Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? Do you feel like you can’t keep up with your peers? I feel like this most of the time in my studies and work as a law student. I feel so intimidated by the talented, intelligent and competitive people around me. Learning how to build confidence in a kinda discouraging environment can seem impossible.
I usually feel that my work is substandard (regardless of positive feedback) and I don’t feel confident in my own abilities. Sooner or later, someone is going to realise that I have no clue what I’m doing, and then I’ll be out of a job.
I have a classic case of imposter syndrome. Despite all of my achievements, I feel like a fraud. When I am successful at something, I credit my good fortune, rather than my abilities and hard work. But when I do something less than perfect, it’s totally my fault. I am a failure. I am not good enough.
It’s not a healthy frame of mind, and it certainly does not help me to reach my goals. So I’ve decided to try out some strategies for building my confidence! Maybe they can help you too.
1. Fake it til you make it
So what if you’re not as qualified or talented as you’d like to be! You were clearly clever enough to trick your boss into thinking that you’re good enough, or she wouldn’t have hired you. If you fooled ’em at the interview, you can keep on foolin’ em until you find your feet. Fake it til you make it, baby!
Interestingly, imposter syndrome and low confidence affect women much more than men. According to the Harvard Business Review, men will apply for a particular job even if they only meet 60% of the required qualifications, whereas women are only likely to apply if they meet 100% of the required qualifications. Don’t let the patriarchy steal our jobs! You owe it to womankind to put yourself out there and reach for the stars.
This point was cleverly summarised in a podcast by Tim Ferris when he quoted an author, Kamal Ravikant:
“If I only did things I was qualified for I’d be pushing a broom somewhere.”
2. Write an ‘achievements list’
You might have heard of the positive psychology technique of writing gratitude lists. Every day, you write down three things you’re thankful for. This will train you to notice the good things in your days and thus make you a happier person.
I’ve started to apply the same technique to my achievements. I hope that it will help me to recognise my successes and to take ownership of them. Every day, I’m going to write down three things I achieved that day. Sometimes they’re big (‘MY SUPERVISOR WAS HAPPY WITH THE AFFIDAVIT I WROTE!’) and sometimes they’re small (‘Ate five vegetables today’).
3. Confidence isn’t everything
When you’re starting out at something new, you have no reason to be confident in your ability to succeed (yet). This is what makes it a beautiful thing to try something new. You might epically fail, or you might discover a hidden talent. You’ll learn more about yourself either way. You get to take a big, scary leap into the dark and you’ll be a better person for it.
Here’s the point: Having confidence isn’t as important as we think. The important thing is having the courage to take that leap even though it’s intimidating. Forget about being confident. Focus on being brave instead.
4. It’s okay to be a work in progress
Before you can be good at anything, you have to be shit at it first. You have no reason to be confident in your abilities when you’re trying something new. It’s almost arrogant to think that you can go out into the world and immediately start doing top-notch work with no practice or experience. Making bad and mediocre work is just part of the process of making good work. So don’t be afraid of failing at first. And don’t give up when your first attempt isn’t perfect.
5. It’s better to be a good person than to be a high achiever
Our capitalist society puts huge prestige and value onto being successful professionally, but being a human being means so much more than this. Even if you never find an area of work that you excel in, that does not mean that you’re any less of a person. Someone recently told me that I’m too nice and sensitive to be a successful lawyer. That’s alright with me because I would rather be a kind and caring person than a successful lawyer anyway. Focus on the kind of person you want to be, rather than on what you want to achieve.
6. Define your own success
I don’t mind if I never reach the top of my field. I don’t aspire to be a High Court Judge or a partner at a top tier firm. It’s not because I don’t believe I’m talented enough, but rather it’s because I don’t want to live that kind of stressful, hardworking lifestyle. I’ll be successful when I’m doing meaningful work that helps people, with lots of spare time to read books, travel and learn, and build deep relationships.
It’s hard to build confidence when you’re measuring yourself against societies unrealistic standards of success. Never let anyone drag down your confidence because you don’t fit their definition of what a success person should be.
So be brave, take a leap into the dark, and chase your dream. Don’t take no for an answer.
Pin this post