Reasonable self-doubt

Rosanna Machado | October 27, 2021


In 2017, when I went for my induction at my reservoir, we were asked, who feels nervous? Being the law-abiding person I am, I sheepishly raised my hand, and I was the only one to do so. I immediately felt like an imposter amongst these triathletes and yet when I told a friend about it, the first thing she said was, of course others were scared, but they didn’t want to admit it in front of everyone else. Whilst my friend could step back and gain perspective on the situation, I was holding on to my old sporting narrative and lacking in self-compassion. Over time, as I have become more comfortable embracing all my emotions, I find it easier to see these emotions as data where I have a choice about how I respond to them.

I was interested to hear Susan David question whether imposter syndrome is just healthy human doubt, and this made me think about when my healthy self-doubt and nerves tip into something more out of control when I feel like an imposter. For me, it is about how prepared I feel, how supportive the community is around me, the narratives that I am holding on to, (which are often outdated) and how compassionate I am towards myself. Knowing that the path to growth involves some discomfort has also been a good way for me to recognise my feelings as normal.

Adam Grant sees positives in imposter syndrome as by embracing those doubts it can motivate us to work harder, work smarter (as we have nothing to lose) and we are open to learning.

So rather than pushing what you think is imposter syndrome away, why not embrace what you are feeling and use it to your advantage:

  • Understand what you are feeling. Saying it out loud or writing it down can help put it in perspective or articulate more clearly the source of your doubt or fear
  • Identify what you can do to address your doubt
  • Adopt a level of confident humility
  • Enjoy the journey – learn, fail, learn, flourish
  • Surround yourself with a supportive community
  • Be kind to yourself

Whilst no-one else is on your journey, you’d be amazed at how many people journey through those moments of self-doubt too and embracing them, sharing them and seeing them as an opportunity to learn and grow can be very fulfilling.