by Matt Alderton | January 16, 2018
In the quest to advance your career, there's one obstacle most people face above all others: self-doubt.
Philanthropist Melinda Gates calls it "imposter syndrome." "If you've ever had a voice in your head telling you that everyone in the room must be smarter than you, that your success is due to luck instead of skill, or that the proper response to a compliment is a counterargument, you've experienced the symptoms of impostor syndrome," Gates writes in a recent LinkedIn post.

The best cure for imposter syndrome, according to Gates, is the memory of past success. "Psychologist and author Adam Grant says he manages his impostor syndrome with 'the help of a wonderful time machine called my brain,'" Gates says. "Whenever he feels like he doesn't deserve to be giving big public talks, he thinks back to other times when he 'wanted to run screaming off the stage' but ended up doing fine -- which helps convince him that he'll be fine this time, too. Looking back on the past with the benefit of perspective helps him realize: 'Even if I fail, my future self will be glad I didn't fail to try.'"

For many people, it also helps to understand the source of their self-doubt. "Impostor syndrome strikes all kinds of people, but evidence suggests it's especially prevalent among those who are underrepresented in their fields -- for example, women and minorities working in tech," Gates says. "Chances are, if you're a woman or a minority, you've received a lifetime of subtle messages telling you that you do not belong in certain fields … Realizing that the voices in your head are actually messages from a society that's set up in an unfair way can help you shut those voices down -- and inspire you to prove them wrong."

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