I am very young for my position, and although I know full well I have the competencies for my job, I am also a bit socially awkward/insecure. When I am introduced as *My Title*, I recoil a little and get nervous about what people must be thinking to the point that I can’t concentrate or I get flustered. My rational side tells me I have gotten to where I am because I am a skilled and competent person, but I definitely suffer from blinding Imposter syndrome and general insecurity. I know my “young woman” appearance, and my nervous composure and speech in some situations ruins others’ perception of me, especially older colleagues that hold junior positions. How can I calm my nerves and appear more confident and competent?
Great question, C — like I’ve said many times before, I definitely suffer from imposter syndrome myself and think a lot of intelligent, overachieving chicks do — and we just talked about women’s low confidence yesterday. We’ve talked about how to avoid acting young, and how to dress professionally without looking like you think you’re in charge, but not in a few years — and how to act more confident is a bit of a different ball of wax. In terms of actual, practical tips for overcoming this:
- Improve your body language. As the Confidence Code authors noted in their video interview with Hanna Rosin, adopting better body language is actually more helpful to women at feeling more confident than trying to address the mental issues — so sit up straight, deepen your voice, and generally try to be aware of your body language. You may want to have a friend videotape you, so you can further pick out things that need work. This TED talk from Amy Cuddy on body language may be helpful — particularly around the 14-minute mark she talks about how practicing “high power poses” can help you before you head into stressful situations.
- Practice, practice, practice. If you’re uncomfortable speaking, join Toastmasters, or consider taking improv classes. If you’re uncomfortable networking, force yourself to go to EVERY networking opportunity that comes up — go to every alumni event, join Meet Up groups for your hobbies as well as your careers, and generally say “yes” to every invitation you get for a while. A great place for Reader C to start is with her reaction to her Title — practice saying it over and over (Hi, I’m C, _[insert title here]_”) until you stop recoiling. Now practice saying it with a confident, friendly smile.
- Look the part. Wear enough makeup to look awake and alive — it does affect how people perceive your competence! Jean at ExtraPetite has some killer posts on this, including dressing for confidence and looking older in casual clothes.
- Finally: read up on women’s executive news. As someone who’s been following this beat for 6+ years, it’s stunning how often women and confidence and the imposter syndrome and more come up — and it makes it feel like less of a deep, dark, horrible secret of yours, and more like an overachieving chick’s cross to bear.
Readers, do you identify with imposter syndrome? What concrete steps have you taken to overcome it? Has learning about imposter syndrome helped you overcome it?
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