Think of the most successful people you know. Regardless of what they portray on the outside, even high achievers experience occasional pangs of self-doubt. In fact, statistically speaking, 70 percent of the population knows what it's like to suffer from imposter syndrome. It involves intense feelings of inadequacy and fears of being exposed as a fraud in spite of plenty of evidence of success.
The smartest people recognize this maladaptive thinking and do something about it. In "Earning it: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World," Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Joann Lublin chronicles the stories of 52 top female executives, several of whom shared the ways they vanquish self-doubt. Here are a few of their tricks, according to excerpts from Lublin's book.
1. Confront self-doubts about your capabilities.
Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, the social media advisory firm, battled the self-esteem demon when she was an academic star at Stanford University. "If you hear that voice, you need to overpower it with another voice that says 'I do belong,'" she recommends. "Catch yourself."
2. Don't overly criticize yourself when an assignment doesn't work out.
Ellen Kullman, a former chief executive of DuPont Co., sticks to a "no regrets" policy. "If it doesn't work out, I am not going to sit there and lament it."
3. Defuse your imposter anxiety by initially pursuing a small-scale assignment.
"If you step forward," says Kathleen Ligocki, the current CEO of Agility Fuel and a former chief of Tower Automotive, "you learn if you are agile enough."
4. View yourself as a confident leader.
"If you don't consider yourself important," notes Adele Gulfo, chief strategy officer at Mylan NV, a maker of generic drugs, "no one is going to consider yourself important."
5. Wear heels, stand tall, [and] never apologize unnecessarily.
[A]nd fill your mind with memories of important work experiences where you displayed confidence. "Don't talk in a little, tiny voice. Don't 'um' and 'er,'" says Penny Herscher, executive chairman and prior CEO of FirstRain. At the same time, adds Patt Russo, a former CEO of Lucent Technologies and Alcatel-Lucent, don't act in a way that implies you have all the answers.