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Creating Successful Leaders

It happens to even the most accomplished among us: That nagging feeling that it’s only a matter of time before we’re found out to be frauds. Thoughts like “I don’t actually know what I’m doing here,” or, “I’ve done well…so far…but eventually they’ll realize they made a big mistake hiring me,” are token examples of someone experiencing this phenomenon. Which begs the question: Where does this intense self-doubt come from?

Known as the Impostor Phenomenon (IP), it is more prevalent than you might expect. (You can view a small test see if you have the IP traits here.) In her new book, The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success, Joyce M. Roche, president of Girls Incorporated, both reveals why many of us have such thoughts, and lays out practical ways to combat them.

Roche writes that conquering self-doubt lies in “learning how to metabolize external validation to turn it into the core strength of internal validation.” In other words, instead of letting your negative thoughts define who you think you are, focus on concrete successes you can point to in your life and let those fuel your sense of self-worth.

A few more points on overcoming self-doubt:

1. Identify the specific parts of your life that make you feel like you’re an impostor, and talk to someone you trust about those specific things. The simple act of verbalizing your fears shines light on the faulty thinking you used to create them.

2. Focus on the external factors of your present circumstance instead of your internal thoughts. You’ll see your track record for what it really us: there will be both successes and failures, sure, but be sure to give yourself credit where credit is due.

3. Wear your failures and setbacks as badges, not blemishes to cover up. As cliché as it is, our failures really are what propel us forward by showing us exactly what not to do, and failures are usually closely followed by successes.


Roche, Joyce M., and Alexander Kopelman. The Empress Has No Clothes: Conquering Self-Doubt to Embrace Success. San Francisco: Barrett-Koelher, 2013.


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