14 Key Elements to Effective Self-Leadership: Improving Your Self-Belief and Rejecting Imposter Syndrome
Right now, what are you telling yourself? That little voice inside your head, the one that monologues during long drives and provides its commentary throughout your workday. That internal echo with an opinion on every decision you make. What’s it saying?
The sad reality is that for most of us that voice is a harsh critic
. It loves to point out what we’re doing wrong. What’s broken inside us. Why we can’t be the person we think we are, and certainly not the person we want to be. In whatever form it takes, that voice repeats a simple message, over and over.
“You are not enough.”
It’s hard to lead others if you’re full of self-doubt. Imposter syndrome is a real phenomenon that affects up to 70% of people
at some time in their lives. Being the leader
you know you can be starts with strong self-leadership. And self-leadership starts with changing the narrative inside
our own heads. It starts when you realize and believe, “I am enough.”
That’s the simple but powerful message Dr. Fred Johnson, CEO of InitiativeOne, shared in a recent TEDx Talk at UW–Green Bay. “I Am Enough.”
According research, as much as 70% of our thoughts are negative
, and 95% are repetitive.
Ponder that for a few minutes.
With the average person having about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day
, that is a lot of negativity bouncing back and forth in the grey matter.
How does this overemphasis on negative thoughts affect our daily lives? In many more ways than you might think ...
What do negative thoughts and self-doubt have to do with self-leadership?
Simply stated, you can’t effectively lead others if you don’t learn to believe in and accept yourself, warts and all. If you continue to allow negative, subconscious thoughts to permeate your mind, there will always be a self-limiting ceiling to your success.
Self-doubt is defined
as “a lack of faith in oneself : a feeling of doubt or uncertainty about one's abilities, actions, etc.”
When we choose to believe in (rather than reject) these subconscious negative thoughts, that’s what gives birth to a sense of uncertainty and low self-confidence.
It’s easy to assume that the more successful you are, the less you’d struggle with these feelings. We see talented, powerful, wealthy people all the time, and it’s hard to get a sense that they’re anything other than supremely confident. But we all have a natural tendency toward self-doubt
, even those with high levels of success, wealth, power, and fame.
Successful People Who Conquered Self-Doubt
Even Albert Einstein described himself as an “involuntary swindler whose work didn’t deserve as much attention as it received.”
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”
Through many years of challenges and working in relative obscurity, Mrs. Curie pioneered research on radioactivity. She earned the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903
. None of that would have been possible without the persistence that comes from building one’s self-confidence.
Did you know that Richard Branson struggled with self-doubt
“Keep going and most importantly, keep believing. Realize that you are the only thing stopping you.”
Or how about the NFL coach or the CEO of a $1 billion company who each battled for years with self-doubt?
These are executives whom Fred Johnson has personally coached through InitiativeOne’s leadership transformation process
; he shares their stories in his TEDx Talk.
This one might shock you as well … Maya Angelou once admitted:
"I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
Each one of these high-profile leaders had loads of self-doubt
, which, at first, caused their self confidence to wane. But they chose not to believe the lies of negativity swirling around in their subsconscious. We can learn from their example by first recognizing those negative thoughts, rejecting them, and replacing them with positive conscious messages.
Many of us fall prey to a nagging thought that we aren’t “good enough”
at our job or in our personal relationships. If left unchecked, this can lead to what is called “Imposter Syndrome
it like this:
“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’"
Now, we aren’t talking about what happens when someone isn’t prepared and serendipitously aces a test (literally or metaphorically), but rather we are describing a situation when a person is succeeding and still leans toward a belief that they are constantly living their life behind a mask
Our CEO, Fred Johnson, covers the dangers of “Imposter Syndrome” in his TEDx Talk “I Am Enough”.
Since this occurs in our thought-life, let’s take a look at the two primary thought categories that contribute to our self-belief:
1. Subconscious: made up of values, beliefs, and negative thoughts
2. Conscious: comprised of goals, attitudes, skills, and knowledge
Subconscious thoughts are mostly born out of our past history and often relentlessly haunt us with a variety of fears and insecurities. Conscious thoughts are things we actively and intentionally pursue in our thought life. Both of these contribute to how well we lead ourselves and how much self-doubt versus self-belief exists in our lives.
Since our conscious thoughts are more easily controlled, it is the subconscious ones that we need to stay focused on. Specifically, those negative thoughts need to be intercepted and replaced with conscious thoughts on a regular basis.
What is self-leadership
, and how do we combat these negative thoughts?
First, let’s define the term
“The practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feelings and behaviors to achieve your objective/s.”
Remember, we have to be able to lead ourselves first in order to effectively lead others. This goes for the workplace as well as with friends and family.
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
Let’s look at the four bases we need to cover to better lead
ourselves and our team:
We must be able to acknowledge, understand, and be aware of our own values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, doubts, and emotional needs.
Since we focus far too often on the negative first, this often requires talking with others to get their perspective on our strengths … to build up our confidence and reject the thoughts of imposterism. Plus, we can hear from others how they struggle with similar unwarranted feelings of inadequacy.
Next, we must take this newfound self-awareness and harness it in a way that positively influences decision-making in our personal and professional spheres. Regularly turning our thoughts to positive ones each time we sense a bout of negativity approaching can go a long way towards drowning out that self-doubt
It is crucial to see the passion, natural inclinations, strengths, weaknesses, and needs of others. Not only does this help us have empathy toward others, but it moves us out of the intense, self-focused spotlight
we so often live under. Once we stop beating ourselves up, we are able to cut others a break when they need it most.
As we grow in all three of these areas, it is only then that we can truly motivate other people to develop their potential and/or fulfill the organization’s objectives. When others around us begin to see our positive example, they will more naturally respect and choose to follow our lead
When this happens, people tend to go the extra mile for those kinds of leaders, rather than only doing what they have to based solely on the leader’s position of authority.
6 Self-Limiting Beliefs to Reject
“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.”
These six self-limiting beliefs are insidious in their subtlety
, often plaguing us without our conscious knowledge. The main problem with each of these is that they place us (and we choose to stay locked) in a mental box that we can’t seem to break free from.
That is the paradox here; we feel as if we are constrained when we really aren’t
. The first step is to become aware of these self-limiting beliefs, and then break the cycle. Each of these self-limiting belief statements can take thought and/or verbal form in our lives, and it’s best to eradicate both.
Plus, these beliefs all represent absolute thinking
, something that further limits us in our ability to consider both sides of the coin. As a result, we don’t think and act clearly and rationally. We naturally tend to want to have and hold absolute beliefs since they are simple, easy to comprehend, and offer us a false sense of security, even if they keep us locked up in this negative mental box.
5. I Do/Don't
This statement believes that “I do x, y, or z, but I don’t do a, b, or c.” It speaks less to a lack of ability
and more to a fear of trying something you haven’t done before.
6. I Can't
Most times the truth is that we “won’t.”
We think “we can’t,” but we really can if we put our mind to it. Statements like “I can’t ever trust him/her again” or “I can’t ask for what I want since I will be rejected” are false beliefs that unnecessarily limit our ability to succeed.
7. I Must/Mustn't
Somewhere in our past, we heard someone, probably a parent or authority figure, tell us that we must do this or must not do that. We are wise to be cautious of these messages continuing to drive negative beliefs about ourselves.
8. I Am/Am Not
Our identity is usually wrapped up pretty tightly in this one. “I am not pretty” or “I am never going to be a success” are common manifestations of this one. Fred covers how important it is to believe that “I Am Enough”
in his TEDx Talk.
9. Others Are/Will
This often takes the form that “Others are just the way they are, so they won’t change.” It is too easy to throw our hands up in apathy and defeat. Let’s not limit ourselves or others in their ability to change or act differently in the future. If we pigeonhole others, aren’t we limiting ourselves by not gaining access to their improved skills and abilities over time.
10. How the World Works
“That’s just the way the world works.” You’ve probably heard people say it plenty of times. Or you’ve said it yourself.
We certainly have. Break free from this limiting mindset that frames our situation and problems as unchangeable
—which is rarely true. Things are constantly evolving and changing even when it may seem like they aren’t. The day we stop believing things can grow and change is the day we start limiting our success.
If you’ve read this far, we know you want to know how to make improvements for you and your team. So here are 4 simple steps to start undoing the power of self-doubt
11. Write Self-Doubts Down on Paper
This might seem too simplistic, but it helps to make it concrete by externalizing our decision
. Plus, it causes us to be accountable to changing the belief since it’s now in black and white.
12. Realize Some Are “Beliefs” Not “Truths”
We assume our beliefs are true to the point that we believe they are truth, but resisting negative “truths” is key to setting your belief system straight.
13. Chose a Different Belief
You must replace a negative belief with a positive one. Try this: write a positive message on a sticky note and put it up in your car, at your desk, or on your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it, speak it out loud to combat the internal negative message. Use the statement “I Am Enough” if you are looking for an initial positive message to start with
14. Act Like the New Belief Is Really True
Start to live like the new belief is really true; don’t just give it lip service. Think about the new belief and act more confidently, not in an egocentric, but a realistic way. You deserve to give yourself credit for your bona fide accomplishments!
If you need to dig in deeper with yourself and/or your team to enhance self-belief and self-confidence, we are here to help. At InitiativeOne, removing self-doubt — and all the other issues that can drag your workplace culture down — is what we’re built for. We’re all about transforming how teams interact
, helping leaders create an environment of honest communication, trust and respect. Because that’s how organizations build stronger teams, become better problem solvers and make decisions more effectively. That’s what separates great teams from everybody else.
But then we dig deeper, to really get to know the perspective and personality that’s driving each of your team members. The more you can be vulnerable enough to get to know one another, the better you’ll be able to relate without drama-inducing conflict. Which is the best way to grow the cohesiveness of your team, improve employee engagement, increase accountability, and decrease turnover
And if that sounds good to you, InitiativeOne can help. Contact us today
to learn how we can help you become the kind of high-performing team we know you can be.