Building confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome: tips from Canadian women

Are you feeling lucky and asking yourself what you have done to deserve this? When you get ahead in your career, do you put it down to luck and wonder if you really deserve it?

First of all, you’re not alone. You might be experiencing imposter syndrome. A recent KPMG study found that 65 percent of female executives from a range of industries have experienced imposter syndrome during their careers.

85 percent of female executives believe imposter syndrome is a common problem for women.

Lack of self-confidence often leads women to attribute their achievements to luck. However, by calling ourselves lucky, we diminish our own work and effort. Research suggests that women more frequently attribute their career achievements to luck, while men credit their skills and hard work.

In reality, the opposite is likely true, according to our accomplished guest Lisa Raitt, former federal cabinet minister and Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, and current Vice Chair and Managing Director of Global Investment Banking at CIBC.

I’m not lucky. I worked. I’m taking the opportunities as they come up, and I’ve been prepared for it. Luck is opportunity plus preparation. Stop putting ourselves down. Stop demurring because we don’t think it’s a female thing to do.

Lisa Raitt

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon where individuals doubt their abilities, feel like frauds, and believe that their achievements are undeserved. Overcoming imposter syndrome takes time and effort, but here are some strategies that can help:

  • Recognize and acknowledge your feelings: The first step is to acknowledge that you are experiencing imposter syndrome. Recognize that many people, even high achievers, feel this way at times.
  • Reframe your thoughts: Challenge your negative self-talk and replace it with positive and realistic thoughts. Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, remind yourself of your accomplishments and the skills you possess.
  • Embrace your strengths: Make a list of your strengths, skills, and achievements. Reflect on them regularly to build confidence in your abilities.
  • Accept that perfection is unattainable: Understand that perfection is an unrealistic standard. Everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks. Learn from your failures and view them as opportunities for growth.
  • Seek support: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or mentors about your feelings of imposter syndrome. They can provide perspective, encouragement, and reassurance.
  • Celebrate your successes: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Take pride in your accomplishments and recognize that you deserve credit for your hard work.

Imposter syndrome: it’s not all in your head

As much as we stand by our advice to investigate and challenge your own thoughts that lead you to feeling like an imposter, it’s also important to note that the feelings we call “imposter syndrome” can be a realistic response to systemic problems and societal challenges including:

  • Systemic barriers and marginalization: Individuals from marginalized groups often face unique challenges, discrimination, and imbalanced power dynamics, which can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. It’s crucial to recognize and discuss these systemic factors.
  • Lack of representation: When individuals don’t see others who share their backgrounds or identities succeeding in their chosen paths, they may question their own abilities and struggle with feelings of not belonging or being an imposter.
  • Perfectionism and high standards: Many individuals feel the need to constantly meet high standards, be flawless, and achieve unrealistic levels of success. When they fall short of these expectations, they may experience imposter syndrome.
  • Comparison and social media influence: Seeing curated successes and achievements can make individuals feel inadequate in comparison. It’s important to remember that what’s shared online may not accurately represent the full reality of other peoples’ lives.

Imposter syndrome can be real … and it can also be a realistic response to systemic problems. This is why strong leaders and organizations provide support and resources that address both the individual experiences and the broader societal factors that contribute to feelings of imposter syndrome.

Read about: I kicked imposter syndrome to the curb. Here’s why you should, too

Inspiring quotes about confidence from influential Canadian women

Drawing inspiration from the experiences and wisdom of influential Canadian women can be a powerful tool in building confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome. Here are some empowering quotes that can inspire and boost your confidence:

You worked, you deserve it, you own it, you got this.

Lisa Raitt

We think Lisa Raitt’s words have a nice ring to them — kind of like a cheerleader. Positive words and thoughts can make a bigger difference than you might expect. Here are a few tips you can follow to be your own cheerleader:

  • Embrace self-acceptance and practice positive self-talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace self-criticism with positive affirmations. Recognize your strengths, talents, and unique qualities, and remind yourself of your accomplishments, capabilities, and potential.
  • Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals aligned with your values and aspirations, and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate each milestone along the way, acknowledging your progress and growth.
  • Prioritize self-care: Engage in activities that bring you joy, reduce stress, and improve your overall health. When you prioritize yourself, you send a message to yourself that you deserve happiness and self-support.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people: Seek out positive relationships and communities that provide encouragement, inspiration, and constructive feedback. Avoid toxic or negative influences that undermine your self-belief.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset: Understand that challenges and setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth. Instead of dwelling on failures, view them as stepping stones toward success. Learn from your experiences, adapt, and keep moving forward with determination.
  • Acknowledge your achievements: Take pride in your accomplishments and reward yourself for your hard work and progress. Recognizing your successes boosts self-confidence and reinforces the belief in your abilities.
  • Celebrate your uniqueness: Recognize that your individuality gives you something special to offer the world, and that your voice and perspective matter. Celebrate your differences and let them be a source of strength and empowerment.

And, demonstrating that great minds think alike, this quote from Canadian media presenter and host, philanthropist, and author, Sangita Patel, also has a “get up and cheer for yourself” feel to it:

You deserve it. You’re allowed to grow. You deserve everything you work for.

Sangita Patel

Carole Saab, CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, recognized as one of the Top 100 Lobbyists in Canada, and a recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, has some valuable advice when it comes to cultivating self-confidence.

My experience as a woman has been that you have to be 10 times more direct about your ambition than you think you need to be…. Every time I’ve been promoted, I’ve certainly felt like I needed to be my own advocate, needed to be very direct about that.

Carole Saab
Read about: Women have to support women: here is why you need a circle of women to succeed

Be your own advocate

Going hand-in-hand with the idea of being your own cheerleader is the need to be your own advocate. This can sometimes be hard to do, but it’s an essential skill that can greatly benefit your personal and professional life.

Here are some ways to directly advocate for yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable:

  • Clearly communicate your needs: Be clear and assertive when expressing your needs, desires, and boundaries. Practice effective communication by using “I” statements to express how you feel and what you require. Clearly communicate your expectations, whether in personal relationships, work situations, or other areas of your life.
  • Stand up for your ideas and opinions: Believe in your perspective and speak up confidently even if your ideas and opinions differ from others’. Respectfully present your thoughts and be open to engaging in constructive discussions. Your unique viewpoint deserves to be heard.
  • Negotiate for yourself: Whether you’re negotiating your salary, a contract, or another agreement, advocate for your worth. Do your research, know your value, and present your case with confidence. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve — the outcome should benefit both parties.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to recognize when someone is crossing your boundaries, and assertively communicate your limits. Saying “no” when necessary and asserting your needs helps create a balanced and respectful environment.
  • Seek support and feedback: Trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues can provide valuable insights, guidance, and encouragement, helping you navigate difficult situations and advocate for yourself more effectively.
Read about: Here is why you should have a mentor: insights from Canada’s most influential women
  • Request professional development opportunities: Actively seek opportunities for training, workshops, conferences, or additional responsibilities that can enhance your skills and advance your career. Communicate your goals to your superiors and demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement.
  • Embrace self-confidence and practice self-advocacy: Like any skill, self-advocacy improves with practice. Start with small steps and gradually challenge yourself to advocate for your needs and desires. Push through the discomfort and recognize that your voice matters. With each successful self-advocacy experience, your confidence will grow.

Remember, advocating for yourself is not selfish but rather a way to ensure your needs are met and your voice is heard. By actively practicing self-advocacy, you empower yourself and create opportunities for personal and professional growth.