I have been interviewing people for over thirty years and I’ve noticed one startling thing. The smarter someone is — in the sense of being awake and aware, attuned to their surroundings and curious about the wider world — the more humble they tend to be.
One reason so many smart and talented people doubt themselves is that they know the world is vast and their own knowledge is limited.
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They may have terrific experience and incredible judgment, but they also know that they’ll never know everything there is to know, even about their favorite subjects.
Less-capable, less-curious people don’t doubt themselves a bit. They’ll tell an interviewer “I am an expert in every single aspect of this topic.” They aren’t exaggerating — they really believe it.
That kind of bravado is cute in a small child. In an adult, it’s alarming. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who believe they have nothing to learn are in leadership positions where they get to hire and manage other people.
It is very difficult for a person to learn anything new when their mind is closed. Their mind is closed if they feel that they have nothing else to learn.
I talk to job-seekers almost every day. I am amazed by their stories, their observations and their wisdom. People say that every person has a book in them waiting to come out, and many people have more than one book in them!
They could start writing about their experiences right now and never finish. They have ideas and learning to share with other people.
They are happy to help anybody solve their problems, but they may still be hesitant when the time comes to talk about themselves.
Who could blame them? It is hard to talk about yourself.
Sometimes it seems as though the “modern” business world wants everybody to be a self-promoter. We are taught to brag about our accomplishments, but a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing that. Their families raised them well!
It may help you in your confidence-building journey to remember that being confident in yourself does not require you to believe — much less to state — that you are an expert or a visionary.
In fact, I hope you never say or write in your LinkedIn profile or resume “I am subject-matter expert.”
Expertise is in the eye of the beholder! Let other people call you a subject-matter expert. When you talk or write about yourself, you can simply tell us what you do professionally.
“I’m a Research Librarian” is an example. “I teach middle-school Language Arts” is another one. When you talk with people or when they read your LinkedIn profile, your brilliance will shine through.
Here are ten reasons smart and capable people doubt themselves:
1. They have learned from experts, and they don’t want to put themselves in that category.
2. They know how much they don’t know, which dwarfs what they do know.
3. They know that their expertise and their wisdom are only a small part of what makes them who they are. They would never be cocky about their education or their experiences.
4. They know that there is vast wisdom in every person. They don’t want to make any conversation all about them.
5. They tend to focus on the experiences and credentials they don’t have, rather than on the ones they do.
6. They care more about their work and their mission than they do about their personal branding, which feels trivial and cheesy by comparison.
7. They are uncomfortable in the limelight.
8. They get satisfaction by helping other people, not by talking about themselves.
9. They may have lost confidence over something that happened in their career or personal life.
10. They don’t have good role models, mentors or supporters to tell them “You are awesome!” They haven’t learned how to carry their confidence easily on their shoulders.
Almost everyone struggles with self-confidence at times. If you do too, don’t despair — it’s normal! Our confidence waxes and wanes. That’s okay!
Get outside and do something physical, in nature if possible. Spend time with friends who believe in you. Get a journal and write about your hopes and concerns. Create a vision for yourself in your mind, and write or paint or cook about it — explore it!
You are mightier than you can imagine. Your talents will flow out when the time is right. If you don’t feel like you’re operating at full power right now, it’s okay.
Sometimes you’ll feel like charging ahead. At other times, the best thing to do is to take a step back and remember how far you’ve already come.