that now you can develop these skills. Or you needn't discuss these skills at all in the job interview.

So, this is one of the ways to understand which skills you want to develop and which ones you don't need right now, and you won't pay attention to them and spend time developing them just yet.

Other techniques for overcoming impostor syndrome

  1. Give yourself an answer to the question: “Am I following my path, or am I taking someone else's place?” Try yourself somewhere in another field of activity, or take a break. And then listen to yourself: does it pull back or not?
  2. Consider the answer to the question: “If I have doubts about my level of professionalism, how could I improve it?”.
  3. Fix all your small and big victories on paper, and develop the habit of summing up for a certain period: a week, a month, half a year, a year.
  4. Find a belief that forces you to devalue your successes and the achievements of loved ones.

How to find the beliefs that limit you?

Here are some points to consider:

  • What do you believe about yourself, your professional success?
  • What did your parents believe about your abilities and future professional success?
  • What did other important people from childhood think about you or certain life situations?
  • What were you told as a child about you and your abilities?
  • What childhood events are connected with your attitude towards yourself or certain life situations?
  • What decisions have you made regarding yourself, your abilities, and your professional success?

What's next? Here is an example of working with limiting beliefs:

  1. Searching for the limiting belief.
  2. Reframing a limiting belief into a supporting resource belief.
  3. Trying on a new supportive belief. For example, you live with a new belief for a week or a month.
  4. Refinement of the supportive belief. Specifying or supplementing the verbal formulation of the belief.
  5. Developing the habit of “using” a new belief. It develops gradually, so it is essential to control yourself and not return to the form of a limiting belief.
The following metaphor can be used as an example. You have been walking to the store on the same path all your life, and now you have decided to change the route. The new way is unfamiliar to you, but it is full of new things and may turn out to be more interesting.

Reconstructing your limiting beliefs and considering personal experiences will help you improve your self-esteem.

A skills audit will become the basis for forming a business model of yourself as a specialist and help you create a CV that interests an employer. Avoid common mistakes when looking for a job, and impostor syndrome, if it occurs, will only be beneficial.

See more in the video on our channel.

Yevheniia Stentsel
Beetroot Academy blog author