Do You Ever Doubt Yourself?

Early in my speaking and consulting career, I doubted my abilities. I was concerned I wouldn’t give a good talk. I was worried I would let my clients down. Now, I’m concerned about my ability to write fiction that people will want to read.

When you doubt yourself—even when you have the skills—you suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Imposter Syndrome can prevent you from living your life the way you want. Here are more examples of Imposter Syndrome:

  • You downplay your accomplishments when you look for a job
  • You are concerned that you don’t have the right to apply for a job, even though you have experience in that area
  • You have the knowledge and interest, and you don’t actually write that article or book or give that talk, even though you know you have great information
  • You don’t experiment with possibilities (such as leading a project, leading a team, doing anything out of your current comfort zone) because you are concerned you don’t have the ability to do so

Imposter Syndrome can paralyze you.

You can battle Imposter Syndrome with the growth mindset. You can say, “I might learn early.” You can ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?

For me, the worst thing that could happen in my life is that I don’t try something. Cutting off my possibilities before I know anything about what might happen? That doesn’t work for me.

I regularly speak and write. Early in my speaking career, I made a mess of a couple of talks, one of which was a keynote. I forgot my stories and ended 20 minutes early. I decided to turn my keynote into a “town hall” type of talk, and people loved it. If I had been paralyzed by my failure, I would have slunk off the stage.

I once wrote an article for Software Development magazine with misinformation. I corrected it, but not in time for print. That didn’t mean I wasn’t a good writer. It meant I made a mistake. I learned. I didn’t stop writing.

You can, too. You might think, “I haven’t written an article/book until now.” You might think, “I haven’t given a talk until now.”

Recognize when you are capable and you don’t feel capable. If you aren’t capable, learn how. But if you are, learn when it’s your feelings and not your skills.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, the question this week is: Do you ever doubt yourself?

6 thoughts on “Do You Ever Doubt Yourself?

  1. Paul Ellarby

    Oh Johanna, of course I do – I am just very picky about the timing! Oddly enough, I just concluded a discussion with a fellow soccer referee who was lamenting on how hard it is to referee a game “in the moment”. Successful refereeing relies on split-second decisions – but as soon as you start thinking about making (or not making) a decision, it is too late. The game unravels in your head, you second-guess yourself all the time – and all this while at least 11, maybe 22, players are yelling at you!

    Do I doubt myself? Yes, but I try really hard to use doubt as a learning opportunity, a self-retrospective, if you will. And I never doubt myself “in the moment” – that way lies certain death (or at least a lack of success)!

    1. johanna Post author

      Paul, I love your example of being “in the moment”. I find that when I am too busy, I don’t think about being an imposter.

  2. Mary Blackburn

    Thanks for the insight and candor, Johanna. From this one article, I ended up reading 3 of your articles, all of which were soul-bearing and enlightening. I am a 60-something business analyst who was recently let go from a consulting firm where I had worked for more than 8 years. I am seeking new employment and often find myself paralyzed by the imposter syndrome. I doubt my capabilities even though I know I’m really good at what I do. I know I bring more to the table than I give myself credit for. I’m pretty sure my doubt comes through in interviews even though I prepare as best I can. I really hope I don’t appear desperate even though I am approaching that threshold. Looking for work as a senior is not for the faint of heart.

    1. johanna Post author

      Mary, oh boy. You are correct. Ageism is rampant in our business. I wrote about Imposter Syndrome specifically for people looking for new jobs in Manage Your Job Search. My quick advice is to define your value, so you know what your value is. (The first “sale” is to yourself.) Create a target network and network like crazy. Those of us with gray hair (regardless of whether you choose to color it) know you need to keep going. Best wishes.

  3. Mary

    Johanna, thank you for your response. I’m happy to report that I’ve landed a new job! I start on Monday. After 4 months of stressful job-hunting, I’m really looking forward to getting ramped up and going.

    Kind regards,

    Mary

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