12 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome
The minutes are ticking away before the meeting starts. Will this be your time to shine or will you be found out? Will someone ask a question that shows you have no idea what you are doing and only luck has gotten you this far? These questions and fears are more common than you think. In the 1970s, Psychologist Suzanne Imes, and Pauline Rose Clance, coined the term “Imposter Syndrome” – a phenomenon where people are unable to accept their success as something they earned. Imposter syndrome isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it can still create problems of self-doubt and fear, as well as lead to anxiety and depression.
As with any struggle, different people find different answers. Here are 12 suggestions for overcoming Imposter Syndrome:
1. Talk to a trusted mentor, supervisor or colleague. The trusted people in your life can provide support, remind you that these feelings are common, and help you recognise the reality of your success.
2. Switch your focus from “I.” No more thinking: “What if I fail?”; “I am not as smart as him” or “What if I say something wrong?” Focus on providing the best work you can with the time you have. This focus will bring more success than worrying that you aren’t good enough.
3. Recognise the what you’re good at and what you aren’t. Then, work on areas that need improvement while also learning to accept ownership of your success. Imposter Syndrome cannot survive when you keep working and moving toward your goals.
4. Keep a record of things that boost your confidence. Keep a diary or a record of when people share how you helped them, or someone tells you how good a job you’ve done. During times of doubt, refer back to the diary.
5. Change your perspective. When asked about his many unsuccessful attempts to create the light bulb, Thomas Edison is credited with saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
6. Show self-compassion. Accept that you will never be perfect and that there is no need to put that pressure on yourself. Making a mistake does not make you an imposter. It only makes you human. When a mistake occurs, tell yourself the same thing you’d tell a friend or a loved one. As humans, especially in business, we tend to show more compassion for others than we do for ourselves.
7. No more comparisons. Don’t compare all of yourself to the shiny 10% someone else allows you to see of them. It’s not fair to you or them. Remember: respect your own life and the uniqueness it holds. Besides, not everything that glitters is gold.
8. Change your self-talk. Stop telling yourself that you are an imposter. Instead, focus on the positive things you achieve each day. Altering your thinking takes time, so don’t beat yourself up if you revert to old patterns. Simply stop and change your focus back to the positive.
9. Externalise your fears and beliefs. You don’t have to show them to anyone, but write them down or have a conversation with yourself. Exposing things to the light helps keep them in perspective.
10. Describe your work accurately. Stay away from words like ‘simply,’ ‘just,’ or ‘only.’ Humility is a virtue but nothing is wrong with taking credit when it is due.
11. Know that it is alright to ask for help from others. Even the best and brightest need help at some point in their life. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome isn’t about becoming perfect or self-sufficient. It is about self-acceptance and allowing your best be good enough.
12. Tell fear to take a hike. Staying in your comfort zone puts you at risk of never knowing how capable you truly are. Take risks, be exposed, and see how far you go.
Sometimes you simply have to fake it until you make it. Author C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.” If you don’t feel like the person you are supposed to be, act as if you are, take action, and one day, you will be.
Accepting you are a high achiever is a good thing. It can go a long way towards building your confidence. Those who set the bar low don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome because they have little desire to succeed. You are driven and committed to providing your best. Visualise your success, the completion of tasks, and reaching your goals. This will help keep you focused and calm. Yet, in the midst of all this work and determination, don’t forget to enjoy your work and have a sense of humour. Laughing, especially at yourself, relieves stress by helping you relax. It doesn’t make you less driven. So, go out, have fun, work hard, reach your goals, and know the only imposter is the fear that you previously let hold you back!