impostor syndromeIf you’re an introvert like me, who sees any “confidence boosting'” tip online as the tastiest link bait in the online ocean, you’ll have read this common piece of advice: “Fake it ’til you make it.” Right? Of course! That’s what we have to do to appear more confident: just fake it.

Like anything in life we struggle with, “faking” our skill level gets us to where we want to be — right? Not for me.

One of the reasons I lack confidence in many situations is that I feel like an imposter. Like I’m a total fake, just waiting to be found out.

It happened when I was in my first job (junior web designer), with no real experience in web design other than my own experiments in Dreamweaver (more like Nightmareweaver…), and it happened when I started my freelance design career and wondered if I was even invoicing correctly.

Imposter syndrome is particularly common in the clients I work with, who tend to have introverted personality types. I haven’t found hard evidence to support why this might be, but Laura Woods offers a plausible answer:

Introverts tend to be highly, perhaps overly, analytical and self-aware. It could be that the root of Imposter Syndrome is really just self-absorption: spending too much time worrying about yourself and how others see you.

However, there are plenty of outwardly confident people who also are struck by this fraudulent feeling. Celebrities such as Natalie Portman have openly admitted to feeling insecure about their abilities. She reported, “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress” when arriving at Harvard as a freshman.

Basically, no one is safe from feeling like a fraud, regardless of achievement or fame. So what can be done to shake imposter syndrome? Here are five pieces of advice I share with my clients:

  1. Give yourself an appraisal 
    This is particularly useful if you’re self-employed. When there isn’t anyone to give you positive feedback, you need to be the one to supply it. List any achievements you’re proud of. What are your skills? What could you talk about for hours? Chances are, you’re better than the vast majority of people at these things.
  2. Remember that awareness is a good thing
    The sheer fact that you’re critical about your abilities is a sign that you care. A key ingredient to mastering anything is to care enough about it that you want to improve. If the greats felt imposter syndrome (and they did) you can put yourself on the same tumultuous path to mastery.
  3. Make a “feel good” file
    This is a file — physical or digital — where you save all the positive testimonials, kind words, praise and thanks that you receive. Every time you need a bit of a confidence boost, remind yourself of your greatness by flicking through this file.
  4. Spend time with those who lift you up 
    While it’s easy to get absorbed into our own bubble when dealing with a dip in confidence, one of the best things we can do is surround ourselves with others who will pull us out of our slump. Carla Busazi, former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, recommends a glass of wine or a lunch with someone who can reassure you that are worthy, brilliant, and fully deserving of your success.Conversely, take a step back from those who make you feel inadequate. Although it may not be intentional, some people will only remind us of our flaws and ultimately contribute to our lack of confidence.
  5. Keep a journal
    Every day make a note of one thing you achieved or felt good about that day. Some use daily affirmations to train their brain to feel more confident, but I recommend starting with achievements; they are more concrete and measurable. The practice of writing down these accomplishments ultimately will increase self-confidence and belief in your abilities. Whatever you do, don’t let imposter syndrome or lack of confidence hold you back.

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