Have you ever felt like you don’t belong, or everyone is going to find out that you don’t deserve your achievements? That you are in a place that you didn’t earn and you’re terrified everyone is going to figure it out? If you can relate to those feelings of chronic self-doubt, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is when you have feelings of personal incompetence and self-doubt, despite your education, experience, and many accomplishments. There is a conflict between how you see yourself and how others see you. Even when you are praised for your accomplishments and talents, you brush it off, not believing that you actually earned the accolades or success.
Because of this, you might work even harder to keep others from recognizing what you see as your shortcomings, attempt to become worthy of roles you don’t think you deserve, make up for what you see as a lack of intelligence on your part, or ease your feelings of guilt over tricking people into thinking you’re something you are not.
If you identify with these feelings, you’re not alone - studies suggest that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.
Overall, imposter syndrome stems from a high sense of self-doubt. Instead of attributing your success to your skills, you might downplay your success and attribute it to luck.
Signs you might be suffering from imposter syndrome
Here are some things to reflect on to see if you are suffering from imposter syndrome -
- Perfectionism - You may set high goals for yourself, but because your goal is perfection, the smallest errors may make you feel like a failure.
- Attributing success to luck - You attribute your success to luck because you downplay your success. You either tell yourself you don't think you deserve it or that you were just lucky.
- Unable to recognize success - Where you should be celebrating your wins and accomplishments, you are worried that others will see "the truth" about your skills and abilities. That "truth" is a distortion of your thoughts, not reality.
- Fear of failure - Setting ambitious goals and failing to achieve them may be the result of your fear of failure. You might also take on limited tasks out of fear of failure. This plays into the narrative you have created that you aren't "good enough".
- Difficulty asking for help - You may have a hard time asking for assistance because you think requesting assistance indicates that you are incompetent or unqualified.
Your confidence may be limited if you suffer from imposter syndrome, because you may believe that you do not deserve the opportunities available to you.
Seven action steps to move forward
Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to boost your self-worth and decrease your self-doubt.
- Acknowledge imposter feelings. When you have imposter feelings, acknowledge them. Instead of engaging with your self-doubting thoughts, recognize them as a normal response.
- Understand the root cause. Why do you think you don’t belong? Is it because of a fear of failure? Or do you believe that you don’t deserve success? Delve into those feelings, either by talking to someone, journaling, or meditating on them.
- Focus on facts, not feelings. Instead of focusing on how you feel, focus on the positive aspects. Concentrate on the facts instead of your emotions when you start to feel like a phony. For example, you were selected for a job interview because of you are qualified.
- Ask yourself if that thought helps or hinders you. Is that thought helpful or harmful? Is feeling fraudulent beneficial or detrimental? In other words, is that the sort of person you want to be?
- Reframe your thoughts. Instead of telling yourself you aren’t worthy of success, reframe your thoughts to increase your self-esteem and relish the experience.
- Accept that it's ok to make mistakes. Rather than fearing failure, accept that mistakes are what help us learn and move forward. It is normal to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
- Reach out for support. It's essential to have a safe space where you can receive support. This will help you reduce your feelings of being an imposter. When you feel these imposter feelings setting up on you, when you make a mistake, feel imperfect, or receive a compliment, your first instinct may be to revert inward and hide in some way. Instead, reach out to an encouraging mentor, coach, or colleague for support.
Some additional tips to beating imposter syndrome
Own your accomplishments instead of attributing them to "luck" or "help from others". You are in control of your success. Even if others did assist you along the way, remember what YOU did to succeed.
Make your goals achievable. Setting impossibly high standards or goals is a recipe for failure. Make sure you set goals within your reach, even your stretch goals should be attainable eventually.
Remind yourself there will never be a "perfect time". The time is NOW. Do. The. Thing. Whatever you are going for, just start!
Accept that we all have to start somewhere. No one was perfect when they started doing whatever they are amazing at. They likely failed over and over again, made mistake after mistake, to get where they are. Why wouldn't you give yourself the same grace?
Say "thank you" when you receive a compliment. Thank you. That's it. Not "thank you but", just thank you. Period. End. Stop. This is a big one because anything other than that is downplaying your success.
Practice being honest when you feel imperfect, embarrassed, or have made a mistake. If you messed up, own it, apologize where appropriate, learn what you can from it and move on.
Share and celebrate your achievements and successes. Clap for yourself! Brag on social media. Tell the world, "I DID IT!" People want to celebrate you. Give them the chance to do so.
Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you're not good enough, you're not deserving, or you don't belong. It is so important to remind yourself that none of that is true. Making mistakes is how all of us learn and they don't make you a fraud, they make you human.
From here on in, if you feel doubt in yourself, review the steps above, recite some positive affirmations, remind yourself you are worthy and capable and move forward! You are amazing and