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Is It Doubt or Imposter Syndrome? 5 Ways To Advance With Confidence

Every time I speak for women’s groups, I feel an overwhelming sense of doubt as I prepare my presentation. I get nervous that people will think my content is stupid. There’s always a point when I lose confidence in my abilities to pull together a coherent message and activities in time. While it does't feel good, I think that feeling doubt - and all of its related emotions like nervousness, insecurity, and inadequacy, keeps me humble and always curious about how I can improve my programs and speaking style. As the term “imposter syndrome” has become more widely used in women’s circles and workplaces, is our normal human doubt being reframed as imposter syndrome? It’s human (and healthy!) to feel doubt and it’s also likely that you’ll feel it any time you try something new or stretch your comfort zone. So, what’s the difference between doubt and imposter syndrome? A participant in a recent women’s leadership conference that I led said it best, “Doubt is a common feeling that precedes stepping out of our comfort zone while imposter syndrome is self-sabotage.”


I believe that imposter syndrome (the feeling you'll be found out as unqualified, a fraud or just lucky) keeps women from switching careers that would make them happier. If they do choose to change roles or ask for a promotion, research shows only 60% of women negotiate their salaries, and when they do, they ask for less than men. I've personally experienced, and seen in others, imposter syndrome holding us back from applying for projects or roles we are fully capable of doing. Imposter syndrome is the ultimate career killer, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways you can advance with confidence - even when you feel big self-doubt or imposter feelings:

  1. Notice it. Have compassion without fighting it.

  2. Name it. This feels like doubt, overwhelm, insecurity…imposter feelings

  3. Normalize it. Everyone experiences doubt and 70% of people experience imposter syndrome.

  4. Reframe it. This is what growth feels like. Stomach butterflies mean I care about good work.

  5. Act on it. The actions of confidence come first, the feelings come second. You can advance your career even though you don’t feel 100% confident...yet.

Tip: Keep a career journal with your wins and good feedback so you can refer back to it in moments of self-doubt. 🔥 Watch the replay of my Tuesday live: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: 5 Ways To Advance With Confidence. I unpack the tips above and share the responsibilities organizations have to address this systemically for women.


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Want more help leading at the next level with more confidence or making a brave career change? Check out my coaching programs!

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