Impostor Syndrome And How To Overcome It

It’s that nagging feeling that you don’t belong, and it affects women and minority groups disproportionately. Here’s how to combat it.

My impostor syndrome has played out during public speeches, job negotiations and when I received my first book deal — prompting me to ask, “But why would anyone pay money to read what I have to say?” My editor, a woman, didn’t miss a beat: “I often wonder the same about my editing!” she said.

The term “impostor syndrome” wasn’t coined until 1978 (by two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes), but it’s safe to assume that women have always felt it. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t belong, that you don’t deserve the job, the promotion, the book deal, the seat at the table. According to Valerie Young, an educator and the author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women,” it is common among high achievers, creative people and students. It persists through college and graduate school and into the working world, where women tend to judge their performance as worse than they objectively are while men judge their own as better. It tends to affect minority groups disproportionately, Ms. Young said — anyone who has the pressure of accomplishing “firsts.”

But there are ways to overcome feeling like an impostor — beginning by recognizing that it’s more than just a feeling.

Overcoming impostor feelings: Seven strategies that can help
  1. Learn the facts. …
  2. Share your feelings. …
  3. Celebrate your successes. …
  4. Let go of perfectionism. …
  5. Cultivate self-compassion. …
  6. Share your failures. …
  7. Accept it.

The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome | Lou Solomon | TEDxCharlotte

How to overcome impostor syndrome

Follow these steps to overcome impostor syndrome and the feelings that come with it:

1. Create a list

Come up with a list of things that show you are qualified for your current position. If you are having trouble with this, ask yourself what evidence exists that you are less qualified for the job. If there is none, work toward your confidence and believing you are good at what you do.

2. Be positive about yourself

The simple act of being more positive about yourself can significantly change how you perceive yourself and your work. Remember that youre capable and do things that boost your self-esteem. Here are effective ways to build your self-esteem:

3. Own your accomplishments

Instead of thinking that you accomplished your success out of luck, believe that you worked hard for everything and deserve what you have accomplished. Own your success by acknowledging and celebrating everything youve achieved. Consider even using affirmations such as, “I am proud of my success.”

4. Visualize success:

Learn to visualize how you plan to handle a situation before it occurs. This tactic can help you approach challenging situations with more confidence, preventing the feelings of imposter syndrome from manifesting from the beginning.

5. Show yourself more kindness

Being kind to yourself entails changing how you talk to yourself by using more positive language and emotions. Not only can this practice help reduce feelings of stress, but it also helps you gather the courage to do more in your professional life.

6. Reward yourself

You can help stop the cycle of always seeking and then rejecting validation outside of yourself by acknowledging your success and rewarding yourself for accomplishments in the workplace. For example, when you finish an important project, try to plan some time off and take a small vacation.

7. Track and measure your achievements

When the feelings of imposter syndrome are strong, one of the hardest things to acknowledge is how much of a role you have in your own successes. To help show yourself that youre still doing well, keep track of all your successes in a private document and review it when your confidence is low.

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is the mentality that you have only succeeded because of luck and not as a result of your qualifications or hard work.

This feeling can apply to anyone who cannot internalize and appreciate their success. The following are common patterns in people with impostor syndrome:

Tips for feeling more confident in the workplace

Impostor syndrome can be challenging to deal with, but doing so can help you grow more easily in your career. These tips can help you avoid imposter syndrome and maintain a more positive attitude toward your abilities:

Talk about your struggles

The feeling of shame can stop a lot of people from speaking up. However, knowing that you are not alone and that you can get help makes it much easier to build your confidence at work. Its important to remember that reaching out to friends, family or even a therapist is a vital step toward self-care. The earlier you ask for help, the quicker you can get back to your personal and professional goals.

Separate feelings from facts

The idea of feeling inadequate is common and happens to everyone from time to time. However, its important to make sure that feeling doesnt stay for too long. If it does, gently remind yourself that those feelings dont accurately reflect the way you act and the things youve accomplished.

Identify what makes you feel fraudulent

When you have a sense of belonging, its easier to feel confident. If you find yourself in a situation where youre much different from those around you, however, feelings from imposter syndrome can manifest much more easily. When faced with a situation like this, try to remember that being different doesnt make you inferior. View challenging situations as an opportunity to prove yourself and your skills instead.

Give yourself more chances

You can care deeply care about your work quality without being a perfectionist. The motive is striving for success when it matters, but remember to forgive yourself when mistakes occur.

When you fail, you have another opportunity to start again. Instead of regretting after failing, simply acknowledge what could have gone better and apply that knowledge the next time you attempt a project or assignment again.

Rewrite the rules

If you have been operating under rules such as never asking for help or always having to know the answer to a problem, you can always rewrite them. Keep in mind that you are not perfect, and people arent always right. Ask for help whenever necessary.

Develop a new script

Be very cautious of whats happening in your mind whenever you are in a situation that triggers impostor feelings. This is like your internal script. For example, you can come up with affirmations like “I am smart enough” or “I deserve success.”


What is one way to overcome imposter syndrome?

A therapist can help you recognize feelings associated with imposter syndrome and create new behaviors to get past them. “Action really helps overcome this,” Dr. Albers says. “It’s about not getting stuck in the thought of ‘I can’t do this,’ but making sure that you take action and move forward.”

How do you break the cycle of imposter syndrome?

One of the first steps to overcoming impostor feelings is to acknowledge the thoughts and put them in perspective. “Simply observing that thought as opposed to engaging it” can be helpful, says Ervin. “We can help teach people to let go and more critically question those thoughts.

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