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Melinda Gates speaking at the University of Washington in December 2017, as Ed Lazowska of the UW School of Computer Science & Engineering looks on. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

There are some of us who feel confident taking on any job — perhaps even as the highest elected official of a powerful nation — and don’t doubt our own qualifications or capabilities. But others can feel plagued by “imposter syndrome,” or the sense that we’re in a place where we don’t belong or deserve to be.

For those who do suffer from a crisis of confidence, Melinda Gates has just published an article on LinkedIn to help navigate past those doubts with five simple strategies.

“It’s frustrating to think about all the talented people who have worked so hard to rise so high — only to find that their deepest, darkest doubts have followed them there,” wrote Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and works on issues including gender equality through her Pivotal Ventures executive office.

She notes that there is evidence suggesting that imposter syndrome more frequently afflicts people who are minorities in a job or academic setting, including women and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the technology sector. Despite an individual’s accomplishments, someone who is a minority might think that it was luck or some other non-merit based factor that deserves credit for their success.

Gates’ tips for overcoming these doubts are:

  • Remember that other successful people sometimes have self-doubt as well
  • You can “fake it ’til you make it” or feign confidence until you truly believe in yourself
  • Recall past successes to give yourself a boost for tackling your current challenges
  • Know that you don’t have to be amazing out of the gate and can improve over time
  • Look for the sources of your doubt as they might be coming from subtle, unfounded messages from society that are eroding your self-confidence

In her article, Gates taps other leaders, writers and technologists to share their moments of doubt, including Ed Lazowska, the former chair of the University of Washington’s Computer Science and Engineering.

“I feel like I’m an impostor, and the only thing that gives me confidence is that nobody has found me out in the past 40 years,” Lazowska said. “So, the chance that I get discovered in the next couple of weeks is pretty low.”

The LinkedIn article pairs with a column by Gates in the current issue of Time magazine that her husband Bill guest edited. In the piece, Melinda Gates calls for increased financial investments in women-led organizations to help their visions become realities.

Perhaps the take away is that confidence plus cash could lead to a future with a stronger female influence.

“Imagine how much more we can accomplish,” Gates wrote in Time, “if the women who are doing so much to move the world forward finally have our full support behind them.”

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