Skip to main content

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Lesson 3 from: How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence

Mel Robbins

most popular money & life

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

3. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Mel shares her experience during a TEDx talk where she was overcome with anxiety and felt like she didn't belong.

Lesson Info

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

The imposter syndrome, it's funny because when we were building this course for you all, and the imposter syndrome came up as a word, I'm like what is that? 'Cause I think I'm too old for that, I think that's like a new term, I dunno. That was not really a term. And so I looked up the definition for it, and I'm like oh my god, that's me. I suffer from the imposter syndrome, I'm convinced that I'm faking my way through my accomplishments, or I feel like I don't deserve it. How many of you can relate to that? Who suffers from it here? Yes, totally. So I wanna show you some examples of when I felt the imposter syndrome in my life, and I want you to be thinking about where do you feel like you're faking it right now? And for me, that even way of describing it's not the right way, it's where is somebody gonna call you out and embarrass you? Where is it you're actually afraid to be found out? So it's one thing to go through faking it, I think that, you know, that's an experience we have. The...

other is to live in fear that somebody's actually gonna call you out publicly, and that you're gonna get found out, right? Or how many of you are struggling with the I don't feel like I deserve what I have? You feel unworthy? Yeah, crippling, isn't it? Really crippling, that sucks, we're gonna stop that. So interestingly, I had a really weird experience happen last night. This is not a story that I was planning on telling, because it just happened. But one of the first instances of me feeling like a gigantic fraud was about, I gotta do some math right now, so it's gonna take me a minute, um, it was about six years ago. And I had just come out of the darkest period of my life, which I'm gonna tell you about in a minute, and I had come from a space of personal and professional and relationship kind of failure, circling the drain, and I had slowly clawed my way back to a place where I was discovering real confidence. And I was asked to give a talk, and it was one of these TedX talks, and at the time TedX was not the brand that it is today. Heck, they didn't even put them online, I hadn't even heard of it. And so I remember thinking well why? And the woman told me that the reason why they wanted me to do a Ted talk was because I had changed my career so many times. Obviously, nobody knew I had ADD and like dyslexia and everything else at the time, so I would jump from one thing to other out of anxiety, but that's not what the speech was about. So I give this speech, she tells me that she wants me to come and talk about how do you change so many times? How does a human being do that? So the talk was really about where I was at professionally, which at the time I was hosting a radio show. I was not a big personal development person. I just was kinda very matter of fact about well this is how I deal with my own BS. And I put together this speech, and I'm standing backstage at this thing, and the first person that talks has like got a PhD in I dunno what, and has 15 New York Times bestsellers, and I start to have that feeling like I am so in over my head. And then the next person comes out, and it's some person that sequenced the human genome, or something small like that. And then the next person comes out. And slowly but surely, I start to feel the panic rising in my body. And I think this might be the worst decision that I have ever made in my entire life, because clearly what I have created stinks compared to what everybody else has created. And clearly, I am about to be the dumbest person to set foot on this stage. And I am also second to last. And so all day long the anxiety is rising in my body, and I end up going out on that stage, and it was one of those moments of my life where I don't even remember it happening. It was such an acute state of stress, have you ever had that happen to you? Where you literally are there, but you're not in your body. Even when I've watched this thing back, I don't remember giving this speech. It was a 21 minute long panic attack, right there, that's what it was. And so I give this speech, you see I'm sweating, I kept my arms like this because I had such bad pit stains as I was doing it. And I walk off the stage, and I have that dry throat, and the pit in my stomach that anxiety gives you, and I turn to my husband Chris, as if it's his fault, and I'm like don't ever let me do anything like that again! That was terrible! And I leave. And nothing happens. And I think thank god it was only those 800 people in that room. A year later, they put it online. Now here's what happened, and that talk, by the way, was the tipping point of a brand new chapter in my life. Because that talk was the first place I ever mentioned the five second rule, which I'll explain in another module. And that talk went viral, which created interest in the rule, and that interest created my speaking business, and created the need for a book, and created everything that I'm doing now. And it's been this remarkable six year chapter of ups and down and learning, and everything else, and then something crazy happened last night. So about a year ago, I decided that I wanted to make some changes, just like you. That there were some aspects of my life and business that don't really work, that I need to switch things up, just like you're feeling that there are things that you want to change. And so I decided I wanted to start getting into the course business, that I wanted to do more content, that I wanted to be more interactive with people, just like we're doing right now. And so we started to make some changes. Obviously, we built a course for you all, and last night we did, yesterday we did prep for this, so we could be ready for you. We'll see if it actually worked, based on how I go today. But we leave, and I say to my business partner, we gotta go get something to eat. Like I'm absolutely gassed, I'm still on East Coast time, and I'm exhausted, and I need a change of venues so my brain can actually refresh. And so I say can you find a hotel, because a hotel lobby, it's a great place to work by the way, hotel lobby is great, they let you spread out your stuff, nobody's angry if you're eating with a laptop out, it's terrific. So Mandy says sure, there's this hotel over there. So we hop in a Lyft, and off we go, and we pull in, and I go oh my god. Do you believe in signs? Me too. I think it's also important to be awake enough to see them. So we pull into the hotel, and I realize six years ago I had stayed in that hotel, and across the street, I had given that talk. And I had this holy cow, this is a sign that this is the beginning on a new chapter. And so you're, I'm gonna get choked up, I'm here for a reason, you're here for a reason. Even you, even you, yes you, here, you at home, you're here for a reason watching this. You could be doing something else. Nothing else as important, but you could be doing something else. I want you to think about what's the new chapter? What is it? Because we're gonna give you the tools to really go after it. And the other thing I want you to understand is that it's gonna require you to do things that are scary. It's gonna require you to do things that are new. It's gonna require you to put yourself on the line, and that's okay, that's actually really really good. See I don't think imposter syndrome is something to get rid of, I think it's something that's really good, if you understand it. I want to show you another example, because this happened just two days ago. This is me and my business partner doing a live training. And I was trying to illustrate a point about something, so we're pantomiming it, and after we did this, Mandy says to me, "I'm gonna kill you, I was in yoga pants, "and the shot was like right at this region, right?" And we started talking about the imposter syndrome. Can we give Mandy a mic? Because what you said about what happened for her, other than the I hate what I'm wearing, why am I on Facebook live right now? What she said, this defines imposter syndrome. This defines what imposter syndrome does to you if you don't understand how to use it to your benefit. So in this moment, as I'm pulling her onto camera, where did your mind go? And what did you start to tell yourself? And what did you start to do, more importantly? Well when you pulled me on camera you said, "Oh, my business partner Mandy", because I was offscreen the entire time answering, or throwing questions to Mel. And every time Mel says business partner I go everyone watching does not believe that this 12-year-old looking person is your business partner. And so I was talking to Mel about how every time she says the word business partner, I don't believe it. And even though I am in every way, shape, and form, I still have the, there is a huge gap between what I think my function is in our business, and what I think people look at me as. And a lot of it has to do with external opinions. So if someone else says something to me, I start to believe that. So what did you do, though? Because what's interesting about imposter syndrome, everybody, is how it then impacts how you act. So here we are, doing a live training, we've got probably 40,000 people on, you know, the stream, and Mandy and I are trying to illustrate a point through a really weird pantomiming thing that we were doing. And she's busy looking at what? Oh, I was looking at the comments. For what? I was looking at people going, I was waiting for someone to say "How do I get that job?" Like why does that chick get that? So I was looking for people to start questioning why I'm in that position and they're not. So this is the danger of imposter syndrome, and this is why I wanted to explain this. Because imposter syndrome can be a really good thing, but it's a really bad thing if you're in the moment, and you let that self doubt that comes from feeling like a fraud, or that you're unworthy, direct your action. So instead of being, you know, we still pulled it off, and it was an amazing training, but Mandy was literally two different people. One person was eying the comments, waiting for the bashes to come, because you've trained yourself to expect them, that's where the habit piece comes in. This stuff becomes a habit when you repeat it. And so what we're going to do, and you know, we had this conversation, because Mandy obviously knows all the stuff that we talk about, and you know, she uses it as well, she caught herself and was like oh my gosh, I'm doing it. Stop, like five, four, three, two, one, do not look for that. How many of you can relate to that? Yes, okay, let's have a mic right here. Oh, feelings are rising up, you can choose how to act. Okay see? So what feelings just rose up? I can totally relate. Last night I posted a video blog about how to know when to leave your job. Are you Holly? Yeah. Okay, got you. See, stalker. Wow. (audience laughing) And after I posted it, I'm still very new at posting videos about myself, and after I posted it, I kept thinking about, I kept wondering like oh my gosh, when is someone going to make fun of this video, when is somebody gonna write a nasty comment, like oh my gosh, maybe I should just delete it, it's crap. Who can relate to this? I can certainly relate to that. Yes, that is the, so the feelings are natural. What you do, and what you think, is a choice. So feeling exposed is natural, feeling that kind of worriedness, natural. Maniacally going back to the comments every five minutes to see if anybody's posted anything, that's a choice, right? Letting your thoughts linger there, that's a choice. Letting your thoughts take you to oh, should I delete it, should I not delete it, should I be doing this? Maybe I should quit my job, maybe I should never do this. Like that is the choice. And so that's where we're gonna go to war. Make sense? Okay great, excellent, thank you Holly. Because in my mind imposter syndrome, perfectly normal, okay? More importantly, a good thing, it's a good thing. It's a good thing if you know how to not let it direct bad behavior. So the reason why it's a good thing is because as you are feeling like you're stretching yourself, you're learning. And this is all gonna build. Like this whole class is like a bunch of legos that build on top of each other. So the other thing is that the reason why you're feeling it is because you're growing. That's why you feel that way. It is so normal and natural, because you're doing something new. And every time you do something new, it is uncomfortable. It just is, by definition, how it goes. It only disappears as you keep doing it. As you keep putting up videos, as you keep learning, that's the only thing that will make it disappear. And here's the other thing, if there's somebody in this room, or watching online that doesn't feel like a fake or a fraud, sorry you're not pushing yourself. You're lazy, you're scared, you're hiding. This is something you want to feel. You want to feel worried, you want to feel like concerned about whether or not you're exposed. Imposter syndrome is a great thing. If you do not feel this way in some area of your business and your life, you're not growing, and that's a problem. So we're going to give you the skills though, so that as you're in that in between state, where look, hey, I had one chapter that's been great for the last six years, I've learned a lot, I'm now starting the next one. It's gonna have a lot of moments where I don't feel like I know what I'm doing. It's gonna have a lot of moments where I post stuff and I'm liked eesh, shouldn't have done that. That's natural, and that's normal. Catch yourself, though, and we're going to start to teach you how you own the behavior and the thoughts that follow, okay? So that's the secret, frankly, it's the ability to push yourself into a zone that's terrifying, and then maintain self control as you ride the wave, instead of torturing yourself the entire time. So here's the question. If you had more confidence, how would your business and life change for the better? If you had more confidence, how would your business and life change for the better? In just a second, we're going to ask, we're going to pass around mics and figure this out. I will tell you right now that these are the changes that have happened in my business, in discovering real confidence, not the fake confidence, real confidence. I can say no. I can say no without doing that thing like should I have said no? Do they hate me now? Are we still friends? I dunno. I can say no and then not feel guilty. I have the ability to align my goals, my values, and my actions. So feelings are not driving what's going on. Goals, values, aligned with actions. So much more freeing, great negotiator. You know, one of the things we're going to talk about, and I hope that you ask about your business is how you get the money you deserve. Because if you're not getting paid what you wanna get paid, your feelings are doing the negotiating. You're afraid to lose clients, you're afraid somebody will talk bad about you, you're afraid somebody's gonna react to that price. Garbage, okay? Feeling that way, normal. Letting it dictate whether or not you ask for what you want is a choice. Focusing on your priorities. I make a lot more money, lot more money. Because my feelings are not in charge of the money that I make. Got it? Really important, and self control. So if you had more confidence, how would your business and life change for the better? Before we like get you to raise your hands and kinda go for it, what, I want you to think about this next chapter. I want you to think about getting what you came for by taking this course. How would your business or life change if you had more confidence? Who's gonna go first, before I start calling on people. Yes, right here, okay. Do we have a mic? How would my life be different? Yeah. I would, all of my dreams would come true. Tell us about your dreams, what are they? I know that I'm here to make a difference in everyone's life that crosses my path, and how I feel when I listen to you, Mel, and I'm also a graduate of POI. And that is that they know how great they are within, and that they are able to share their gifts in the world, just feel good about themselves. Yeah, I like people to feel about good about themselves when they're with me, but carry that on, because it's within them that they're feeling good. Right, what else would happen, if you had more confidence? Because here's an interesting thing, there's confidence that's perceived and projected, and then there's the real confidence inside. And so you project confidence, where is it that you're struggling? The simplest thing probably for anyone, maybe, and that's taking care of myself. Changing my diet, I did start exercising, and I can't, I've never been an exerciser in my entire life. Listening to Mel, I started in July, and I can't live without it. Like everyday I'm like oh good, this thing ends at this time, I get to go to my yoga class. See, after 15 years of exercising, I still don't feel that way, that's amazing! I've never been an exerciser. You know, go scuba diving, that's my exercise. So where does self doubt plague you? Like you said, the imposter, and I'm starting the imposter syndrome, and so for many years I just sat back and did nothing. I was self isolating, I wasn't out in the world. And surprisingly, I didn't lose my family or friends, but it was to the point where I just didn't take care of anything. I know that I am responsible for everything, and I lost my home, I had to file bankruptcy. I was just psychologically unemployable, I could not work. So the legacy of that is still haunting you? No, no, something shifted and I said I want to be of service. I don't know where that came from, prayer or whatever, and since then you know, I've been making, change is really slow for me. Okay, change typically is very slow for everybody. And the thing that I'm trying to tease out is, because as you can hear, projecting a lot of confidence, a lot of self-awareness, had hit bottom, just like a lot of us have, clawed her way out of it, and there's clearly a thirst for more, right? You can hear that, can't you? I think that what I want you to listen for in this course is I think that the habits and the thinking patterns that you have about whether it's the imposter syndrome, and feeling like a fraud, or it is years of bashing yourself, that is the place that I want you to really have a breakthrough in. Because I think you've got, if you can figure out how to become an exerciser after 30 years of not doing it, and actually enjoy it, you can change anything. Now it's time to go to the mental habits that still act like a really heavy, wet blanket over your life, okay? Awesome. Sure, who else. Yes, Hector, right in the front row here. So if I have more confidence, I'd get more clients. I'm a wedding photographer. You're a wedding photographer, and you'd get more clients. More clients, I can charge more. Yes, how much do you charge right now? Right now, not enough. (audience laughing) What do you charge? For 10 hours, 2,100. Okay, and what do you want to charge? I want to charge like 4,000, 5,000. Okay, and what's the story you're telling yourself about why you can't charge that? The story, I'm not good enough, I don't have enough equipment, I don't think people are gonna like what I do. Do you like what you do? Uhhh Do you see, we just got it, right there. You're, see, the thing, oh this is really good, okay. So the thing that I want you to think about is that at the heart of this, you have a story that you're not good enough as a photographer yet. Is that true? I think my thing is always I have been a perfectionist. Do we have any other perfectionists in here? Yes. But now I understand, that's just fear, right? It's fear, and I'm trying to, I post a lot of stuff lately because I'm following the rule. And a lot of stuff, I don't even like it myself. But do other people like it? Yeah, people like it, there's no negative about it, but it's in my head like uhhh. See, the source of all of the pain and the lack of money for you is coming from the fact that you don't like your work yet, and that you're such a perfectionist, that until you can break the habit of going for trying to make things perfect, which it will never be, it'll never be. It'll be done, but it might not be perfect. Until we can break that habit, and it's a form of self doubt, until we can break you of that habit, you're always gonna feel unstable, like not on stable footing about asking for the 4,000 dollars. That's the thing, because right now I think I have to make a lot of improvements, because I read stuff, and I tried to get more around positive people, and coming like here. But like three days I'm on the top, the other three days I'm on the bottom. Welcome to humanity, yes! Ride the wave, Hector! (audience laughing) So I say there has to be a way that I can be more constant with the way I feel. Yes, there is. Because it's a point in your life, like I let fear control my life the whole time. So I said you know what? I'm tired, I'm tired, I'm sick and tired of living my life to 25 percent of my ability and capacity. I make myself miserable, I'm making my family miserable, I got three kids, I got a wife. You know, sometimes you just act like a stupid. Because you don't know what to do, it's like, you start feeling it and you project it, and you just react. Like yesterday, I have a little episode with my wife because where you at? Oh, tell us about it. (audience laughing) Yeah yeah, because you know, I think, you know, like check in and stuff, but I think that's what I need to do. Even I was like, I got some confidence, and I said you know what, I just gotta tell what I feel. I was thinking about writing everything. But I said no, I just gotta go there, and whatever happens is gonna happen. Because I like to control. Say no, I'm not gonna control it. I'm gonna go and push myself to just whatever I feel, I'm gonna say it. So yesterday I call my wife, but she didn't answer the phone. And I start like oh boy, what's going on? Maybe I was getting worried, because you know, we've got three kids. Being honest, jealous, what's going on right there? And then I started like (making engine noise) I like that, I need that sound effect, I wish I could roll my Rs, because I like this. And I understand, and when she finally answer me like what's going on? Nothing, the phone was on silent. Like really, but you know I'm not home, why are you not more aware? You know what's so interesting? So there's a couple things that I love about you. Number one, I love just that you are taking the coaching of get what you came for, and you're just putting it all out there. Okay, this is courage in action right here, this is actually real confidence. He doesn't feel confident, but this is what it is, he's trying. He's like putting it out there, and he's being honest. And how many of you can relate to any aspect of this story? Raise your hand. Look around. So there's a couple things, and I think that number one, there's an aspect to your own skills, and your own celebration of work, that if you were to develop a few new habits around that, it would bolster your confidence. Because once you understand the science of confidence, and the importance of seeing the actions first, not the belief, I'll prove to you that kind of going and addressing the skill piece so that you yourself feel more confident and celebrate your work, that'll help. Number two, what I love about what you said is he is proving a point that we haven't even got to yet, that your life happens in these five second windows. That in the most profound part of your story, that would change any of our lives, is when he called his wife, and she didn't answer, and then make that sound for me, your mind went (making engine noise) That happens in five seconds flat, right? You can't control whether or not your spouse picks up the phone. The feelings that rise up, whether it's jealousy, or anger, or frustration, totally normal and natural. What you do next is a choice. And so for you, there's gonna be two things that I want you to be thinking about as we go through all of the curriculum here, is I want you to be thinking about number one, the self control mentally, so you don't go down that tunnel. And number two, what is missing in my craft, and my skills as a photographer so that I feel that I am worthy of 4,000 dollars? Look, if you need a fancy camera, because that's what a 4,000 dollar photographer has, so be it. But if you're actually gathering and collecting equipment, and collecting certifications as a way to hide and not have to do it, that's self doubt. Make sense? Yeah. Okay cool. Give him a round of applause, awesome. (audience applauding) Alright are you gonna hold on? Oh you gotta give it back, okay great, sorry I'm like. Okay, anybody, in the back, let's go in the back, somebody in the back, yes? I'm living a very duplicitous life right now. What does that mean? I am, I'm a healer by training, and that's really what I want to be, and I work for an auto broker. Which I also have fun, and I love my job. So you're healing car loan situations, and then you're healing like, you know I'm just kidding. I like to believe that I bring my ability to listen to people, to really listen, to the work that I do. I bet that you do. I bet you do that, not like I bet you want to be doing that. I bet you do, yeah. However, it's not who I am, and I had a healing practice for a long time, which I can very much relate to what Hector was saying, and the coaching that you gave him was very true for my experience with that. What happened? Well, huh, I met someone, I got into a relationship, and that person didn't approve of me and what I was doing, and so I let that, and so I burned my business to the ground, basically. Ouch. Yeah. And where's that relationship now? Over. Okay, good. Surprising, right? So what did you learn from that relationship? Because the thing that's interesting is, seven years ago I signed a talk show deal with ABC. And I had a call in radiO show with Sirius, and it didn't lead to the thing that I thought was gonna happen. It kinda like, my career totally fizzled out. And in looking back, I realize it happened because I wasn't ready. It happened because, I think that, you know, our soul and our lives kinda work on levels, and that there are lessons at every level, and if you're stubborn, if you're not ready, if you can't see the lesson at this level. And by the way, what is the lesson you need to learn? It's all the stuff you struggle with. Jealousy, or smallness, or hiding. Until you actually complete the level, the lessons at the level that you're on, you're not going to the next level. And so for me, it kinda comes back to that story of me being in the hotel last night, going holy cow, six years later I'm actually ready. Like I got everything that I needed in order to step into the things that I really want to do with control, and power, and a sense of purpose. And so what is it that you needed to learn, if we look at today as the next chapter? Well I think all of that's true, looking back at what I wanted to create, I just kind of like shake my head and laugh a little bit, like I wasn't ready. The kind of person that I really needed to be wasn't, I wasn't her back then. And what's coming up now, today, being here, I mean everything you've said, this is definitely another chapter that's opening. And I'm like oh, this is really different. Maybe now I'm ready. Maybe the whole story about the relationship, and why it happened, maybe all of that's not even true, and maybe it doesn't matter why, but maybe I just wasn't ready. Well here's another twist on it. Maybe, so you could use what happened in that relationship as a story to disempower yourself, or you could use the story in that relationship as a way to propel you into the next chapter. Because the fact is, if you get involved in a relationship and it shrinks you, and you stop doing the things that make you you, and that fulfill you, and that expand your soul, or that make you the kind of person that you're really proud of, that's obviously a terrible relationship. But more importantly, there's something about your own real confidence that you needed to figure out. And in order for your business and your art and your, whatever you create to go to that next level, the first person you have to believe in is you. Because it goes back to the unique challenge of being a creative. You're putting yourself out there. You know, when you're selling, when you're doing auto loans, or whatever, I don't even know what you Broker. Yeah. When you're brokering deals, how you behave reflects you, but the work itself doesn't necessarily. When you're doing what all of you do, this is deeply personal, which means every kind of push back, every kind of anything is like, hits you at the foundation. Which is why these self monitoring skills are so important. It does not surprise me that you would fly off the handle, if you've got angst built up because you're not where you want to be. Excellent, okay cool.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase


Ratings and Reviews

Michal Levi

Let me start by saying I bought a book of hers and could not get through it. I just tuned in live today out of curiosity.. with low expectations. BUT WOW. THIS WAS FANTASTIC! As someone who teaches professionally (and has won teaching awards), I have to say I was in AWE of what a great teacher she was. Also, while she is not a licensed therapist, which some have complained about, she is so gifted in this area. WOW she has a talent! Watching her with individuals from the audience was moving, informative and inspirational! UTTERLY AWESOME! Truly glad I took the time just in case there was any value to it. THERE WAS IN FACT A LOT OF VALUE! Thanks Mel! Hey, I may even try to pick up that book of yours again. BRAVO!

Go2 Norway

Wow! The science-behind-typical-human-behaviors that fuel self-doubt AND clear ways to understand how to acknowledge those, and move into confidence-through-action. Easy and interesting ways to remember the points! Marvelous presenter skills -- a real model, and inspiration. Actual coaching sessions within the class to make it real. Mel is totally herself, and vulnerabilities become her strength in real-time, which class participants also lived out in real-time as well. Very memorable. And, the explanation of anxiety as a high energy state matching excitement more than calm was significant, as well as the myths about confidence (such as confidence is not about a personality; rather, action). Well organized, made sense, and I will integrate multiple parts daily! THANKS, MEL!!!

Wild Flower Murals

I'm training to be a life coach and have been a public muralist for years. I've been researching creativity, self initiated empowerment and positive psychology from various angles for many years- in hopes to make it accessible to many. I initially came across Mel's book and was wholly impressed by how effective yet simple the 5-4-3-2-1 book was. I am so glad I took this course, it is the best of the best of the best!!!

Student Work