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Personal investing

Overcome impostor syndrome this Women’s Month and own your throne

This pandemic has been a blunt reminder that while we can’t control our environment, there is no time like the present to take control of our journeys, or to use our experience to guide others on theirs – be it at home, at work, in our communities or in aspects of our daily lives, such as our finances. 

In honour of Women’s Month, Dr Valerie Young, widely recognised as a leading expert on impostor syndrome and SweepSouth CEO, Aisha Pandor, an inspiring entrepreneur, shared their stories, strategies and insights, hosted by Allan Gray business development manager, Candace Du Plessis. Watch this 55-minute recording for valuable ways to help you or those you lead, manage, mentor or parent own their thrones. You can also read some takeouts from the keynote address below.

Key takeouts: Everyone loses when bright people play small

How many of us feel we are in over our head? How many of us hear that little voice that pops up to say that we are going to be found out? This, according to Dr Valerie Young, is the essence of impostor syndrome. Dr Young offered three tools to help us overcome this common phenomenon:

1. Normalise impostor syndrome

By talking about impostor syndrome, whether with friends, colleagues or at the office, we serve to normalise these feelings rather than sweep them under the rug. The other way to normalise is to understand the situational, social, and organisational reasons competent people feel like frauds. That way, the next time you have a normal impostor moment you can do less personalising and more contextualising.

2. Reframe

People who are humble but have never experienced impostor syndrome are no more intelligent or capable than those who do. The only difference is they have a more realistic definition of competence and have a healthy response to failure, constructive feedback, and fear. That is why the only way to stop feeling like an impostor, is to stop thinking like an impostor. To do this, hit the pause button and become aware of conversation in your head, then step back and reframe your thoughts the way someone who does not feel like an impostor would. Your words do matter as evidenced by the finding that people who have high levels of self-compassion have been found to experience less impostor syndrome than those who speak to themselves with low self-compassion.

3. Keep going, regardless

Feelings are the last to change. Don’t wait until you feel 100% confident before you take the next step. Regardless of the pressure you feel, or the anxiety that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone, you must keep going. That means changing your thoughts first, then changing your behaviours by jumping in and trusting you can figure it out as you go, and projecting confidence even when you don’t always feel it. Don't let self-doubt get in the way. Everyone loses when bright people play small.

And let the closing words of Aisha Pandor, paraphrased here, inspire you: You have earned your seat at the table. Do the best you can, be humble, continue to learn and show courage. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear; it is simply putting yourself out there a little bit. Having a seat at the table comes with a degree of accountability and responsibility – the responsibility to share that position with others who are underrepresented. It also comes with the responsibility to take care of yourself and to recognise that if you are constantly putting others before yourself or beating up on yourself, that is not putting you in the best position to help yourself or others.

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