Do you ever feel like everyone around you is smarter and more accomplished? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Even rock star women like Sheryl Sandberg suffer from self-doubt and what has been dubbed the “impostor syndrome” — the nagging fear that plagues many high-achieving women (and men) that they aren’t as smart or talented as the people around them. The good news is that confidence is not a fixed state, but more like a muscle that can be strengthened with regular workouts, as shown by authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book, The Confidence Code.
Here, we share 5 exercises that Sheryl Sandberg and other Silicon Valley do each day to build their self-confidence.
1. Write down 3 things you did well that day before going to bed.
After the tragic death of her husband in 2015, Sheryl Sandberg felt like she would never be able to bounce back and accomplish the things she had done in the past. Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor at the Wharton School, convinced her otherwise. He suggested she make a daily practice of writing down 3 things she did well every day, at night before she went to bed. “Focusing on things I’d done well helped me rebuild my confidence. Even if it was small, I could record something positive each day,” she explains. Now, instead of focusing on what went wrong, she ends the day by reflecting on her successes.
2. Push yourself outside your comfort zone.
Carol Carpenter, VP of Product Marketing at Google, had gotten used to being the second-hand person in her role as Chief Marketing Officer at ClearSlide. So when she was tapped to be the CEO of ElasticBox, a cloud computing company, the negative voices began to creep into her head. “Taking the CEO role was uncomfortable for me. I had convinced myself that I was a great supporting actor, never the final decision maker, in spite of my prior experience running a $580 million global business with over 400 people.” Carpenter exercises her confidence muscle by pushing herself into uncomfortable situations on a regular basis. “Both success and failure contribute to muscle growth, ” she explains, “My mom-in-law has a saying, ‘Fly into the teeth of the shark.’ I remind myself of that every day!”
3. Speak up in the first 15 minutes of a meeting.
Alison Wagonfeld, Vice President of Marketing at Google and a former venture capitalist, was used to being one of the only women in the room. For her, speaking up early on in meetings helps her combat her fears and feel more comfortable participating in the conversation. “In group discussions, like board meetings and investment team meetings, I try to speak up in the first fifteen minutes,” she says. “If I get involved in the discussion early, I feel more confident contributing throughout.”
4. Get a pep talk from your peeps.
Karen Catlin, a former vice president of Adobe Systems and advocate for women in tech, relies on what she calls her “myth-busting posse” – her husband, good friends, and trusted co-workers – “to stop her impostor syndrome in its tracks.” “These are the people I can be vulnerable with, those I confide in when I’m lacking confidence,” she explains. “They help me check my insecurities at the door by reminding me of past accomplishments and why they know I’ll be great at whatever I’m struggling with.”
5. Don’t let failure stop you.
Dona Sarkar, a software engineer at Microsoft, failed her first computer science class at the University of Michigan. As one of the only women in the class, she was afraid to raise her hand and ask questions for fear that her classmates would think she was stupid. Surrounded by guys who had taken AP CS in high school and who were far ahead of her in their coding skills, she felt deflated. But she didn’t let failure stop her from pursuing her dream. “I told myself, I’m not going to let one failure hold me back,” she said. “It took me a long time to ride a bike, too. I fell off. I skinned my knees. I cried a bunch and said I’d never do it again. Then I got back on two days later and did fine.” Sarkar re-took the class, got a B+, and landed her dream job at Microsoft She discovered that exposure is the key to learning, whether it’s computer science or any field. Most people don’t grasp a concept on first try. They need to be exposed to an idea three times to fully get it. Her advice? Try something. Fail. And do it again.
Read the full story on Forbes.