Imposter syndrome refers to feelings of incompetence and self-doubt that persist regardless of your education, profession and achievements. People living with imposter syndrome are typically highly capable individuals who lean towards perfectionism in what they do.
It can be described as feeling as though you’re a fraud, that you don’t belong or that you aren’t capable of doing something. These feelings often arise during periods of transition, such as when starting a new job or receiving a promotion.
According to one review, up to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point. Often these feelings come and go, but they can also persist throughout someone’s life leading to negative consequences such as self-doubt, job dissatisfaction and poor mental health.
Research has found that imposter syndrome affects women more than men, with one study reporting 75% of female executives and 50% of working moms had experienced the feeling before.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these thoughts to ensure you can reach your full potential.
5 ways to overcome your imposter syndrome
If you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, there are some simple steps you can take to overcome feelings of inadequacy, change your mindset and enjoy the success you deserve.
1. Acknowledge what you’re feeling
The first step to overcoming your imposter syndrome is to identify and acknowledge the feelings as something you’re experiencing.
Take a step back and simply observe those thoughts that are telling you “I’m not good enough”. Don’t engage with them, instead try to put them into perspective.
It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, such as a close friend or mentor, about what you’re experiencing. Listening to another person’s views on the situation can help you to put it into context and provide any advice they might have.
2. Challenge and reframe your thoughts
Once you’ve acknowledged your thoughts as real and something you’re experiencing, you can start to challenge and counter them with evidence.
It’s easy to focus on negative comments or consequences you might have heard or felt in the past. These events are often exaggerated in our minds and overshadow many of the positive outcomes or compliments you have probably received many times.
For instance, you might be considering applying for a promotion but are struggling to believe you’re capable of doing it well.
Even if you have all the skills required to apply for the role and be successful, you might be hypercritical of yourself and focused on a small mistake you made months ago, or maybe you think that praise from your colleagues is insincere.
Often, these thoughts are unfounded and aren’t based on factual evidence. As the saying goes, we are our own worst critics. In reality, it’s unlikely that poor work would go unnoticed for so long. Moreover, you deserve the chance of a promotion and shouldn’t let imposter syndrome talk you out of applying.
3. Build social connections in and outside of work
Building strong social connections is key to overcoming imposter syndrome and achieving what you deserve. In a survey conducted by HR News, 44% of people said they wanted an open environment in which they felt comfortable discussing challenges at work without the fear that they’ll be perceived as incompetent.
Try to form relationships with peers and colleagues to create a supportive nexus that you can turn to for guidance, support and encouragement.
If you’re open with those in similar positions to you, you might even discover that others are experiencing similar feelings of imposter syndrome to feel less alone. You can share strategies for countering these feelings and guidance for other challenges that may arise.
4. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. By comparing our own abilities and achievements to those of others, we prevent ourselves from ever feeling truly satisfied. Everyone is unique, with their own set of skills and capabilities.
If you were accepted for a job application or you have held down a job position without being fired, you have done so because someone recognized your potential. Of course, no one is perfect and you don’t have to be the best at everything.
If it takes you a little bit longer to come to grips with a new concept or to understand a piece of software - it’s OK. It’s impossible not to compare yourself with others to some degree. But when you catch yourself doing it, try to take a mental step back and recognise that doing so isn’t constructive and will only serve to make you feel more inadequate.
5. Embrace constructive criticism
Another way to overcome your imposter syndrome is to change the way you think about constructive criticism. Recognize that asking for help and receiving advice is actually a good thing and can help you to improve your skills. Take constructive criticism on board and use it to your advantage.
Although imposter syndrome can be challenging and overwhelming to deal with, by changing your mindset you can overcome it. Try to recognize that these feelings mean you simply want to succeed and that you have the drive to improve.
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