I’ve always been a relatively confident person–at least, I appear confident from an outsider's perspective; however, what goes on in my head is much different than what I present on the outside. My mind is an endless oblivion of questioning myself, doubting myself, and underestimating my abilities. Even when I make it to places where I earned my spot, I question my worthiness of being there. I've just learned recently just how important self-belief can be in helping you achieve your goals.
Pauline Claunce and Suzanne Imes proposed the theory of “imposter syndrome,” where women feel they do not deserve their job and are imposters, or frauds, who could be unobscured at any moment. Imposter syndrome causes women to get caught in a downward spiral of diminishing self-confidence. I used to think that this lack of self-confidence I had and consistent role as an “underdog” helped me to become stronger. But I’ve realized falling victim to this “imposter syndrome” and continuous self-doubt is nothing but harmful. We have a choice over whether or not to be confident, yet we are constantly letting other people make that choice for us. We question ourselves, doubt ourselves, undervalue ourselves, and we think that it's okay, that it won’t harm outside aspects of our lives. I’ve realized over the past month, while interviewing for finance internships, how undervalued the concept of self-confidence is. The bottom line is that no matter what your qualifications are, the most important aspect that will help get you places is your self-confidence. In a society where we so easily let other people decide how we feel about ourselves, it’s time to realize how vital our self-confidence is, and that it is something other people cannot decide for us if we don’t let them.
I have been a fairly outgoing person for my entire life. I’ve never had problems when it comes to talking to people, and I wouldn’t consider myself shy. However, if you were sitting across from me in an interview room, you would think I am the most introverted, anxious individual. No matter how calm I try to be, my hands always end up shaking, my mouth moves a million miles per hour, and I seem to forget everything I knew before stepping into that room. There is a simple answer as to why I become an entirely different person when I step into these situations–my fleeting self-confidence.
For so long, I have let self-doubt dictate much of how my life has progressed. I prepare for hours on end for interviews, and then as soon as I am in that room, all that I do is doubt myself. ‘Why am I here?’ ‘I don’t deserve this opportunity.’ ‘There are so many better candidates than me.’ These thoughts continuously run through my mind as I watch yet another amazing opportunity slip between my fingers because I can’t take a breath, slow down, and believe in myself. I look at the people on the other side of the table, I make assumptions about what they think, and then I let them determine how I feel about myself. I’ve let people suppress my self-confidence for my whole life–and I didn’t even realize it.
However, this past month I had an opportunity to interview for the internship I have been working towards for so long. The process not only involved one interview, but four. My greatest strength for this position was simple: my personality. However, this presented one huge problem–I had never once been able to act like myself in an interview. I couldn’t continue to do what I have done for so long–I could not let someone else determine my self-confidence, I could not let someone else influence me to doubt myself again. I had to find my self-confidence, and believe it for myself, in order for the outside world to believe it too. So, that’s what I did. I reflected on everything I had done to get to the position I was in, proving to myself that I truly deserved this opportunity; and, I took the time to find my own self-confidence, rather than let someone else depict it. It was through this experience that I learned just how very undervalued self-confidence is. By taking the time to find true self-belief, I interviewed for the first time ever as myself–without the shaking hands, without millions of words pouring out of me every second–and I got the internship.
Often, the concept of self-confidence gets tangled within the realm of being “full of yourself.” There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is believing you are better than everyone else. Confidence is simply believing in yourself. Be confident, not arrogant. Don’t fear being confident because you are scared to come across as arrogant. The ironic thing with this is that this fear often lets people who are actually arrogant determine how we feel about ourselves. We are living in a society where people are so preoccupied with thinking about what others think of them, and this is, and will always be, something that is detrimental to self-confidence. Especially being a woman, there are an abundance of “standards” and “norms” that we are supposed to abide by–everything we are “supposed” to be. We constantly compare ourselves to others, rather than focusing, in a positive way, on ourselves. I have lost so many opportunities by doubting myself and letting other people determine my worth. And, sadly, this is true for a lot of women. This is why finding your own self-confidence is so incredibly important. You will miss out on so many opportunities in life if you continue to fall victim to the imposter syndrome. Do not let yourself think you are not worthy of being where you are.
So, I encourage women all around the world to take time to find their self-confidence. And I don’t mean convincing yourself that you are confident or worthy of something, but genuinely taking time to find the proof that exists in your life to support your self-confidence. It may be believed that there are so many more important things in life than self-confidence, but the longer the world believes this, the more undervalued self-confidence will get, and the more opportunities you will miss. You wouldn’t be somewhere if you didn’t deserve to be there, so it’s time we all start to truly believe this. Determining your own self worth, instead of letting someone else decide it for you, might just be the one thing in life that will get you where you want to be.