Sheryl Sandberg was a fraud.
She was chief operating officer at Facebook. Forbes had named her the 5th most powerful woman in the world—even above former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Yet she was plagued by the feeling that it had all been a big mistake.
She knew she wasn’t any more special than anyone else. She’d been lucky. She’d gotten a lot of help along the way.
Sandberg shares this story in her 2013 bestseller Lean In to show women that it’s not uncommon to feel like you don’t deserve success.
That feeling even has a name:
Can you relate? Consider these questions.
Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Do you feel as if other people think highly of you because they don’t really know you?
Have you turned down opportunities because you don’t feel qualified enough?
Do you worry that you’re going to make a huge mistake one day, and everyone will see that you don’t really know what you’re doing?
If you earn a promotion or win an award, do you react by wondering if it has all been a mistake and they didn’t really mean to pick you?
Do you downplay everything you’ve accomplished?
Imposter syndrome can get confused with humility, the virtue of being realistic about your own self-importance. No one wants to come across as arrogant or big-headed. It’s easier to relate to people when you make it clear that you don’t think you’re any better than they are.
But being realistic about your own self-importance doesn’t mean putting yourself down. You may not be better than everyone else, but you’re still special—because we’re all special. You don’t have to make yourself small to stay humble.
Sandberg believes that women are particularly susceptible to imposter syndrome. For example, have you ever noticed that even beautiful, accomplished women wonder what a man would see in them … while even unattractive, unappealing men assume that a supermodel might be interested in them?
Understanding where you consistently underestimate yourself can help your love life enormously.
To illustrate how, let’s look at two women. Pay attention to which one resonates with you the most.
Evie believes you have to work to get a man interested in you.
Even if she thinks a man likes her, she brings herself back to earth by reminding herself of all the reasons he couldn’t possibly be interested. She wouldn’t dare presume that a man was interested in her unless he gave very clear signals. Even though she makes a great first impression, she worries he’ll stop liking her once he gets to know the “real” her.
Abby, on the other hand, assumes men are naturally interested in her.
Why wouldn’t they be? She’s single, female, and fun. She likes to flirt and doesn’t really care if the man she’s flirting with is married, 80 years old, or not interested in her in the slightest. She flirts for her own pleasure. She doesn’t worry about what men think of her because she likes who she is.
Who’s going to have an easier time dating?
Evie or Abby?
As you’ve probably already guessed, Evie struggles with imposter syndrome. She feels as if she doesn’t deserve the attention she gets from men. Even when a man clearly shows her he’s interested, she remains on edge, worrying that one misstep will reveal she’s not the woman he thought she was.
Here are 3 tips Evie could use (and maybe you!) to make dating go a little more smoothly.
1. Own your attractiveness.
You’re not attractive just because you’re having a good hair day or your outfit is flattering or your makeup is perfect.
You’re attractive because you’re you.
So take a tip from Abby. Playfully assume that every man you meet is interested in you. And if he’s not interested, he should be!
2. Stop deflecting compliments.
The art of graciously receiving compliments or praise will get you far in life.
Think of it this way. When someone gives you a compliment, they’re offering you a gift. When you deflect it, it’s like you’re slapping them down. You’re refusing to take this beautiful thing they’ve offered you. That’s not humble, but kind of rude.
So learn to smile, look straight into their eyes, and say, “Thank you.”
3. Congratulate yourself for your achievements every single day.
Pick a time at the end of the day—maybe at dinner or before bed—and ask yourself:
“What’s one cool thing I accomplished today?”
Even if it’s just getting to work on time, pat yourself on the back for it. Give yourself permission to feel good about yourself. Make it a habit.
Feeling proud of yourself starts with you. Invest in your own confidence, and you’ll teach us men how much you’re worth.