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How to overcome imposter syndrome

How to overcome imposter syndrome

It’s more common than you think


Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve the success that comes your way? Do you feel like you somehow tricked your friends or colleagues, and it’s just a matter of time before they discover you’re a fraud? Do you think things like “I got lucky” or “I don’t belong here”?

If you answered yes to any of those, you’re not alone. These feelings are known as impostor syndrome, and about 70% of people have experienced these feelings at one point or another.

What is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is the overwhelming feeling of self-doubt, that you don't deserve your success or you aren’t actually that creative, intelligent, or skilled. Imposter syndrome makes you feel like your achievements and accolades are the result of sheer luck, chance, or happenstance and is accompanied by the fear that you’ll be found out as a fraud. Simply put, it’s the unshakeable feeling that you don’t belong or deserve a seat at the table, a spot in the room, etc., and it affects women and minority groups at a higher rate.

What does imposter syndrome feel like?

You might suffer from impostor syndrome if you find yourself feeling like:

  • You're not enough or don’t deserve your successes
  • It’s hard to accept praise or accolades
  • You need to apologize when you didn't do anything wrong
  • You need to meet very high standards
  • The fear of failure is debilitating 
  • You can’t express confidence because you think people will think it’s boastful or unjustified

Tips for overcoming imposter syndrome

Even the likes of Serena Williams, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Arianna Huffington, and other highly successful people have stated that they suffer from imposter syndrome. However, they are living proof that you can succeed while dealing with these feelings. Below are five tips to help deal with imposter syndrome.

1. Reframe your thoughts (and be kind to yourself)

Imposter syndrome often is a little voice in our heads, heavily critiquing ourselves. Negative thoughts like that can weigh heavily on your stress and anxiety levels. Try reframing them into positive ones. For example, if you think that your success was due to luck, combat that thinking by asking yourself what you did to achieve this? And remind yourself of all the hard work and preparation you put into it.

2. Talk to people (no matter how scary or vulnerable it feels)

When you keep your thoughts to yourself, it can be easy to start spiralizing. It’s important to talk about these feelings, even if you feel like you’re exposing your ineptitude. No matter how scary or vulnerable it may feel, it can be helpful to talk about what you’re feeling with others.

Talking to a mentor or colleague about your struggles can help because they’ll be able to provide an objective point of view. It’s likely that they have gone through something similar, and they might be able to share advice.

If you want to delve more deeply into these feelings, you can also talk to a therapist or counsellor.

3. Let go of your inner perfectionist (seriously, let it go)

High achievers often suffer from imposter syndrome. These are people who set impossibly high standards for themselves. But perfectionism only feeds into impostor syndrome. When you hold yourself to a standard that is unattainable, you can start feeling like a fraud when you don’t achieve it.

This perpetual chase for perfectionism can lead to constantly trying to learn more because you feel like you’re behind or always doing going above and beyond to prove you deserve your spot. This can lead to burnout fast and have a detrimental impact on your mental health. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with showing initiative and doing more than what is asked but when it’s due to imposter syndrome and at the expense of your mental well-being, that’s when it’s a problem.

Remember that no one can do everything perfectly - we’re all just human at the end of the day. 

4. Track and measure your successes (celebrate your wins!)

For someone who suffers from imposter syndrome, it can be very hard to own your successes, often attributing them to luck or other people and ignoring the preparation and hard work you put into it.

One way to combat this is to keep track of your wins. You might think that it’s boastful or braggy to keep track of these accomplishments but there’s a difference between being humble and then there’s not believing you deserve success. If you worked hard at something, it’s perfectly alright to celebrate it – it’s about finding the balance between the two.

5. Say "yes" to new opportunities (aka fake it till you make it)

It’s common for people who have impostor syndrome to turn down opportunities because they’re afraid they’ll fail or they’re not the right person for it. 

First of all, don’t be afraid of failure. Many people see failure as a negative thing but remember Henry Ford’s famous quote, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” When you fail, it only means you’re presented with an opportunity to learn and improve for the next time.

And then remember that taking on new challenges can introduce even more opportunities for you to learn, grow, and advance your career, stepping out of your comfort zone. Richard Branson once said, "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later." 

While it might be intimidating to take on a role you're not sure you can do, remember that you were asked for a reason, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with learning and asking questions along the way. Don’t wait until you feel confident enough to start saying yes to opportunities because there might never be a perfect moment. At some point, you just have to dive right into the deep end and learn how to swim.

While there might not be a magic pill to cure imposter syndrome forever, it’s more about learning how to cope with it and not letting it get in the way of your success and happiness.


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