Say Goodbye to Imposter Syndrome
Your How-To-Guide for feeling more comfortable with yourself and taking more satisfaction in your achievements. Learn to identify imposter syndrome and manage it effectively.
Do you feel like a fraud in danger of being exposed when someone praises your work? Do you think your achievements are just a matter of luck or no big deal? If so, you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
That’s the term psychologists invented in the 1970s when they were studying successful women. Now, they know that men are just as likely to be affected. In fact, an estimated 70% of adults experience the symptoms at least occasionally.
Despite their many achievements and accolades, people experiencing this syndrome stick to the strong belief that they are not worthy of their accolades nor their “place in the world”.
You may be especially vulnerable when you’re trying something new or celebrating an important occasion like a job promotion.
Impostor syndrome may be caused by your personality or the way you grew up. Some researchers reference the labels parents give to their children. Other studies have pointed to programming of perfectionism, which leads to building unrealistic expectations of oneself. Whatever the reasons, the good news is that it is possible to break this cycle of self-doubt and to stop undermining yourself.
Experiencing doubt is an absolutely normal occurrence and part of learning, experimenting and growing. The key is to learn to experience doubts without letting them interfere with the happiness and success you deserve.
In my coaching practice, I often encounter clients who are grappling with this at some level. Some of them have full awareness that it is taking place, but most have not reflected sufficiently to realize what is really going on.
Here is a set of actions that can be a great starting point to help you say goodbye to imposter syndrome.
Changing Your Thinking:
It all starts with awareness. Recognizing these thoughts when they emerge is a crucial first step. Making a mental note or even writing it down when it happens can be a useful starting point in accepting that it is happening.
Remember your achievements. Take the time to reflect and review your track record. This may sound like a boastful or self-congratulatory step, but to continue to be successful, it is important to know what it is that got you to where you are. Putting your victories in context will show you that they’re not flukes.
Give yourself credit. Change your self-talk. When you catch yourself becoming critical, congratulate yourself, instead. Reframing your thoughts will help you to view yourself in a more positive light.
Accept uncertainty. Impostor syndrome is often associated with perfectionism. To overcome this, you can practice embracing yourself unconditionally, including your strengths and weaknesses. A good way to remember this is to hang Salvador Dali’s famous quote up somewhere….. “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” Ultimately, it’s about setting realistic goals and expectations.
Validate yourself. Live up to your own standards rather than relying on approval from others. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings so you can manage them effectively.
Appreciate effort. Do you regard struggling as a sign of weakness? In reality, success seldom happens without careful planning and some toil. By appreciating the effort that takes place, you will be able to start making a shift in your mindset. This can be the start of moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset (which is a topic all on its own that I may cover in a future article).
Changing Your Behavior:
Talk it over. Impostor syndrome can be a difficult cycle to break because your first impulse is to cover it up. On the other hand, revealing your insecurities will help you to put them in perspective. A mentor, coach or other impartial person can be a great resource to help you work through this.
Build support. Ask family and friends for help. Having the courage to be vulnerable will boost your confidence and even strengthen your relationships.
Fight stereotypes. Feeling like an outsider can contribute to impostor syndrome. Study after study has proven that more diverse teams are smarter and deliver better results. For example, a McKinsey study in 2015 among 366 companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. So, maybe you are much younger or older than your coworkers. Look for ways to turn that diversity into an advantage instead of feeling awkward about being different – the facts are there to support you.
Accept compliments. Can you receive praise graciously or do you secretly want to run and hide? Practice saying thank you sincerely. You’ll create a more pleasant experience for yourself and your admirers.
Find a mentor. Changing long-standing habits can be tough work. Working with a mentor will give you the benefit of ongoing feedback from someone you trust. You may also feel more accountable knowing that someone else is monitoring your progress, too.
Teach others. Recognizing your areas of expertise can be tricky when knowledge and skills build up slowly over time. Instructing others is an excellent way to learn more about yourself while providing a valuable service.
Stay relaxed. Challenging situations are likely to trigger any defense mechanism. You’ll find it easier to be authentic if you manage daily stress. Block out time for meditation and physical exercise. Slow down and take a deep breath if you find yourself starting to question your worth.
Take risks. One of the biggest pitfalls of impostor syndrome is that it holds people back from trying new things. They don’t want to fail or be “exposed”. Start by making a list of projects that excite you. Once you have tackled the earlier points on this article, you should become more comfortable in tackling the project list. You can then focus on taking pleasure in learning as you go along.
With these steps, you will be able to build your confidence and sense of belonging. Overcoming imposter syndrome will help you to feel more comfortable with yourself and take more satisfaction in your achievements.
Do you have any further coping strategies for imposter syndrome? I’d love to hear them.
About the Author: Nick Najjar is a high impact Coach, Management Consultant, Facilitator and Keynote Speaker. He is the Founder and Managing Director of Synergist, a boutique Consulting and Coaching practice, where he partners with leaders and organizations who desire to unleash their full potential.