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ASK SAMAA: How do I get my confidence back?

Being confident and powerful should not threaten anyone else.

Dear Samaa,

How do I overcome impostor syndrome? Especially given the internal conflict in separating humility from entitlement and trying not to appear too condescending. Why does my confidence, as a woman, always seem to be rejected by social circles?


Confident in all the Wrong Places



Dear Confident in all the Wrong Places,

Let’s talk about impostor syndrome. 

From Wikipedia: Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

So, first of all, it’s important to know that you are not alone. It’s also interesting to note that impostor syndrome disproportionately affects intelligent, driven women. Check out this pioneering study by Clance and Imes that discusses this issue in more detail. Impostor syndrome can hold you back from exploring new and challenging pursuits, and also cause you to (falsely) attribute your successes to chance or luck, rather than your own skill and talent.

Everyone from the American Psychological Association to Forbes has written about the impostor syndrome, and how to combat feeling like a fraud. This is a great essay by Julie Zhuo on dealing with her experiences as a woman in technology, and feeling like an impostor. Folks at CalTech and at the Harvard Business Review have discussed the pervasiveness of the impostor syndrome in academia and in the workplace. There are lots of great resources available to you, and I encourage you to Google strategies that may work for you in helping you to overcome impostor syndrome.

There’s a lot of stuff to unpack when we talk about the impostor syndrome, and more directly to your question, we need to break down connections between fear, failure, and shame.

[bctt tweet=”The only person you need to convince of your success is yourself. “]

Here are my five suggestions:

  1. Make a list of things you are good at, things that you enjoy, and things that other people like/appreciate about you. Hold those strengths to be true. Refer back to that list if/when you start to doubt yourself. Being confident and powerful should not threaten anyone else. Your strength does not make you condescending. People who cannot see that have their own issues to work through. It is not your responsibility to carry the burden of guilt on behalf of other people who are not comfortable with themselves.
  2. OWN IT. What if you are an impostor? Is that a bad thing? Why? The only person you need to convince of your success is yourself. Don’t worry about being perfect. Talk about failure openly. Share your experiences with your friends and loved ones. You’ll find that everyone feels inadequate sometimes, but you love them anyway. Extend that same consideration/generosity to yourself. Love yourself even if you are not perfect.
  3. Sign up for Valerie Young’s Weekly Confidence Builder newsletters.
  4. Challenge the concept of shame. Why do we allow [bctt tweet=”Do you think we, as women, let shame and fear hold us back from being happy and owning our true potential?”] Try to dissociate failure from shame. Shame is a destructive feeling. Make a promise to yourself that you refuse to feel shamed – by anyone else or yourself. Think about the more productive and positive ways you can channel those same stimuli into other feelings/actions. 
  5. Read this quote by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Hope that helps!

Lots of love,



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