Have you ever noticed that when you're on the verge of a great accomplishment or going after something you really want, you get afraid you’re not up to it?
Thoughts that you just need to “wing it” or “fake it till you make it” creep in.
You start comparing yourself to others.
Or you get anxious that you’ll be exposed as a fraud.
Questions like, “who do I think I’m kidding?” nag at you, keeping you worried that you’ll fail spectacularly.
Perhaps you've already achieved a great deal, yet you still feel like you are masquerading as someone else.
These thoughts and feelings don’t just apply to our professional lives: they can also show up at home and in our relationships.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Perceived fraudulence, more commonly known as imposter syndrome, is the state of feeling inadequate or unqualified regardless of our experience, education, or accomplishments. When we suffer from imposter syndrome, we believe that we are not skilled enough to be competent in our jobs or any other role.
We can struggle with imposter syndrome even if we're successful. Our self-doubt makes us question our personal or professional positions as we attribute any success to luck or good timing. Even if other people praise our efforts, we're still afraid that others would inevitably find out that we're not who they thought we were.
Imposter syndrome thus describes the conflict between how other people see us and how we see ourselves. While they recognize our talents and accomplishments, we doubt whether we deserve them and whether they are legitimate.
How Do I Know If I Have Imposter Syndrome?
But how can we distinguish between imposter syndrome and regular bouts of self-doubt? If you think you might be coming up against imposter syndrome, below are several questions that will help you figure out where on the spectrum you land.
- Are you generally anxious or struggle with social anxiety?
- Do you find that most of your past and present experiences are marked with self-doubt?
- Do you fear being 'caught out' or exposed as a fake or fraud?
- Are you secretly attributing your success to good fortune or coincidence?
- Are you constantly looking for approval or affirmation from authority figures?
- Are you often worried about making a mistake and the associated feelings of shame?
- Do you find it difficult to receive a compliment?
If you’ve answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you probably face perceived fraudulence. But you're not alone. Research suggests that as much as 82% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.
What Can I Do to Conquer Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome starts and ends in our minds. These self-doubting thoughts and feelings make way for this unpleasant experience. In light of this, let's take a look at some mental strategies for overcoming these limiting beliefs.
Focus on the Facts
Not everything you think and feel is true. When you notice negative inner dialogue, pay attention to and be mindful of what you are telling yourself. Assess whether the feedback you get is objectively true. Are you really under-qualified or too inexperienced? Learn to separate your feelings from the facts.
Revisit Your Accomplishments
In moments of insecurity, remind yourself about how far you've come. Consider how you've previously dealt with a similar situation and the good outcome there has been. Collect emails and messages of praise, and keep them on hand for days where you need some encouragement.
Stop Comparing Yourself
Other people's victories and successes tend to catch our attention far more than our own. When scrolling through social media, remember to see their achievements in context. You don't know what it took for them to get there or whether their polished profiles are a true reflection of their lives. Focus only on improving yourself and taking forward steps.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is therapeutic and helps you reflect and process your thoughts. But journaling also ensures that you have a record of where you've been and where you wish to go in your life. Looking back to old entries will show you just how much you've done and keeps you motivated to continue pushing onward.
Since imposter syndrome is closely tied to anxiety, daily meditation is a great way of dealing with this issue. Anxiety triggers our stress response, so implementing measures to reduce the stress in our lives is vital to overcoming imposter syndrome. Meditation helps you to relax, center yourself, and move more calmly through the day.
Imposter syndrome has many consequences, and one of them is fear. When you already feel like a fraud, the last thing you want to do is put yourself out there or take a risk. Our lizard brains want to keep us safe and comfortable, but we all know that it's not where growth happens.
Challenge yourself to do hard things. Perhaps you avoid that much-needed conversation with a family member or get heart palpitations at the thought of getting on a video call with a potential client. Push yourself to do these things: it will boost your confidence and help you overcome your insecurities.
Learn to Cheer For Yourself
Most of us are fantastic at encouraging and praising other people. It's easy to recognize our best friend's personal growth or to support a family member's promotion loudly.
Why are we so bad at cheering for ourselves?
Try to look at your skills, talents, and accomplishments from an outsider's perspective. What do you see? Do you see a devoted spouse who takes great care of her family? Do you see someone smart or well-educated who has "everything going" for them?
You might surely find a few weaknesses when you consider yourself objectively – we all have them! But think about what you're really great at, and encourage yourself with this knowledge.
As you go through various phases and seasons of life, it's likely that imposter syndrome will creep in at some stage. But when it does, don't let it stay with you. Remind yourself about your achievements and your value as a human being, and celebrate your wins just like you would celebrate the triumphs of your best friend.
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