How To Banish Imposter Syndrome

Adultify your confidence

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The time has come to accept the inevitable: You’re growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let’s face it, as cool) as the ones in our Adultify series. Now, you won’t ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term “adulting” when you accomplish something, like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you’ll know these truths to be self-evident.

Confidence isn't something exclusively associated with adulthood. It's one of those convoluted terms people have been using willy nilly your whole life when they have nothing more thoughtful to say. Like, “Don't worry, just be confident." Oh, is it that easy? Okay, let me just do that then. Thanks for the grand advice.

Being confident can be extremely difficult, and something we have to build one tiny piece at a time over the course of years. True inner peace and confidence—unlike that cheap imitation of confidence you spend your youth fronting because you’re smart enough to know that confidence is sexy, and you definitely want to be sexy—is really a never-ending battle, and, as you may have noticed, some people never quite get there. Which is such a pity, because some of the best things in life—from careers we truly enjoy to fulfilling romantic relationship—are much, much easier to obtain when you believe in yourself.

However, in 2016 confidence is more complex and harder to grasp than ever. A culture obsessed with perfection has led to one of our generation’s biggest plagues: imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the mindset that we don’t deserve to be where we are. We fear that we’re not good enough, smart enough, that we somehow actually lucked into success rather than earning it. It’s the little voice in your head that tells you not to speak up in a meeting or the one that says the project you’ve been working on for months still isn’t good enough to show anyone. It can be debilitating and, when left unchecked, grind our forward motion to a halt. But when you can start to shed that self-doubt and focus on owning your shit? Now that’s real adulting. We tapped two experts in the field—Sarah Kaler, executive leadership coach behind Soul Powered, and Claire Shipman, journalist and author of The Confidence Code—for some advice on growing and stabilizing your confidence for long-term happiness.

P.S. You’re great.

1. Set realistic goals for yourself with a specific timeline
You might think goals are a no-brainer place to start. Which, like, yeah, they are because “the heart of creating confidence is about taking action,” according to Shipman. But there are some subtle but important parts of setting goals that can either work for or against your confidence. First of all, are you just setting goals for the sake of setting goals, or do the goals have a larger purpose? “I would start with a clear vision,” says Kaler. “I think if you start with, ‘What do I want? What do I want to create in my life or career and what do I ultimately want for myself?’ that sort of sense of vision then starts to create goals from that place, so the goals actually ladder up to where you want to be.” So goals shouldn’t just be these big concepts without immediate realistic actions that work up to them, but also they shouldn’t be too easy either. “You have to think of it like, 'What's the one thing I'm going to do today that's going to force me to get a little bit uncomfortable?’” says Shipman. “It absolutely helps to build confidence because, ultimately, once you start doing things, the sense of your ability builds upon itself.”