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Why This Common 'Confidence Boosting' Tip Doesn't Work (and What to Do Instead)

31/03/2016 12:31 | Updated 31 March 2016

If you're an introvert like me, who sees any 'confidence boosting' tip online as the tastiest link bait in the online ocean, you'll have read this common piece of advice.

'Fake it till you make it.'

Right? Of course!

That's what we have to do to appear more confident: just FAKE IT!

Like anything in life we struggle with, 'faking' our skill level gets us to where we want to be.

... What?

Not for me.

One of the reasons I lack confidence in many situations is feeling like an imposter. Like I'm a total fake: just waiting to be found out.

Whether it was when I was in my first job (junior web designer), with no real experience in web design other than my own experiments in Dreamweaver (more like Nightmare weaver...) to starting out my freelance design career and wondering if I was even invoicing correctly.

Imposter syndrome is particularly common in the clients I work with, who tend to have introverted personality types.

I haven't found hard evidence to support why this might be, but Laura Woods offers a plausible answer:

"Introverts tend to be highly, perhaps overly, analytical and self-aware. It could be that the root of Imposter Syndrome is really just self-absorption: spending too much time worrying about yourself and how other see you."

However, there are plenty of outwardly confident people who are struck by this fraudulent feeling too.

Celebrities such as Natalie Portman have openly admitted to feeling insecure about their abilities.

She reported "I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn't smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn't just a dumb actress." when arriving at Harvard as a freshman.

Basically: no one is safe from feeling like a fraud - regardless of achievement or fame.

So what can be done to shake imposter syndrome?

Here are five pieces of advice I share with my clients:

1. Give yourself an appraisal

This is particularly useful if you're self employed - when there isn't anyone to give you positive feedback, you need to be the one to supply it.

List any achievements you're proud of. What are your skills? What could you talk about for hours?

Chances are, you're better than the vast majority of people at these things.

2. Remember that awareness is a good thing

The sheer fact that you're critical about your abilities is a sigh that you care. A key ingredient to mastering anything is to care enough about it that you want to improve.

If the greats felt imposter syndrome (and they did) you can put yourself on the same path. The tumultuous path to mastery.

"True frauds (how's that for an oxymoron?) don't admit to any problems, insecurities, or fears."

3. Make a 'feel good' file

This is a file - physical or digital - where you save all the positive testimonials, kind words, praise and thanks that you receive.

Any emails you've received; letters, messages on social media, texts that have made your day.

Every time you need a bit of a confidence boost, remind yourself of your greatness by flicking through this file.

4. Spend time with those who lift you up

Whilst it's easy to get absorbed into our own bubble when dealing with a dip in confidence, one of the best things we can do is surround ourselves with others who will pull us out of our slump.

Former Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post UK, Carla Busazi recommends a glass of wine or a lunch with someone who can reassure you that are worthy, brilliant and fully deserving of your success.

Conversely, take a step back from those who make you feel inadequate. Whether intentionally or not; some people will only remind us of our flaws and ultimately contribute to our lack of confidence.

5. Keep a journal

Every day make a note of one thing you achieved or felt good about that day. Some use daily affirmations to train their brain into feeling more confident, but I recommend starting with achievements as they are more concrete and measurable.

It doesn't matter if it's insignificant: the practise of writing these accomplishments down will ultimately increase self confidence and belief in our abilities.

"What we who suffer have to learn is how to manage it and not let it destroy any ability we have to deliver."

~ Jo Haigh, Senior Partner at FDS.

Whatever you do - don't let imposter syndrome or lack of confidence hold you back.

Cat Neligan is the Founder of the League of Creative Introverts, an online community for those who struggle with self-promotion and confidence.

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