Sometimes, no matter how much hard work you’ve put in, you still end up feeling like you don’t deserve to be where you are. It’s not uncommon – women as successful as Tina Fey and Emma Watson have confessed to feeling “like an imposter,” But it’s time to stop being our own worst enemies and work toward overcoming that feeling.
The fact is, men approach jobs very differently to women. While women want to meet 100% of a job requirements before applying, men do it when they’re only 60% qualified. In her seminal book Lean In, even Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg describes instances where she felt inadequate in the workplace, “We consistently underestimate ourselves…women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better that it actually is.” Closer to home, a study released in March by the NUS Business School showed that female directors are earning just 56.8 percent of what their male colleagues are making on average in companies listed on the Singapore Exchange.
According to Helen Duce, founder of the Lean In Singapore Chapter, one way to get over feelings of inadequacy is by telling yourself, “I know enough and I have enough experience and knowledge to do this” and visualise yourself using these skills. “It has to be a strong enough statement that you believe in it, but something tangible enough so that it has real energy,” she adds.
You can also fake it till you make it. “Research backs up this strategy,” says Sheryl. “One study found that when people assumed a high-power pose (for example, the Wonder Woman pose) for just two minutes, their dominance hormone levels (testosterone) went up and their stress hormone levels (cortisol) went down.” Mentors and support networks are other avenues for you to regain your confidence. It’s also worth cultivating a group of trusted colleagues who can boost your confidence by reminding you of your skills, or highlighting positive reviews you’ve had in the past, particularly before a scary situation.
At the end of the day, feelings of inadequacy shouldn’t stop you from being ambitious. As Sheryl writes in Lean In, “I still have days when I feel like a fraud. And I still sometimes find myself spoken over and discounted while men sitting next to me are not. But now I know how to take a deep breath and keep my hand up. I have learned to sit at the table.”
And we should all be sitting at the table.