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Imposter Syndrome

10 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

The committee did not make a mistake. You earned the accolade.

Key points

  • Nearly two-thirds of the workforce experiences imposter syndrome at some point.
  • There are steps you can take to overcome imposter syndrome.
  • The committee did not make a mistake and it was not luck; you earned this accolade.
Jaclyn Moy/Unsplash
Nearly two-thirds of the workforce experiences imposter syndrome.
Source: Jaclyn Moy/Unsplash

Congratulations! You are selected as…. This is a prestigious honor….Less than three percent of those who apply get accepted. You should be thrilled, but you break out in a cold sweat.

You just got promoted. You had your eye on this role for a long time but knew the odds were against you. Eventually, you were selected and advanced to the new position. You want to run into hiding.

What’s going on?

What you feel is imposter syndrome (or phenomenon, depending on who you ask). The term, first coined over 40 years ago by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, was originally shown to disproportionately affect high achievers and marginalized groups such as women and underrepresented minorities. Later reports underscored that imposter syndrome is common in the workforce.

Logically, you understand that this suffocating feeling is imposter syndrome and a common reaction, but your body is telling you a different story. You’re a fake; you’ll have to give it back; this isn’t real; it was luck, not your hard work or talent. These are all stories we convince ourselves of rather than dealing with the reality.

When imposter syndrome descends, here are some tips to mitigate those feelings and take back control.

Create a brag box or folder

The contents of this will be photos of achievements, thank you notes, and assets that prove your accomplishments.

Surround yourself with the right people

Surround yourself with a team of mentors who can give you perspective and shut down the noise inside your head.

Share it

As imposter syndrome is prevalent, affecting two-thirds of the workforce at some point, there is a good chance that if you share your fear, your conversation partner will relate and empathize, as they’ve been in your shoes. Before long, you will notice that you know more people who have experienced imposter syndrome than not. The shared experience will help you put your latest episode of imposter syndrome into perspective.

Write it down

Often, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we are not accomplishing much when in reality we complete more than we realize. Make a list of everything you have accomplished, and you will notice that you were selling yourself short.

Stop comparing yourself

Everyone is on a different journey with different constraints and cognitive loads. Therefore, stop comparing yourself to other people’s achievements. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, the #1 executive coach, “Don’t be busy chasing what other people have.”

Stop striving for perfection

Perfection is a moving target. You will never achieve it, as there is always more to do. Instead of always striving for an A+, be satisfied with an A. It’s better than what most people achieve.

Develop a circle of amplifiers

Sometimes we don’t recognize our achievements. Curate a circle of friends or colleagues who will amplify your work so that you don’t need to. Do the same for them.

Visualize success

Often, we work hard toward a goal but fail to recognize when it is achieved. To combat this, identify and visualize what success will look like when it is achieved.

Work in draft mode

Trying to be a one-take wonder is setting yourself up for failure. Work in draft mode with the understanding that your paper or project can be refined.

A committee of people looked through your file, past accomplishments, and future potential. They compared you to other qualified applicants and decided to award you the prize or promotion. Are you saying that their efforts are misinformed or misguided? Are you calling them fools?

Our minds are adapt at playing tricks on us. The success is new so we don’t know whethr to be excited or fearful. Consider reframing imposter syndrome as a marker of success rather than a trigger for anxiety. Take control of the situation, and work diligently to control what you can control. By doing so, you will be in the drivers seat, looking at imposter syndrome through the rear-view mirror.

More from Ruth Gotian Ed.D., M.S.
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