Michelle Obama spoke openly last week about how she still to this day feels impostor syndrome. If one of the most powerful and influential women in the world feels this way about speaking in public, then I wonder how many more of us feel the same.
Even when writing this post now, there is a part of me that wonders what impact I might have. Do I have the knowledge and ability to influence people? Will anyone be interested in what I have to say?
The important thing, I have realised, is that my voice and opinions are unique. What I have experienced is different from anyone else. That is why my opinions are meaningful. It is uniqueness that allows me to see things from a certain perspective and add value.
We all have something to say that can add value to others. Only you can say what you think and show your knowledge, no one is going to do it for you. A lot of people will try to shut your voice down, don't let yourself be one of them.
Mrs Obama has some practical advice for thought leaders and particularly female ones:
- In any space, even at the top tables like the UN and the G Summits, you are only talking to people. Always keep in mind the one or two important people you are talking to - make sure you are helping them.
- Listen to the people around you encouraging you. Mrs Obama mentioned that having other women, like the Queen, say to each other "just get in!" is a really effective way of overcoming mental barriers.
Asked how she felt to be seen as a "symbol of hope", Mrs Obama told the live audience: "I still have a little impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you're actually listening to me. "It doesn't go away, that feeling that you shouldn't take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is."