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We all have that little voice.

For some, it’s not so little. Maybe yours is a loud shouty voice: That voice inside your head that fills you with self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and manifests in the dreaded imposter syndrome.

It’s the voice that says, I’m not good enough. I’m not ready. It’s not the right time. I probably won’t get the job anyway. Other people are smarter than me. I don’t deserve success. What if I fail? I’ll probably just embarrass myself. What if people realise I’m a fraud and don’t know exactly what I’m doing? What will other people think of me? Who am I to be that, try that, do that?

Who am I?

While self-doubt affects both genders, research shows it is more prevalent in women. Not surprisingly, it holds us back.

It can be confronting to acknowledge, but the biggest roadblock to our success is usually ourselves. It’s not someone else. It’s not circumstance. It’s not our environment. It’s us. That’s not to say those other things don’t have an impact. They do. But usually, if we’re brutally honest, the biggest thing holding us back is ourselves.

Some women hear that little voice of self-doubt and listen to it. That little voice controls their actions. It becomes their excuse for not doing the things they say they want to. It knocks their confidence and stops them from pursuing their goals and dreams. From applying for a promotion; asking for a pay rise; taking on a coaching or committee position; or challenging themselves to do something different.

They hear the voice of self-doubt and take it as a sign to stop or not do something.

But here’s the thing: Every woman has that little voice.

Every woman has feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and of being an ‘imposter’ at times, no matter how successful or confident they are.

It’s vital you understand this. Everyone doubts themselves.

Recently I attended the Run the World Conference, the largest female entrepreneur conference in Australia. There were six brilliant speakers. Hugely successful women running businesses they’d started from scratch that are now turning massive profits. These women are confident, bold, and successful in anyone’s book. Yet every one of them spoke about doubting themselves at some point.

I have spoken with many female senior leaders, business owners, and executives about this – women who ooze confidence and capability – and all confess to feeling, or having felt, exactly the same. They have that little voice in their heads too. What sets them apart is how they deal with it.

It’s not whether you have that little voice, it’s what you do with it that matters.

So, if you’ll never silence it, how do you overcome it?

Understand the little voice is not you.

Like one of those cartoons where there’s a devil on one shoulder telling you to do bad things, and an angel on the other telling you to do good, you need to imagine the voice of self-doubt is a separate character – perhaps a devil with a pitchfork, or a meddling pixie. Whatever you picture, the key is it’s not you. It’s separate to you. Removed from you. You need to look at it objectively. You are not a failure, it’s just a voice telling you that you are. Self-doubt is a villainous witch trying to mess with your mind. Don’t let her win.

Talk back to it.

When that little voice starts, talk back to it. Tell it to pipe down; to shut up. Be courageous and stand up to it. Treat it like you would a naughty or sulking toddler. The little voice is telling you you’re scared? Bad luck, you’re doing it anyway.

I use this technique all the time. If I get nervous before a presentation, or find self-doubt creeping in, I give myself a stern talking to.doubt-752x490

“Ok, you’re nervous. So what. You’re doing it anyway.”

“What if I fail? Who cares! Better to try, fail, and learn, than not try at all.”

Train your brain.

Overcoming self-doubt is not something that just happens. It’s something you have to train yourself to do. You have to be diligent and you won’t always get it right.

Recently, after a workshop I went through the feedback forms and was thrilled to receive the maximum five-star rating from almost all of the 30 participants. A few had given four stars instead, and one had given three. Three stars. Average.

I spent a good five minutes letting the voice of self-doubt chatter away in my head. What had I done wrong? Why had my presentation not connected as strongly with that person? And then I pulled myself up. Hang about; twenty-nine people had thought the workshop was good or great and one had thought it was ok, yet here I was feeling deflated and giving all my attention to the one lower ranking. Really? Come on.

Yes, it was important I consider this feedback to see if I could learn anything to improve the presentation, but to only focus on it and ignore the overwhelmingly positive comments was just plain dumb. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Expect negative thoughts to pop into your head.

No matter how positive you are, at times negativity and self-doubt will be there. Don’t be surprised. Instead, understand it’s normal and rather than let the voice put you off, consider it a sign you’re getting somewhere.

Re-frame.

Don’t stop when imposter syndrome and self-doubt hits, push through it. The voice is at its strongest when you’re challenging yourself. Keep going. See it as proof you’re taking risks and getting closer to your goal. Awesome! Go you! Acknowledge the self-doubt, but then do the thing anyway.

This is the point I’m at now. It took me a long time to get here, but it’s a wonderful place to be. When my little voice of self-doubt starts I almost welcome it now, because it only turns up when I’m pushing myself.

My self-talk these days goes something like this, “Oh hello self-doubt, you’re here. How interesting. I must be about to do something great. Yay! Now kindly shut up and go away, because regardless of what you say, I’m doing it anyway.”

Yes, pushing through might be a bit uncomfortable. No, it’s not always easy. But outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.

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If you’re interested in learning more about overcoming self-doubt and removing the roadblocks to success, come along to my public workshop, Remove the Roadblocks, on Sunday 23 October from 2pm-4.30pm in Moe. Tickets are $50 and available at www.roadblocks.eventbrite.com.au.

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