I’m an ambitious person who likes to regularly engage with new skills and explore new industries—and who also has a nasty case of self-doubt. Meaning impostor syndrome gets in my way quite often.
This happened a few weeks ago when I was working on a project proposal that was bigger than any I had done before. Even though logically I knew that all the work I had done previously supported me in being capable for this project, every time I sat down to work on it, that voice popped up in my head: “You’re not cut out for this. What makes you think you know how to do this? I bet they have so many amazing proposals coming in—they’re never going to choose you. Do you even know where to start?”
Maybe you have a similar voice that speaks up when you’re interviewing for your dream job, trying to prep for your first major keynote speech, or any of the other number of things we do to push ourselves forward in life.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for this voice to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, preventing you from doing your best work or, worse, plunging you into a cycle of procrastination and paralysis that keeps you from doing the work at all. I, for one, had moments where the voice almost had me convinced to give up, tell them I wasn’t actually interested in the project after all, go back to more comfortable work.
But then, I whipped out my secret weapon against imposter syndrome and asked myself, “What would you do if you knew what you were doing?”
This works better for me than trying to cheerlead myself with a “you can do this!” type of attitude because it doesn’t require me to go through the mental exercise of proving the imposter syndrome wrong before I can move forward. In fact, asking yourself this question acknowledges that the imposter syndrome could be right—but then challenges you to think of how you would move forward if it wasn’t.
By getting out of my own head and imagining I am the type of person who could do this, I’m often able to access the steps forward that were always in my head, but that were being blocked by doubt.
Instead of fighting through the imposter syndrome, I just go around it.
Sure, getting rid of that voice altogether would be better. But overcoming imposter syndrome that fully is a longer-term project—and I want to give you something that will help you move forward quickly in those moments where you might hold yourself back.
So try it out. Write it on a sticky note on your computer next time you’re working on a big, scary project, or download the wallpaper below to give you a constant reminder that you’re more capable at this than you think.