10 Books to Silence Your Inner Critic & Manage Imposter Syndrome
By Becky Mollenkamp, ACC
Is there a little voice in your head that says things like, “you’re not good enough,” “you’re a fraud,” or “who do you think you are to do that?” You’re not alone. That’s self-doubt (also called Imposter Syndrome) and it can be incredibly debilitating.
I help women and femmes navigate their limiting beliefs, and imposter syndrome is one of the most common. I’ve done a lot of research and reading on this topic, and have found some great resources that can help with managing self-doubt.
If you’re doing mindset work around inner critic/imposter syndrome, self-doubt, or self-judgment, these are a few books that may be incredibly useful to you.
(Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning—at no additional cost to you—I’ll get earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.)
No list of mindset books is complete without “The Big Leap.” I believe it’s the first book anyone should read when working on their mindset.
This book can help you create a major perspective shift. You’ll learn about the four most common fears that hold us back, and begin to understand how you can push beyond them to achieve your full potential in work, relationships, finance, and all other walks of life.
“If I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.”
“Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown
Feel like you don’t measure up? Think no one will care what you have to say? “Braving the Wilderness” may change your mind—and life.
Brené shares her four-step process to find true belonging through authenticity, bravery, trust, and vulnerability. The book is about learning to stand confidently in yourself as you are, rather than always trying to fit in. And the included story from Viola Davis is worth every bit of the book’s price.
“The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
Are you playing small, held back by fear and self-doubt? If you’re ready to instead start taking bold action and pursue your dreams, then check out “Playing Big.”
Each chapter includes a discussion followed by practical tips and exercises (including journaling questions) to help you move past the internal barriers that are holding you back. It’s all about finding your voice and mission so you can finally create the life and business you really want.
“Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt.”
Feel creatively stifled by that nasty internal dialogue always telling you that you’re not enough? “Banish Your Inner Critic” can help you silence self-doubt so you can unleash your creativity.
Calling upon neuroscience, psychology, mindfulness principles, and self-compassion research, this book offers DIY techniques for putting the Inner Critic in its place. Learn how to defeat the barriers holding you back, and achieve success through a positive attitude.
“By giving the inner critic less of our bandwidth, we access, express, and cultivate our creativity; we take back our creative power. From this place of reclaimed creative power, we can go after even bigger challenges.”
Suffer from social anxiety? So do I, Ellen Hendriksen, and many other successful people. In “How to Be Yourself,” Ellen breaks into manageable chunks the cognitive processes that make basic social settings feel terrifying.
She also shares tools and techniques to push past the wall of anxiety and develop confidence to feel comfortable in any situation. It’s all about learning how to reality check your inner critic, among other things, so you can more fully engage in your life and have the social experiences you desire.
“If you wait until you are ready to do the things that scare you because you feel like you aren’t ready, you will never get around to doing them. We gain comfort and confidence through being uncomfortable.”
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t also be wildly successful. “Quiet” may inspire you to see your introverted self in a new, grateful light.
Susan Cain’s extensive research shows the slow rise of the extrovert as the “ideal” for success. More importantly, she makes a strong case for the power of introverts and also how the two can personality types can cooperate. The book is a deep well of wisdom about human interaction.
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”
Inspired by her popular TED Talk, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code urges women to embrace imperfection and live a bolder, more authentic life. Saujani shares her own stories of success and failure to educate and inspire readers to choose bravery over perfection and to find the power to claim their voices.
If you are a perfectionist, this book will challenge you to let go of that control and to choose bravery instead. It is only by taking daring action, after all, that we can make big change and play bigger.
“The work here isn’t to figure out why they didn’t like you, or who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s to practice being okay with the idea that there are some people who will get you and some people who won’t…and that’s fine.”
If you like straight talk, you may like “You are a Badass.” It’s a positive kick in the pants to help you stop doubting yourself so damn much!
Calling on the author’s own life experiences, this is a self-help book that shares old self-help ideas with a more straightforward bent. You’ll feel more inspired to stop caring what other people think, to figure out what you want but let go of controlling how it happens, and creating a support system and surroundings that will propel your inner badass into action.
“What other people think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.”
It’s hard enough to be a leader (whether on the national stage or simply of your own life). It takes courage to convince others that you’re capable of taking charge—and even more to convince yourself. This book will inspire any woman, but especially those who live in the margins, who are ready to make change.
Abrams is candidly shares her own experiences as she breaks down how ambition, fear, money, and failure function in leadership. There are also practical exercises with each chapter to help you realize your own ambition and hone your skills. I love that Abrams speaks first hand about how our differences (in race, gender, and class) can provide us with strength that, when harnessed, can help us to rise to the top and create lasting change.
“Logic is a seductive excuse for setting low expectations.”
Dubbed as “duct tape for the mouth of every artist’s inner critic,” this book is a quick read filled with uplifting advice and practical exercises for silencing that stifling voice once and for all.
“Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk” introduces 10 truths creatives must face to defeat self-doubt. And this isn’t psycho-babble—it’s filled with anecdotes from successful creatives on how to silence your inner critic and build the confidence needed to create great work.
“Do what you love, and the money will come. And if it doesn’t, you won’t care, because you’ll be happy.”