Do You Have Imposter Syndrome? 7 Ways to Overcome It

Stressed Business Professional

Defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills,” the Imposter Syndrome derails the confidence of many professionals and is especially common in women and minority groups.

 “Imposter syndrome can turn into a cycle of self-doubt, self-monitoring, fear and self-criticism, which can, in turn, cause you to overwork and suffer burnout or miss opportunities because you assume you aren't good enough,” consultant Melissa Lamson cautions.

In addition to a sense of fakery and fear of being exposed as a fraud, variations on the Imposter Syndrome, writes Ellen Hendriksen for Psychology Today, include the belief that one’s success is attributable only to luck. Another twist is the tendency to toss off praise and compliments as if undeserved.

 “Impostor Syndrome arises in spaces of achievement where judgments are made about merit,” Sindhumathi Revuluri points out. “You don’t feel like an impostor at the public library or on the subway.”

Here are seven ways experts suggest careerists get past Imposter Syndrome:

1. List your qualifications. Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club, suggests making a list of qualifications that demonstrates you are just as qualified as anyone competing with you for the same role. “First, ask yourself what evidence exists that you are any less qualified than anybody else to do this work,” Bennett advises. “Is there anything that makes you, I daresay, more qualified?”

2. Find ways to internalize your triumphs. “We feel like frauds because we are unable to internalize our successes,” notes entrepreneur Kyle Eschenroeder. Closely listening to both positive and negative feedback can help us do that.

“Accept compliments with a gracious and straightforward acknowledgment,” Lamson suggests, “and stop being so afraid of failing or making mistakes.”

Lamson observes that repeated expressions from others about the value you can contribute help individuals internalize positive feelings about themselves. “The next time someone starts to sing your praises, allow yourself to truly appreciate what is being said,” writes Elizabeth Cox, who created a 4:18-minute animated video on Imposter Syndrome. 

3. Talk about it. Given that some experts have estimated the proportion of those who experience Imposter Syndrome at 70%, you probably know others who suffer from it – but you likely won’t know about those sufferers unless you open up and share your own experience. Start being open about the issue and consider honing in on an Imposter Buddy to whom you can vent, as well as appreciate each other’s accomplishments. “Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing,“ says Valerie Young, founder of ImposterSyndrome.com.

4. Flip the script. Young cites the typical mental script of an “Imposter” when starting a new job or project: “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing.” Instead, Young suggests acknowledging that everyone is unsure at the beginning of an undertaking, and then reassuring yourself by telling yourself, ‘I may not know all the answers, but I’m smart enough to find them out.’” 

5. Acknowledge that your emotions don’t define you or your success. “Feeling like an impostor doesn’t have much to do with what you have done,” Revuluri states. “It has to do with how you feel.” We all make mistakes and do dumb things, but that doesn’t mean we are stupid or inept. Learn to view both success and failures more objectively, separating them from negative and destructive emotions.

6. Stop comparing yourself. You can only drag yourself more deeply into the imposter depths by using others as a frame of reference. Sure, there are those who might – subjectively – be seen as more talented than you in certain areas, but you are unique with your own special contributions to make. “Turn Facebook off, get off Instagram, stop reading biographies of ‘successful’ people and learn to respect your own experience,” Eschenroeder exhorts.

7. Review your accomplishments regularly. Even setting aside extrinsic recognition for achievements, most people feel intrinsically rewarded when they check items off their lists, do what they set out to do, and even exceed expectations. Learning to identify our accomplishments and communicate them to others can only help us to quash Imposter Syndrome, appreciate ourselves, and gain that confidence gives a boost in the job search and other endeavors.

What is the opposite of an imposter? An authentic self. Learning to love and accept your authentic self will go a long way toward quashing Imposter Syndrome.

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