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"I Have No Idea What to Do"

"I Have No Idea What to Do"

Impostor syndrome is kicking up all over the place right now. People who normally feel very confident are feeling unequipped to make decisions in the midst of so much heartbreak, economic devastation, and uncertainty.

Impostor syndrome is real and should not be treated lightly or brushed aside. It carries a risk of creating enough self doubt to stop you in your tracks and keep you from making important, timely decisions. If you’re in a leadership role, this is particularly risky. As others see you freeze or waver, you will unintentionally sow seeds of doubt in your organization and in other leaders around you.

What can you do?

Change the doubting dialogue.

It’s at the core of mindfulness and applies equally in business and personal settings. Impostor syndrome has its roots in doubt and shame, on a loop inside your head. Understanding this helps you start to forgive yourself for feeling this way.

We’re all going through something completely new right now. There is no playbook to follow, and you’ve got to recognize if you’re holding yourself to unrealistic expectations.

Figure out which of your thoughts are based in reality vs. assumptions. Focus on what you know to be true and state that out loud, even if it’s small and short-term. Putting a stake in the ground gives you somewhere to move forward from.

[Related: A Call to Courage in Crisis]

Understand the tug-of-war between fear and trust.

We are all moving constantly between fear, learning, acceptance, and helpfulness as we adjust to new information coming out all the time. This is the time to take care of yourself first, to lead yourself through the fear into a mindset of ability and forward movement.

You have to lead yourself as much as you need to lead others, and doing that will jump-start your self-confidence. Learning to trust yourself again will break down impostor syndrome, and will have a positive domino effect on those around you.

[Related: Take This One Easy Step to Conquer Self-Doubt]

Support yourself and others.

Advocacy is a great way to take positive control of a bad situation, so dig in and understand what it is you and those around you need. Helpfulness goes a long way right now, even in very small gestures.

It gets you out of your head, into action, and connecting with others. It also gives you a chance to practice compassion, empathy, and listening — all of which are key leadership skills. Masters of these skills can always determine the best action to take.

In the end, breaking out of impostor syndrome is like breaking apart any other big, messy problem - you have to get it into smaller bits first, and tackle them one by one. Getting out of your head is priority number one. Being clear on why you’ve got doubt kicking up is next. Then determining what you can control will move you forward.

Focus on the values that will guide you, small timeframes to work in, and ways to get feedback on how well your ideas and actions are working. Viewing this as an iterative process takes the pressure off of needing to know everything. You just need to know where to start.

[Related: Stay Centered (and Healthy) in the Midst of the Coronavirus]


Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Michelle Bogan has mentored colleagues and clients, founded and led women's groups, and helped promote many women and men to leadership positions. In 2018, she founded Equity for Women to advance the mission of empowering women at work.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

Community Discussion
Kelly Morgan
Kelly Morgan

"Being clear on why you’ve got doubt kicking up is next. Then determining what you can control will move you forward." This is such a helpful thought. When it seems that it's all on me to fix things or know the answer, it's important to remember that some things are in my power to fix and some things simply aren't.

Tuesday, Jun 2 10:58 AM EDT