Impostor Syndrome and Building Inner Confidence

Illustration with confidence indicator for concept design. Business concept vector illustration

The other day I was listening to the Feb 16, 2024 podcast, “On Purpose with Jay Shetty” titled, “Three Ways to Build Inner Confidence.” I had a light bulb moment with regard to impostor syndrome.

He explained a difference between Inner Confidence and Outer Confidence, which are both rooted in our need for validation. Inner confidence is the desire to BE better. It comes from our own internal validation based in genuinely wanting to improve yourself, not for the sake of others’ approval, but for your own satisfaction and growth. Outer confidence is the desire to BE SEEN as better and comes from external validation, the human desire to be acknowledged and esteemed by others. It’s about presenting oneself in a way that generates approval and admiration from the external world.

How is this related to impostor syndrome?

Suppose a person does the hard work to accomplish something big. Maybe they lost a lot of weight, or secured a really big client contract, or won a big competition. The work to do it was grueling! Yet, through a combination of talent, skill, perseverance, circumstance, timing, external influences, intelligence, coaching, research, discipline, and all sorts of other factors, they succeed. People celebrate and congratulate them, and it feels terrific!  External validation begets external confidence, which feels really nice…for a short time.

However, it can completely replace and even silence the internal validation and the self-congratulatory words we speak to ourselves.  Silencing that is perilous to our well-being because it’s so empowering and sustaining. It’s the true impetus for driving  the intentional work we can do to pursue self-awareness and personal growth. It’s simply easier to bask in external validation than dig deep to develop our internal validation.

But here’s the problem: as time passes, the external validation goes silent because the victory was either so far in the rear view mirror, or the ongoing success behavior has become so part of your identity, that you’re  just seen as normally competent. Nobody praises a teenager for the act of walking, even though at age 1 it was cause for celebration. Even if it takes a lot of work to do that same thing, to maintain or repeat the success, nobody really knows how hard it is to do it other than you, the person who actually did it.

In the absence of external validation, the internal self-talk goes wonky and defaults to a negative script. “I must not be that special! I can’t do this! I’ve lost my touch! I’m not qualified!” 

It’s not a news flash to know that negative self-talk created a negative self-image. Internal confidence takes a massive hit.

The solution is to create your own internal validation script and pursue your own internal confidence through revisiting your success stories. Celebrate your own victories. Recognize your own wins. Acknowledge your own talents and skills. Be consciously aware of how you’ve grown, improved, excelled beyond what you were in the past. It seems so trite to say don’t compare yourself to others, but only to your previous self.. Yet, it’s a critical element to embracing your value and worth.

Developing your inner confidence comes from a desire to improve, learn, and try hard things. Explore, be curious, take risks, do something different. And then regardless of the outcome, pat yourself on the back for trying it.

In my keynote I talk about “Pushing the Envelope” of your own expectations. So often we fail to push a limit because we don’t realize that most limits really aren’t limits. They’re fake boundaries WE created in the absence of external validation from others. By focusing on internal validation and personal development, you can build a strong foundation of internal confidence that isn’t easily shaken by external factors. Or lack of them.

Commit to celebrating your victories, acknowledging your growth, and constantly pushing the envelope of your capabilities. It’s through this lens of self-recognition and internal validation that you can truly overcome impostor syndrome and step into your power with genuine confidence and bold assurance.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to know!

Share this post with your friends

Leave a Reply