Everyone thinks I'm a fraud. I'm not cut out for the job. I'm going to fail.
I'd be lying if I said I never had thoughts like this. And it wasn't just when I was starting out my company with no money, clients, or a clue of what I was doing. Even after two decades in business and multimillion-dollar revenue, I still catch myself in moments of uncertainty and fear.
Leaders are expected to exude unfaltering confidence at all times, but I'm about to let you in on a little secret: Everyone has self-doubt. From the most powerful people in the world to the person beside you ordering coffee. Despite what we've been taught, doubt is not a sign of weakness. In fact, thinking you're a fraud is incredibly normal. And from what I've learned, it can be a secret weapon to success.
We all have that little voice in the back of our head that tells us things are going to go wrong. The only difference between those who are successful and those who are not simply rests on how we use it.
Here are three ways to turn your biggest fears into your best assets.
1. Make it a motivator.
When someone says you won't be able to do something, there are two ways to respond. The first is to take their negativity to heart and believe they're probably right. The second is to have an overwhelming desire to prove them wrong. Which option do you think the most successful entrepreneurs choose?
People who disrupt an industry and draw attention to their achievements are often subject to naysayers who want to bring them down. When this happens, it's human nature to initially second-guess your strengths. When self-doubt rears its ugly head, change the storyline. Use it as pure motivation to one day look back and say, "I told you I could do it." Relish how that's going to feel, and don't stop until you get there.
2. Don't stop learning.
We all suffer from imposter syndrome at one point (or several) in our career. When I've felt like a fraud, I immediately resort to one thing: research. I scour websites, read books, attend seminars, and seek advice from experts in the field.
The best way to gain back your confidence is to immerse yourself in every facet of the role and industry. This requires a lot of time and effort; two qualities that separate those who succeed and those who fail.
3. Seek feedback from everyone.
There's a common misconception that those in charge shouldn't be subject to feedback. This is a dangerous path to go down. Just because you're signing the checks doesn't mean you're perfect or "above" quarterly reviews.
Sorry to break it to you, but you're a flawed human being with things you've got to work on. The only way to get better at your role is to ask others how you're doing. Without outside feedback, it's easy to take a self-doubt spiral and constantly question whether you're doing the right thing.
You'll know if you're on track by seeking outside experts to audit your performance, and by asking all levels of employees if they feel they have supportive leadership. Once you have your answers, you can step away from doubt and step in the right direction.