How To Beat Im­pos­tor Syn­drome D

Even the for­mi­da­ble Meryl Streep ad­mits she suf­fers from neg­a­tiv­ity, self-doubt and feel­ing like a fraud. Here’s how to ac­cess con­fi­dence and boost your self-es­teem for good

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - Career -

oes your sub­con­scious con­stantly whis­per you’re not good enough at work and you will get found out – and soon? That in­sid­i­ous voice is a con­fi­dence drain, yet it seems far too many of us aren’t able to dial down its vol­ume or even switch it off com­pletely.

Even Meryl Streep says she some­times feels like a fraud. “I have vary­ing de­grees of con­fi­dence and self-loathing,” the 20-time Os­car nom­i­nee has said. “You can have a per­fectly hor­ri­ble day where you doubt your tal­ent – or that you’re bor­ing and they’re go­ing to find out that you don’t know what you’re do­ing.”

So why is the in­ner mean girl voice get­ting the bet­ter of so many of us? “We’re sim­ply too hard on our­selves,” says Dr Vesna Grubace­vic, a clin­i­cal hyp­nother­a­pist and trainer in neuro-lin­guis­tic pro­gram­ming (NLP), “Some women strive for an un­re­al­is­tic or unattain­able per­fec­tion. It’s known as Im­poster Syn­drome – the in­abil­ity to recog­nise ac­com­plish­ments, and a fear of be­ing ex­posed as a fraud.”

Here’s how to switch off the neg­a­tive in­ner mono­logue, face the “I’m not good enough” fears and in­stead plug into “I’ve got this” con­fi­dence.


Dr Grubace­vic says the first step is a men­tal re­boot. “It can be hard to ‘un­learn’ thought pat­terns we’ve held onto for years, even if they sap con­fi­dence,” she says. “Force your­self to think the pos­i­tive op­po­site of a neg­a­tive thought. So think “I can” rather than “I can’t” as a re­train­ing ex­er­cise.”

A real-life ex­am­ple who ac­tively ad­dressed her con­fi­dence is­sues is An­nette, 47. “I lost my mojo dur­ing my child­hood. I’m from a sin­gle-

parent fam­ily and I was big­ger than other kids, so I got bul­lied re­lent­lessly.”

De­spite her lack of self-es­teem, An­nette forged a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But when she was head­hunted for her dream job in 2013 – only to be made re­dun­dant 12 months later – An­nette hit rock bot­tom. “It was proof, after all, that I was no good,” she says.

She was tempted to wal­low in self­pity, but the re­dun­dancy forced An­nette to ad­dress her con­fi­dence is­sues by at­tend­ing self-es­teem work­shops. “One of the speak­ers said, “Every­one in this room is an ex­pert on some­thing, it doesn’t mat­ter what it is.”

Two years on, An­nette has launched her own PR busi­ness, Pub­lic­ity Ge­nie, and re­cently won an in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try award. “Work­ing on my­self gave me the con­fi­dence to launch my com­pany,” she says. “I still have bad days, but now I don’t dwell. It’s very em­pow­er­ing to value your­self.”


Body con­fi­dence is­sues can also sap self­worth. While a few wrin­kles or ex­tra ki­los can lead to per­sonal dis­sat­is­fac­tion, De­bra, 39, had to live with a fa­cial is­sue that se­verely af­fected her con­fi­dence.

“In 2012, I had an op­er­a­tion to re­move a 4.5-cm brain tu­mour. The op and sub­se­quent stroke I had dam­aged my fa­cial nerves,” ex­plains De­bra. “The left side of my face was af­fected, which meant I couldn’t blink, so in or­der to pre­serve my eye, my doc­tor rec­om­mended it be sewn shut for a year. It was so vis­i­ble, I re­ally hated it.”

After the pro­ce­dure, De­bra didn’t want to look in the mir­ror. De­spite the low con­fi­dence, she re­turned to work at the Sub­way fran­chise she’d pur­chased with her hus­band when she was well. “Cus­tomers flinched, stared or openly asked what was wrong with my eye. That drained my con­fi­dence.”

It was a com­ment by her teenage step­daugh­ter, Kiara, that be­gan re­build­ing De­bra’s self-es­teem. “She said to me one day, ‘ You know what? Those that mat­ter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t mat­ter’, and that be­came my mantra. I also chose to not let this break me. So I’d get up ev­ery day, go to work and smile. Did I al­ways feel great? No, but I also learned to ‘fake it un­til you make it’ – an­other mantra I swore by. If I pro­jected con­fi­dence, it ac­tu­ally made me feel bet­ter.”


Whether your self-con­fi­dence is­sues stem from the per­sonal, pro­fes­sional or phys­i­cal, prac­ti­cal steps can help im­prove the sit­u­a­tion. Pam Bross­man, an ex­ec­u­tive coach, men­tor and the author of Con­fi­dent Chicks, says: “I tell my clients to fig­ure out what is hold­ing them back and take own­er­ship of want­ing to change,” she says.

Pam ad­vises break­ing con­fi­dence goals down into smaller steps. “If you fear pub­lic speak­ing, prac­tise in front of the mir­ror, then in front of friends. Build up to your tar­get and re­ward your­self for each step you achieve.”

Seek­ing out men­tors or sup­port groups can also help, Pam says, whether that is an ex­er­cise class to help you re­alise your phys­i­cal goals or a net­work­ing group for ca­reer sup­port. “Knowl­edge and be­ing proac­tive about help­ing your­self are great con­fi­dence builders,” she ex­plains.

Im­prov­ing your self-talk and giv­ing your­self feed­back can help too, ac­cord­ing to Dr Grubace­vic. She also sug­gests vi­su­al­is­ing suc­cess as a con­fi­dence mo­ti­va­tor and prac­tis­ing calm­ing tech­niques, such as med­i­ta­tion.

“We’ll feel more con­fi­dent when we learn to be our own best friend,” says Dr Grubace­vic. “Cel­e­brate your suc­cesses and move on when things don’t go so well.”

The Post.

Catch Meryl Streep’s amaz­ing per­for­mance as Katharine Gra­ham, the first fe­male pub­lisher of The Wash­ing­ton Post, in Steven Spiel­berg’s

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