Ever feel like an imposter?

Yes, that old chestnut. Don’t worry we all do sometimes. I regularly have moments where I have to reality check the self-doubt I feel. Talking to friends and family helps (and being give a metaphorical slap around the face). I don’t whether this is a particular trait amongst women, but I know a lot of us feel like this. Raising the subject publicly acts a reminder to myself to have more confidence in my own abilities, but also to reassure anyone reading this that (despite appearances) even the most apparently switched on people have wobbles too. You’re human and it would be a bit odd if you didn’t.

I’m not usually keen on labels (I don’t feel they are particularly helpful), but in order to illustrate the point I’m making, I want to talk about ‘Imposter Syndrome’: a recognised term in clinical psychology that eludes to a number of behavioural characteristics. The basis for these feelings broadly manifest themselves in the following ways:

  1. A belief that you’re not capable or accomplished, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  2. Difficulty believing or accepting genuine praise and recognition.
  3. Feeling like you’ve somehow faked your success.
  4. Fear of being outed as a fraud.

If you’ve taken time out of a career to have children you may feel this more acutely. That’s why support from fellow women is such an important part of validating your experience and sense of self-worth. Lack of career confidence is a huge barrier to achieving your ambitions, even if on paper you have everything going for you (and I guarantee you have). Receiving praise and recognition for your professional achievements, no matter how small can be the difference between making or breaking someone’s spirit. Often it’s the kindness of strangers that affects us more than the unconditional words of approval we hear from those closest to us. If you’re feeling like this then my top tips are:

  1. Talk to other people:
    I guarantee other people will have felt like this at some point. It’s such a cliché (but it’s true) a problem shared is a problem halved. Families are great, but speaking to objective people who know your industry can give you a more constructive insight into how good your knowledge and skills are.
  2. Write it down:
    Make two lists: one outlining all your achievements and experience; another ordering any areas of concern you have. Next, make a list of actionable goals (can you tell I like lists?). Make a realistic plan of ways you can work on your professional development: attend a training course to enhance your skills, refresh your CV/LinkedIn, join a business networking community.
  3. Meet up offline:
    There is no substitute for meeting people IRL (this is an acronym young people favour, instead of saying ‘in real life’ – I’m down with it). Share your experiences with like-minded women and support each other.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up:
    Remember we’re all winging it to some extent (some of us are better at appearing to look like we know what we’re doing).
  5. Find time to chill out:
    Put things into perspective. I find a large glass of wine and cake really helps (sorry I meant exercise, yes, exercise definitely helps too).

Written by Amy White

10 steps to kickstart your confidence

Dr Jessamy Hibberd is a Clinical Psychologist and mother of three who is embracing the digital world as part of her mission to make psychology more accessible. As well running her own private practice in Chelsea she has co-authored a series of self-help books, writes a blog, runs an Instagram account and is currently developing an App. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day it felt appropriate to ask a woman who not only understands the challenges of juggling a career and family life but who also has plenty of professional experience helping adults overcome common mental health problems such as low self-esteem.


Confidence is essential in all aspects of our lives. It helps us reach our goals, try new things, make decisions and be independent. It enables us to manage stress and equips us to deal with emotional, practical and physical problems. It’s how we measure our ability to cope and to succeed. When we’re feeling confident, it makes everything easier. The trouble is that when confidence is proving elusive the opposite is true. So what can you do to capture and build your confidence?

1. No-one is confident all the time!
No-one feels confident all of the time. How confident you feel is on a continuum; you go up and down depending on what you’re doing, your mood and your experiences. Even the most confident people never feel totally ‘ready’ for something – they just get stuck in. Next time you want to do something remind yourself the ‘right’ time is unlikely to ever come. The best thing to do is to just get started and give it a go.

2. Be kind to yourself
If you have a constant negative commentary running through your mind, it’s going to leave you feeling upset, demotivated, useless and anything but confident. You’d never dream of speaking to a friend in the same way. Next time things are tough back yourself and think:

  • What would I say to a friend in this situation?⠀
  • How might I encourage them and help them through it?⠀
  • Use this advice on yourself! There shouldn’t be two rules – that you deserve criticism, but that it wouldn’t be helpful for anyone else!

3. Step out of your comfort zone
It’s good to do things that mean you take a step out of your comfort zone. New experiences, new hobbies and challenging ourselves on a regular basis are massively important for maintaining good mental health, personal growth and improving confidence and self-esteem.

4. Confront anxious predictions
When you’re feeling under-confident, you’re more likely to predict the worst, “I can’t do it,” “it won’t go well”. If you listen to these predictions you’ll never take action and end up feeling worse. Next time you think you can’t – test it out by doing whatever you fear and seeing what happens! It’s only by moving past the discomfort of I can’t, that you get to see I can.

5. Compassion
We tend to be good at having compassion for others, but not so good at being compassionate to ourselves. Many of us imagine it’s being weak, but when you think of the qualities it’s made up of it’s anything but. Compassion means being strong, non-judgemental, kind, brave, warm, fair and wise. Core ingredients for confidence!

6. Overcome procrastination
To overcome procrastination (a confidence killer!) you need to get more in touch with your future self. Make sure you’re really clear about why you want to do what you’re doing. How will it make things better for you in the future, why will you benefit? Make your goals really concrete and think about what you’ll gain if you do them.

7. Imagine success
When we think about doing something, we often play out the scenario in our mind. If you’re imagining it not going well, you’ll start to feel anxious. Instead visualise all the possible positive outcomes of an event, so you’re seeing hearing and feeling success. It puts your mind and body in the best possible place for a great outcome.

8. Collect compliments
Think of something you did really well: how long did you think about it for? How did it make you feel? Now think of the last time you did badly at something: how long did you spend thinking about it? How did it make you feel? I’ll put money on the fact you spent far more time thinking about the latter. We’re programmed to look for threat, so we need to work extra hard to give the good stuff a chance to settle and be taken on board.

  • Over the next week note down anything that goes well, any compliments, positive feedback, anything you’re pleased with.
  • At the end of the week, read it back!

9. There’s no such thing as perfect
While pushing yourself to achieve more can be a good thing, be careful of aiming for perfection. Looking for perfect means your focus will be on what’s not going well and since perfect doesn’t exist you’ll constantly feel like you’re failing. Making mistakes isn’t a weakness, it’s part and parcel of learning, growing and understanding yourself better. Take a fairer viewpoint. If 80% is going well and 20% going not so well that’s how you should split your time!

10. Posture
The mind and body are pretty amazing – just changing your posture can change your mind-set for the better. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that subjects who sat up straight in their chairs, instead of slouching, were more confident about the things they were then asked to write down. In addition, they discovered that posture builds a sense of strength and confidence in social situations too. So use this to your advantage – stand up straight, push your shoulders back and hold your head high.


Dr Jessamy is following…

natasha courtenay-smith

Natasha Courtenay-Smith is mentoring me at the moment and definitely inspires me. She worked as a journalist, set up an online press agency, recently wrote a brilliant book The Million Dollar Blog and is now helping others build their business. I love her passion and drive, she’s always upbeat and so encouraging.

step up club

Phanella Mayall-Fine and Alice Olins founders of Step Up Club. Phanella is a great friend of mine and a constant source of inspiration and advice. Seeing Step Up’s success was the reason I started doing Instagram for psychology. I’m so impressed at everything her and Alice have achieved, setting up Step Up Club, promoting an important message (in a fun and engaging way) and writing a book! They’re proof of how well partnerships can work and what two women can do together!

Dr Jessamy’s work…

drjessamy.com
instagram.com/drjessamy
facebook.com/DrJessamy
twitter.com/DrJessamy
Books by Dr Jessamy

Sign-up for Dr Jessamy’s 5 day Happiness Challenge which launches on 20th March (International Day of Happiness).

How I got my confidence back

Confidence is a complex thing. I lost mine massively after having children. But I’m pleased to say it’s coming back in bucket loads and to prove it I’m even posting a selfie! (a frigging selfie godammit!). Something I would never have dreamed about doing a year ago. No, it’s not because I’ve washed and blow dried my hair (husband breathes sigh of relief), or because I’ve put some makeup on. And it’s not just so I can show off my new leather jacket (OK, it might be a little bit).

This photo shows the reality of life but also reflects my new-found confidence. It’s proof that I’m comfortable showing you ME (as well showcasing a terribly composed photograph). It’s a scene we all recognise: messy living room, inability to take decent selfie (what’s the best angle to avoid triple-chinnage?), dirty mirror covered in little finger prints, slightly awkward smile. I am happy to share it because I feel happy in my own skin again. If you’re feeling further back on this journey I just want to say ‘hang-in there’, it will get better!

img_2617-2

My confidence is back where it matters – inside. I wanted to share this with all of you today (hopefully not in a patronising self-help, Jerry Springer’s last word kind of way), but to speak to (and for) all the women out there who are lacking in self-confidence. I know what it’s like and it can feel crushing at times. Having children, taking a career break (not taking a career break) and making endless sacrifices can make you feel like a dry old husk some days. My route back to feeling like my old self is pure and simple: I finally have found a sense of professional worth through this website and I feel energised, full of purpose and brimming with ideas.

I’ve had a couple of major knock backs professionally. I went for an interview a few years back and all was going swimmingly until the subject of hours came up. The atmosphere became noticeably frosty when I suggested alternatives to the 9-5. Needless to say that didn’t go anywhere as I didn’t want to work somewhere like that (I’ve written a piece on the issues surrounding flexible working – have a read). I then had a seriously confidence-knocking experience quite recently where I helped out someone in a bid to achieve some particular experience I was lacking. After the job was done I was promptly dropped like a hot potato – no credit or thanks. All pretty ego-bruising stuff that really hit my confidence in my own abilities hard. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so I decided the only way to make a career work for me is to take back control (in a totally non-Brexity way of course). Hence starting this magazine and my plans to work for myself.

This magazine and the community it’s building has lifted my spirits and made me excited about work again. I’ve got big plans for this year and I want you all to join in (watch this space).

Written by Amy White, editor of Social Butterflies